Democrats and Republicans alike are skeptical of early polls predicting a landslide victory for Democrat Joe BidenJoe BidenMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures US raises concerns about Russian troop movements to Belarus Putin tests a model for invading Ukraine, outwitting Biden's diplomats MORE over President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE on Election Day 2020.
To Trump and Republicans, the polls are fake news and no more reliable than surveys predicting Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket A year into his presidency, Biden is polling at an all-time low MORE would be elected president in 2016.
Some Democrats are equally skeptical, warning their party not to buy into the early data.
“These same geniuses all predicted that Hillary Clinton was unstoppable and inevitable,” said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic pollster.
While Trump argues the polls undersell his support, some Democrats say surveys showing Biden well ahead of the Democratic field are not to be trusted.
Both sides think a close race in 2020 is likely and that surveys showing Biden and other Democrats with huge leads aren’t likely to reflect Election Day’s reality.
“Anyone who believes that the Democratic candidate is headed for a landslide victory right now is doomed to repeat the tragic history of 2016,” Kofinis said. “It’s a fundamental mistake for anyone to believe that reality can be projected or predicted based on these polls this far out from the general election.”
The doubts surrounding polls underscore the degree to which confidence in the polling industry collapsed in 2016, when much of the public was blindsided by Trump’s victory.
That memory remains especially fresh for Democrats, who are wary of anything that might lead to overconfidence for their party.
In recent days, Democrats have had some good polling news.
A Quinnipiac University national survey released this week found Biden leading Trump by 13 points, with pollster Tim Malloy saying the former vice president was ahead by “landslide proportions.”
A Morning Consult national survey released shortly after the Quinnipiac poll backed it up, finding both Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersShame on Biden for his Atlanta remarks — but are we surprised? Overnight Health Care — Biden faces pressure from Democrats on COVID-19 Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE (I-Vt.) leading Trump by double-digits.
Most polls show Trump trailing Biden by significant margins in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Even more alarming for Republicans are recent polls that show Trump trailing in Texas, Arizona and Iowa, three states that he won easily in 2016. A recent Quinnipiac University survey of Texas found Biden leading Trump 48 percent to 44 percent, with the other Democrats not far behind.
“There's no way [Biden] beats me in Texas,” Trump said Thursday on ABC’s "Good Morning America." “My polls show that I'm winning everywhere.”
For Trump and the Republicans, the polls are easy to dismiss. The president’s chances for winning in 2016 were deeply discounted by experts and poll watchers, who gave him almost no chance.
Trump’s allies routinely point to the New York Times election probability tool, which on Election Day in 2016 began with a 92 percent likelihood of a Clinton victory but slowly ticked down throughout the night.
Republicans are optimistic that the stronger economy will propel Trump to another victory in 2020. They say they’ll have a big head start with general election fundraising and organizing as Democrats slog through the primary.
Those arguments resonate with some Democrats, who are worried their party will become complacent.
“The only thing we need to remember is that every single poll had Hillary Clinton winning and then she lost,” said one top Democratic strategist. “I don’t put any stock in any poll, especially right now. I think Trump starts off in a strong position. Can he be beaten? Yes. But we’ll be going up against a machine and a very organized force. Don’t believe anyone who tells you Joe Biden or any Democrat is winning in Texas. That’s crazy. Give me a break.”
But some Democrats say the totality of the polls is too much to ignore.
“We are beyond the ‘grain of salt’ phase on these polls,” said one top Democratic pollster. “These are not just small leads for Biden against Trump. They are substantial and confirmed in key states. While polls may move around they are relevant in that it shows Trump’s weakness in getting reelected. He has lost key support that he had at the end of 2016 and there is no denying that.”
While Biden has been the Democratic front-runner for some time, there is no guarantee that he will win the primary.
Some Democrats believe that Biden’s lead in the polls is superficial and that he’s running on the fumes of his universal name recognition.
Sanders’s campaign is irate, believing the media is overly eager to write his obituary by spinning the polls in an effort to pass the progressive mantle to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren dodges on whether Sinema, Manchin should be challenged in primaries Former aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness MORE (D-Mass.), who has been climbing in polls.
“Obviously we know [Sanders’s] strength tends to come from younger voters, and those younger voters are often underrepresented in these landline-based polls,” Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir told Status Coup. “And if those polls are not doing a good job of trying to account for young people, or figuring out different ways to reach them, then those, by our own estimation, should be deemed a bit suspect.”
In hindsight, the 2016 polling was not a complete failure.
The RealClearPolitics average of national polls found Clinton with a 3.3 percentage point advantage on Election Day. Clinton won the national popular vote by more than 2 points but lost the Electoral College.
The biggest polling failures were in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Pollsters and analysts say they should have paid closer attention to the enthusiasm for Trump and the lack of enthusiasm for Clinton in those states.
And they say Trump’s polling strength in nearby states, such as Ohio and Iowa, should have been viewed as a signal of his strength across the Rust Belt and Midwest states that cemented his victory.
“This event where the experts were blindsided has happened once, so now you have a precedent for it,” said GOP pollster David Winston. “Could it happen again? Maybe, maybe not. But you have to prepare for a surprising outcome as a real possibility here.”