The Great Poll Panic Part Infinity

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll dropped over the weekend and the news in the poll was not great for Biden. Cue the immediate overreaction and terrible reporting by many in the DC media.

First, a reminder about what polls are and what they are not, including how bad polling journalism often is. I will add that there seems to be an odd sense of glee over the reporting on this particular poll, similar to the odd sense of glee that the DC media displayed when Obama’s polls looked shaky. As they say, makes you wonder.

A few other caveats:

  • This is a single poll that shows a drop. However, polling averages show Biden has been steady for quite a long time. So while the Post/ABC poll showed a six-point drop in approval since late January, other polls have been relatively steady. For example, Morning Consult showed Biden with a 40% approval in late January, the latest shows Biden at 42%. Also, Rasmussen Reports, a well-known right-leaning pollster, has been steady at around 48%. The FiveThirtyEight polling average shows Biden steady since late 2021, outside of a slump last summer that he recovered from after passing important bills. This does not look like a freefall:

  • Biden is currently polling right around where Obama and Reagan were at this point in their first term. And he is also remarkably similar to his predecessor and likely 2024 opponent, Grotesque Distortion of the American Dream Donald Trump.
  • There were similar stories about Obama in 2011. The big storyline that summer was how Obama’s bump from killing Osama bin Laden was very disappointing, it disappeared fast, and Mitt Romney was neck and neck with him.
  • Then, the 2011 debt-ceiling debacle happened, and Obama became more popular. Despite this, polls continued to show a majority did not believe Obama deserved a second term. However, Republicans continued to shoot themselves in the foot, a very similar situation to what we have going on now right down to the debt ceiling fight coming this summer.

All of these caveats come with an even bigger caveat: We are in a period of time like no other in American history. The headwinds that Biden faces are significant. Remarkably, Biden gets low marks for his economic handling, which is really more reflective of American perception than Biden. Despite screaming about runaway inflation by Republicans and their allies like Joe Manchin, Larry Summers, and Krysten Sinema, inflation never got to 1970s levels. Inflation is worse in Europe and in fact, inflation is so bad largely because of corporations are using the specter of inflation to price gouge. Rantings of a left socialist? Yes, absolutely…the ranting lefty socialists of The Wall Street Journal.

We are also coming out of an economic disaster unlike any other in history, COVID-19. This thread on a remarkable economic recovery shows that Biden has a lot to run on in the upcoming campaign as far as the economy is concerned.

There is also a little fact to consider that the Republican Party is spiraling down a Hole of Insanity and Trump as the nominee will only make this spiraling happen faster. Recent elections have shown that crazy candidates tend to underperform.

The age factor, of course, is real. We all know that elderly people are at risk of death, American life expectancy is proof of that. However, Biden has been repeatedly surprising us. Prior to his State of the Uni0n address, there were a lot of dire predictions of a feeble old man barely getting through it. Instead, we saw a pretty spirited president who managed to bait Republicans over cutting Social Security and Medicare. If he is as out of it as the GOP claims, what’s that say about them that they got played by a sad old man.

Similar concerns were raised about Biden’s appearance at the annual White House Correspondence Dinner a few Saturdays ago, including people worried about how he would look at such a late hour. This event in normal presidencies (not Trump) are an opportunity for a president to play standup comic, with often mixed results. There were concerns Biden would bomb and look sleepy. Instead, again, Biden looked sharp and handled his material well.

As I pointed out in my First Draft post about polls, these are snapshots of a moment, not predictions. Biden has his work cut out for him, but we have 18 months of unknowns ahead of us where anything can happen. No one seems to truly know where the economy is heading (although Jerome Powell seems to be obsessed with making the workers pay dearly for corporate greed-powered inflation). There are lots and lots of developments coming on the various Trump trials. Biden’s health could take a turn for the worst. And so could Trump’s.

The last word goes to Ahmad Jamal, who passed away last month at the age of 92. A native of Pittsburgh and one of many examples of that city’s deep contribution to jazz, he has often been overlooked as one of the greats.

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