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You will have heard by now that Donald Trump is performing poorly in the polls, but does that mean he’s out of the race for reelection to the White House in November?
Many pollsters had egg on their faces after the 2016 election, when they predicted a win for Hillary Clinton based on national polling. In a sense, their predictions were right: Clinton won the popular vote by a 2 point margin — but lost because of the way those votes were distributed around the different states that make up the Electoral College.
Could the same happen in 2020?
Well, possibly, but the size of Democrat challenger Joe Biden’s lead at this point in the campaign is such that it looks unlikely. Clinton was averaging a lead of just over 5 points in 2016 at this point in the race — smaller than Biden’s 8-point national poll lead today.
US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION POLL OF POLLS
The curves represent an amalgamation of different national polls asking about voting intention in the U.S. presidential election.
DONALD TRUMP APPROVAL RATING POLL OF POLLS
The curves represent an amalgamation of different national polls asking whether voters approve or disapprove of the job the president is doing.
In fact, even at her polling peak during over the course of the 2016 campaign, Clinton’s lead over Trump in national polls never surpassed Joe Biden’s current polling margin.
POLITICO has looked back at polling from the same point in 13 previous campaigns. No winning candidate since 1968 has been able to overhaul a polling deficit of the magnitude that the Trump campaign is now facing.
But as we know from 2016, piling up votes on its own doesn’t win you the presidency. Those votes need to count in key battleground states. Could Trump pull off another Electoral College win while losing the popular vote? Again, the polling at this point in the race doesn’t look good for his campaign.
Taking all this into account, pollsters and analysts are all forecasting a Biden win based on the current numbers, but it is too early to count Trump out.
Cornelius Hirsch is POLITICO Europe’s polling analyst and this article is part of our U.S. election 2020 hub. As the campaign moves into its final stages we will be interpreting the race for a European audience with a weekly Campaign Confidential podcast — launching August 18 — and articles on what the result could mean for America’s relationship with the rest of the world.
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