HomePoliticsBiden is up against a new political opponent: the polls

Biden is up against a new political opponent: the polls

President Joe Biden tends to deliver his most blunt attacks on his political opponents at campaign fundraisers, away from the glare of television cameras. And one of his most frequent targets lately – after the former president Donald Trump – is another persistent part of the 2024 race: public polling data.

“I don’t think any polls matter this early because it’s hard to get good polls these days,” Biden told campaign donors in Chicago last month.

At another in Atlanta, the president warned, “It’s harder to make a poll rational these days.”

His criticism of public poll data is as frequent – ​​in at least ten of his fundraising campaigns since May 1 – as it is technical, delving into the mechanisms he believes may produce flawed results.

“You have to call – I don’t know what it is – 36, 40 times to get one person to respond. Hardly anyone has hard lines anymore,” Biden said before an audience of 3,000 people at a star-studded fundraiser in Los Angeles last weekend.

“Are you blaming caller ID for this?” late night host Jimmy Kimmel teased the president in response.

Biden’s criticism of the polls coincides with data consistently pointing to a razor-thin race between him and Trump, with the former president leading in some key battleground states. Such polls, as well as those that underscore voters’ concerns about his age or his handling of the economy, have fueled Democrats’ nerves about the president’s reelection prospects. As the November election approaches, Biden has tried to allay their concerns by addressing them head-on.

The president’s advisers do not dispute that the race is close and believe it will remain that way until Election Day. Biden’s team also regularly conducts its own polls, which are more intensive and expensive than most public polls, and offer deeper insight into how voters are feeling, which shapes the president’s view of the race, because it’s part of his regular, detailed campaign briefings.

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Biden aides also say it is no coincidence that he makes most of his unsolicited public commentary on polls in front of his campaign’s financial supporters, as they are among those most concerned about the numbers.

His comments take different forms, but they all seem aimed at the same goal: to excuse or explain away a less-than-ideal position ahead of the November election.

The president is delving into the weeds of election methodology, as he did at fundraisers in Chicago, Atlanta and near Seattle. He offers his own analysis of the state of play for donors: “We are polling strongest among likely voters in the polling data. That’s a good sign,” Biden told donors last month. “While the national polls actually show us a quadruple of registered voters, we are probably up even more.”

He blames the media’s presentation of the data. “Even though the press isn’t writing about it, the momentum is clearly in our favor,” Biden said at a fundraiser in New York in April. “The polls are moving toward us and away from Trump.” At another recent fundraiser, Biden said experts have been “wrong on everything so far in the polls,” pointing to Democrats’ strong performance in the 2022 midterm elections.

“If you look at the actual votes in the primaries, as opposed to the polls, we are much stronger than Mr. Trump,” Biden told supporters at another fundraiser last month.

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When reporters asked Biden about his poll numbers, his answers ranged from dismissive to irritated. “Read the polls, Jack,” he snapped at a reporter seeking his response to polls showing that many Democrats did not want him to run for re-election.

There are times when he says he doesn’t read the polls. “This is a process, and it will be up and down,” Biden said at a news conference during his first year in office. “That’s why I don’t look at the polls.”

In other cases, the president has gone into great detail that suggests otherwise.

“The last 23 polls, we’re ahead in 10 of them, and he’s ahead in eight, and we’re tied in five,” Biden said at the New York fundraiser, referring to Trump.

Biden campaign officials have had to spend so much time responding to public polling data that they have adopted the adage: “Pollers don’t vote, voters vote.”

Asked about the president’s approach to polling, Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement: “This campaign will not allow excessive media coverage of the horse race and polling without any predictive value to distracting from what we know we need. be focused as a campaign to reach the voters who will decide the election.”

The president’s aides nevertheless hope that his appearance next week at the first presidential debate on the 2024 general election will give Biden a boost in the polls, or at least reduce Trump’s standing. And Biden allies this week latched onto a poll that showed promising signs for the president.

“I’m only sharing this because I spend 70% of my time giving pep talks to nervous supporters,” Biden campaign finance chairman Rufus Gifford posted on had taken a three-point lead over Trump.

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A Biden campaign pollster said in polling briefings that the president is less interested in the head-to-head matchup numbers against Trump than in what voters say on specific issues, where there are wide differences in how different constituencies view the race, and especially how those numbers change from week to week.

“He takes the polls very seriously, but is not someone who will ask himself: ‘Are we plus one, are we minus one?’” the pollster said.

Biden’s consumption of polling data stands in contrast to the 2020 campaign, when he disliked regular polling updates on the go, especially during the Democratic primaries, according to a former campaign official. And until his campaign got a cash infusion after his South Carolina primary, Biden’s team couldn’t even afford to regularly survey voters, the official said.

A senior Biden campaign official said that while the president is now regularly briefed on polling data, the metrics he is particularly focused on include how his campaign is appealing to voters, such as how many offices are being opened and the number of volunteers.

“That’s important to us as an indicator that people are getting excited, that they’re participating, that they’re paying attention to this campaign,” the official said.

Another pollster who briefed the president on his campaign’s internal surveys said the most effective approach has been to tie the data to what voters say in focus groups or to campaign organizers. The pollster said Biden’s response to “hard news” about his standing with voters was: “We have to fix it.”

“He always took the information and said, ‘Help me understand,’” the pollster said.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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