Reminder: National Presidential Polls Are Useless

President Donald Trump in Pittsburgh, Pa., October 23, 2019 (Leah Millis/Reuters)
They are useless in gauging congressional popularity. They are useless in determining presidential races.

Earlier this week, tremors of panic spread across left-wing Twitter after the New York Times dropped a Siena College poll showing that Donald Trump remains highly competitive among registered voters in battleground states such as Michigan, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. After gorging on the empty calories of national polls for months, it must have been somewhat shocking for Trump’s opponents to see so many competitive races.

Among “likely voters” the races are even tighter. On the Democratic side, Joe Biden, unsurprisingly, does better than either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren against Trump. Not everyone, apparently, is enamored with the idea of their health insurance being seized by a massive state bureaucracy.

Former candidate Hillary Clinton — always a keen political strategist — reacted to the news by calling on Democrats to nominate a person “who can win the Electoral College” rather than merely run up the totals in California. “I think several of our candidates could win the popular vote but as I know,” she added, “. . . that’s not enough.”

She’s right. It’s not enough. It’s not anything, actually, save a moral victory or a cudgel with which to try to delegitimize the president. And yet, political observers seem to lament that Democrats are weighed down by the process. Take, for instance, this extraordinarily weird framing of recent polls by the Washington Post: “One year out, Democrats’ margins over Trump point to a substantial popular-vote advantage, but the party still faces obstacles when it comes to the electoral college.”

Or, put another way: Democrats hold a wide margin in a completely non-existent voting scheme that has never been used to elect any president in American history, BUT they still face a few difficulties in the real contest? A more journalistically sound way to explain the situation might be: “One year out, Democrats still faces obstacles in winning the presidential race despite a popular-vote advantage.”

What the Post really wants you to understand is that whatever happens, most Americans prefer a Democratic president. Week after week, we are fed poll after poll informing us Trump would be trounced by every single Democratic-party candidate in a popular vote. But such national polls are useless. They are useless in gauging congressional popularity. They are useless in determining presidential races. We have no idea what the results of a straight-vote national election would look like. In an alternative universe, in which the United States had no states, Trump would predominately concentrate on voters in urban enclaves on the coasts, just as the Democratic party does. On earth, Trump has yet to lose the popular vote, because he’s never competed for it.

(Despite this, resistance types have absolutely convinced themselves that the GOP has pulled off some sort of trick by following the rules prescribed by law. This is reminiscent of the Left’s adopting dysphemistic words such as “loophole” to describe laws that Democrats wished existed but do not. Gun loopholes. Tax loopholes. Seen this way, the Electoral College is just another loophole.)

As is often the case, the real “obstacle” to the “right” outcome is the Constitution and those stubborn, slack-jawed yokels in far-flung places that are dotted with tractors and NRA members — place where people seem unwilling to get behind new transgenerational socialistic projects or hard-left cultural shifts. Coming to terms with the Electoral College means coming to terms with those people — a process that forces candidates to moderate, and compels them to occasionally leave their Brooklyn campaign headquarters to visit Oshkosh. Most candidates do this, which is why, historically, it’s rare to see conflicts between the Electoral College outcome and “popular vote.”

The Siena poll seemed to temper the growing excitement over Warren’s gazillion-dollar statist agenda and to cause even more concern among left-wing pundits about the rigid nature of some leading Democrats’ plans. It is true that candidates tend to move to the center after primaries. But, as many observers are beginning to realize, it would be virtually impossible for Warren or Sanders — both of whom have plans to nationalize giant swathes of the American economy at the center of their agendas — to shift toward anything resembling a center should they get the nod.

None of this is to say that President Trump, who is weighed down under an array of self-inflicted problems, cannot be beaten by either one of them. It is to say, however, that the Electoral College — an institution that is more vital in polarized times than in times of national harmony — should impel Democrats to reassess their recent hard ideological turn left. If they don’t, they may find themselves with yet another win in yet another pretend election.


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