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  /  News   /  5 things we now know about Biden and Trump from the postdebate polls

5 things we now know about Biden and Trump from the postdebate polls

It’s been two weeks since the June 27 debate between President Biden and former President Trump in Atlanta sent the political world into tumult.

Biden’s disastrous performance in that clash has led to calls for him to quit the race, speculation over who might replace him, and Democratic worries that their national convention, set for Chicago in August, could be chaotic.

After two weeks, we have more clarity as to what the polls are saying. Here are the five biggest takeaways.

Trump’s small advantage has expanded

The bottom line is that Trump is now more likely to win November’s election.

The difference is not monumental, perhaps because the nation as a whole is so polarized that massive sea-changes in opinion are highly rare. But the shift is meaningful, especially in a race that everyone expected to be tight.

In the national polling average maintained by The Hill and Decision Desk HQ (DDHQ), Trump held an extremely slender lead of 0.4 percentage points on the eve of the debate. He is now up by 1.3 points.

Similar patterns are seen in other polling averages. In the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average, for instance, Trump’s advantage has more than doubled, from 1.5 percentage points on June 27 to 3.3 points now.

These are modest advantages, to be sure. 

But it is worth remembering two factors that increase Democratic gloom and Republican glee.

First, polling during both of Trump’s past presidential runs has tended to undercount his support. Second, the vagaries of the Electoral College mean Biden likely needs to win the popular vote convincingly. In 2020, he defeated Trump by more than 4 points in the popular vote, but won the key states in the Electoral College by extremely narrow margins.

The battleground trend is more mixed — but, again, Trump has advantage

The election will, in the end, be decided by about a half-dozen states.

Here, there is some solace for Biden loyalists, at least in terms of the trajectory since the debate. But Trump plainly has the advantage overall.

The most fiercely fought battlegrounds are likely to be Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Surprisingly, the polls have moved in Biden’s favor — very slightly — in three of the six since the debate, according to the DDHQ average. But Trump leads overall in five.

Trump’s edge has narrowed in Arizona and Georgia, and Biden now has a tiny lead of less than half a percentage point in Michigan.

However, Trump has roughly doubled his leads in both Nevada and Pennsylvania. The latter is the biggest battleground state.

Meanwhile, polling has shown three states that had been previously seen as a stretch for Trump could now be in play — New Hampshire, Minnesota and Virginia.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved six states toward Trump in new ratings released Tuesday. The shift included reclassifying Minnesota and New Hampshire as “lean Democrat” rather than “likely Democrat.”

Doubts about Biden run deep

Even before the debate, we knew the 2024 election was between two candidates whom huge swathes of the public dislike.

The postdebate polling, focusing on reactions to Biden’s meandering performance, demonstrates how deep those doubts run.

An Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday showed a majority of all Americans, 56 percent, believing Biden should either “definitely” or “probably” stand aside as the Democratic nominee. Even more striking, 42 percent of Democrats hold this view.

The same poll found 61 percent of Americans believing that Biden’s health and age would “severely limit” his ability to do his job if elected to a second term. 

A CNN/SSRS poll soon after the debate found 75 percent of voters believing that Democrats would stand a better chance with another nominee.

On July 3, a Wall Street Journal poll found 80 percent of voters think Biden is too old to run.

It’s theoretically possible to overcome those numbers, especially given Trump’s political history encompasses his words and actions around Jan. 6, 2021, and his more recent felony convictions in New York.

Still, concerns on the age question make Biden’s climb extremely steep.

Historic parallels give Democrats more pause

Some Democrats are reaching for the fire alarm on Biden, in part because they note how badly he is doing by comparison with recent presidential elections.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) made this point during an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Tuesday, when Bennet said he no longer believes Biden will win.

Trump’s 3-point edge in the current RCP national average, for example, is all the more powerful because the former president never led that average during the 2020 cycle.

This time four years ago, Biden led Trump by 9 points.

Back in 2016, Trump led Hillary Clinton only very briefly. 

At this point in the 2016 cycle, Clinton was up by 4.5 points in the RCP average. In the end, Clinton bested Trump by 2.1 points in the popular vote — and, of course, lost the election.

Going back to 2012, then-President Obama generally held the lead over GOP nominee Mitt Romney, with the exception of a late blip after a faltering debate performance of his own.

Set against those comparisons. Biden’s position looks especially shaky.

2 big polls may be skewing perception about the scale of Trump’s lead

The Biden team’s argument, ever since the Atlanta debate, has been that the fundamentals of the race have not shifted.

That’s not really true, as seen above. But Biden hasn’t undergone a complete collapse either.

In fact, the president may have suffered, perception-wise, because two of his worst polls came from major organizations that can set the news agenda: The New York Times, and CNN.

A couple of polls soon after the debate, commissioned by those organizations, each gave Trump a 6-point lead.

They overshadowed surveys from other reputable pollsters that showed a much tighter contest.

A YouGov/CBS News poll showed Trump up by just 2 points and an Ipsos/Reuters poll showed the race tied.

To be sure, the overall picture is extremely ominous for Democrats. 

But it’s not yet definitive that Trump is running away with the race.