A brief word on the 2020 polls

The last few months have given Biden a five point bump. Imagine what they would have done for Bernie.

I’ve largely disengaged from the 2020 elections at this point — which means I haven’t had much to say about it on this blog — for two reasons. The first, of course, is that the Democratic primaries are over and the socialist lost. The second should be obvious as well, but since I haven’t mentioned it before it might as well be said: barring any dramatic new developments, it seems extraordinarily likely that Joe Biden is going to win.

This is a big shift from just a few months ago when some of the indicators were much less certain. In February, I noted that Biden’s lead over Trump had significantly deteriorated over the course of several months. And at the beginning of April, I wrote about how the pandemic would make it difficult for Biden to overcome his serious enthusiasm problem among voters.

Since then, the political landscape has change dramatically. Beginning in about mid-April, Biden reversed his slide in the polls and went from a 3.4% lead to an 8.3% lead today. And the reasons for this seem pretty straightforward: a pandemic surging to infection levels unseen anywhere else in the world; unemployment numbers surging much higher than anything we’ve seen in nearly a century; and the first signs of major civil unrest in the Black Lives Matter protests raging across the country.

The lesson? Say it with me: Bernie would have won. If anything, this pandemic has so plainly vindicated the central plank of his candidacy, Medicare for All — forcing even longtime critics to reverse their opposition — that it’s reasonable to imagine his lead would be even wider than Biden’s today. But even if he just got the same bump over the past few months that Biden did (+4.9) we would be looking today at Bernie Sanders holding a potential double-digit lead (up from his 5.7% lead in April).

Joe Biden is coming into August in a much stronger position than he was in at the beginning of April for reasons that have nothing to do with Joe Biden. If you aren’t looking at the polls right now and seeing a missed opportunity, you need to read them again.