Former Vice President Joe Biden is dominating President Donald Trump in the latest polls. No, the election is not over yet, and Trump still has a non-negligible chance of winning.
But a look through history reveals that Biden is in a better position at this point than any challenger since 1936, when the first scientific polls were taken in a presidential race.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday was the latest poll to indicate Biden’s strength. Biden led Trump by a 55% to 43% margin among likely voters. The poll was the third high quality national poll published this week that had Biden up by at least 10 points and above 50%. The other two being from CNN/SSRS and Fox News.
Indeed, the average of polls has Biden at around 52% or 53% and up by somewhere between 10 and 11 points. This is an unprecedented position for a challenger with a mere 23 days to go until Election Day.
In the 21 previous presidential elections since 1936, there have only been five challengers who led at this time. Of those five, only one (Bill Clinton in 1992) was ahead by more than 5 points. None of those five were earning more than 48% of the vote in the polls.
In other words, Biden is the first challenger to be above 50% at this late juncture in the campaign.
This also continues to mark a massive difference with the 2016 campaign. While Hillary Clinton was ahead of Trump by as high as 7 points in October 2016, she never came anywhere close to approaching 50% of the vote. Trump merely had to win the lionshare of the undecided or third party voters (who would bolt their candidate) to earn a victory in 2016.
Even if every undecided or current third party voter went to Trump now, he’d still be down about 5 to 6 points nationally. That’s never been the case with an incumbent since 1936 at this point.
New polls out on Sunday from CBS News/YouGov demonstrate that Biden’s above 50% in some key battlegrounds. He leads 52% to 46% in Michigan and Nevada. In Iowa, a state that Trump took by 9 points in 2016 and is not anywhere close to must win for Biden, the race is tied at 49%.
A look under the hood reveals why Biden is in such a strong position. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Covid-19 has either been, or been within the margin of error of being the nation’s most important problem in Gallup polling.
The three challengers in the polling era (Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Bill Clinton in 1992) who defeated incumbents have all been trusted more than the incumbent to deal with what Americans thought was the nation’s most important problem. None, however, were trusted by more than 50% of the voters.
Today, Biden has a huge advantage over Trump when it comes to the pandemic. The clear majority (59%) of likely voters in the last CNN poll said Biden would better be able to handle the outbreak. Just 38% said Trump would do a better job than Biden.
As I noted in July, the only issue that really matters is Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. He’s failing in the minds of voters right now.
The result of which is a majority of those same voters favor Biden to be the next president of the United States.