Polls: Is Trump's Base or Biden's Base More Shy About Their Support?

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds up his face mask while speaking during a campaign event in Gettysburg, Pa., October 6, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A reader observes, we have dueling narratives of “shy Trump voters who are willing to trumpet his campaign everywhere but the polls vs. invisible Biden voters who are willing to talk to the pollsters and permeate the national news rooms, but won’t go out in public.” One of these narratives is going to be wrong when the election results are in.

As I observed yesterday, Trump yard signs were ubiquitous all over Bucks County, Pa., this weekend. Last night, an “overflowing crowd of thousands greeted the president at Orlando Sanford International Airport.” Before the president’s illness, several thousand people came out to see him in Duluth in 40-degree temperatures. Whether the president has more supporters than the nearly 63 million who voted for him in 2016 or fewer, a chunk of his current supporters are enthusiastic and highly motivated.

You may have heard that Biden did an event in Arizona where no supporters showed up. That’s not quite the whole story. The Biden campaign did hold an event with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Ariz., but the campaign did not invite the general public; the television coverage left out this portion from reporter Nicole Garcia:

“I’m told by one of the Biden staffers, local staffers is that they kind of kept the details about the visit as far as the timing and the exact locations, they didn’t really want to give that out to the public because they want to keep the crowds to a minimum. They realize we are in a pandemic and they don’t want a crowd of more than 50 people at any of their events.”

A campaign’s blanket policy of no large rallies could be a genuine effort to promote social distancing . . . or it could be an effort to obscure that Biden couldn’t attract large crowds if he wanted to. Polling has consistently shown that Biden supporters are more motivated by opposition to Trump than enthusiasm for Biden himself.

Trump has seen almost nothing but dire polls in the past few weeks. Nationwide and in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan, the numbers are just about always bad, with the president trailing Biden, and often it’s not close. A few polls in Arizona, Florida, Iowa and Ohio show the president ahead, but not consistently. If Trump wins these states, it will be 2016 all over again, and the polling industry may never recover — no matter how many times pollsters insist they’ve adjusted their methods.

But if Trump loses these states by the margins indicated . . . then all of those yard signs and sizable crowds at the airports will have been not that important an indicator.

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