Sunday, May 29, 2016

Making Sense of Early Polls

Ezra Klein drills down into the WaPo/ABC poll showing Trump leading Clinton on

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll sure looks like a nightmare for Donald Trump.
  • 57 percent of voters have an unfavorable impression of Trump
  • 56 percent of voters think Trump is unqualified for the presidency
  • A plurality of voters (44-39) think Clinton better understands "the problems of people like you"
  • A plurality of voters (44-40) say Clinton better represents their personal values
  • A majority of voters (59-33) think Clinton has a better personality and temperament to serve as president
  • A majority of voters (57-34) think Clinton has more realistic policy proposals
  • A majority of voters (50-36) trust Clinton more to look out for the middle class
  • A plurality of voters (48-47) prefer a candidate with political experience to an outsider
  • A majority of voters (64-25) think Trump would do more to advance the interests of the wealthy than Clinton would
  • A plurality of Republican-leaning voters don't think Trump represents the values of their party
All in all, a disastrous poll for Donald Trump. Except for one thing: Among registered voters, he leads 46-44. (He trails by 6 among all adults.)
So the question arises: What the hell is going on here? How can the candidate that most voters consider an unqualified champion of the plutocratic class be leading in the polls?
Klein offers several plausible answers to his question:
  1. This is just one poll. Many show a tightening race.
  2. This is a temporary blip. Trump has clinched consolidating GOP support while Clinton has not (same thing happened with McCain and Obama in 2008).
  3. This is a anti-establishment election which helps Trump.
There us some truth to all of these takes. Klein distills his take as follows.

My instinct is that this poll shows the size of Trump's challenges, not his opportunity. I don't think you have to be overly confident in the wisdom of the American voter to think it unlikely that we'll elect a candidate who nearly 60 percent of voters think is unqualified to hold the presidency.
But this certainly shows the size of Clinton's challenge, too. A majority of Americans fundamentally don't like her. She's locked in a bitter Democratic primary with a challenger who's temperamentally and institutionally capable of going to war with the party if he feels ill-treated. And she's trying to follow a two-term president from her party — a rare feat, historically.
Given all this, Clinton is extraordinarily lucky that she's facing a candidate who's as mistrusted and disliked as Trump. But if the polls are showing anything, it's that it won't be enough for Clinton to be lucky. She'll also have to be good.

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