Even from polling firms that usually bring him good news.
We’ll probably be in a bit of a polling lull for a few days, as we wait for firms to wrap up post-debate polls. There might be a few online polls out Thursday, but the major live-interview telephone surveys probably won’t release many findings until the weekend or maybe even next week.
That said, the polls we did get Wednesday, along with those we’ve seen over the last few days, are among some of the worst news that President Trump has received since the Republican convention, including from some of the firms that usually offer the president his best news.
Another good post-debate poll for Biden. We talked Wednesday morning about the post-debate “instapolls,” which found that most debate watchers thought Joe Biden won Tuesday night. Later Wednesday, there was a late entry from FiveThirtyEight and Ipsos, who re-interviewed voters to see whether anyone’s views had shifted after the debate.
All of the results were good for Mr. Biden. His favorability ratings increased, while Mr. Trump’s ratings declined. Voters said Mr. Biden did a good job; they said Mr. Trump did a poor job. There was relatively little evidence that people changed their minds after the debate, but there was evidence that voters subtly became likelier to support Mr. Biden — say, rating yourself as certain to vote for Mr. Biden, rather than as very likely. And of course, Mr. Trump is the one who’s trailing and needs voters to change their minds.
Even Rasmussen and Trafalgar show Biden ahead. We haven’t talked much about the polling firms Rasmussen and Trafalgar. They usually give Mr. Trump a big advantage. They use interactive voice response technology — robocalls — to reach voters, and neither firm discloses enough information about its methodology for me to interpret or report their results with any confidence. Methodological transparency is always important, but the burden is even higher if a firm uses nontraditional methods and produces systematically different results from other firms.
But over the last few days, these firms have done something unusual: They’ve shown some pretty good results for Mr. Biden. Rasmussen showed Mr. Biden up eight points nationwide, one of its largest leads for him this cycle. It also showed Mr. Biden up 14 points in New Hampshire, a great result for him by any measure.
Rasmussen has occasionally shown some decent results for Mr. Biden, including a 10-point national lead in July and a lead in Ohio in September. But the Trafalgar Group has essentially never shown any good results for him. Its results lean so consistently to the right that I usually nudge its results about five or six points to the left in my head.
Yet over the last few days, Trafalgar has Biden ahead in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. If even Trafalgar thinks Mr. Biden’s ahead in those key states, things are looking rough for the president.
A wild result from Quinnipiac in South Carolina. Well, if Trafalgar shows Mr. Biden ahead, you know you’re going to get some pretty wild results for Mr. Biden from a firm like Quinnipiac, which typically shows him doing better than average. This time, Quinnipiac has Mr. Trump leading by just one point in South Carolina, a huge shift since 2016. (South Carolina has voted for the Democratic nominee only once in six decades, in 1976.)
As we just mentioned, Quinnipiac has been pretty favorable for Democrats so far this cycle. In particular, it has shown Mr. Biden doing really well among white voters, especially in the South, and poorly among Hispanic voters. That cancels out to some extent in some states. But when you get a state with few Latino voters, like South Carolina, Mr. Biden’s margins really soar.
It’s worth emphasizing that the Quinnipiac result is pretty out of step with other surveys of South Carolina, which show Mr. Trump with a more significant lead there. It’s also out of step with what we would expect based on other polls, which generally show Mr. Biden making relatively limited gains in the South compared with the rest of the country. Still, this would still count as a good result for Mr. Biden even if you added five or even seven points on to the president’s lead.
The state of the race: We’re in wait-and-see mode. A lot has gone on over the last week. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, and the president nominated her replacement. The New York Times published a big story on Mr. Trump’s taxes. And the president refused to commit to supporting a peaceful transition of power. All of this was before the debate, which was watched by tens of millions of Americans.
We’re not going to get another good reading on the race for a few more days, but there’s no question that the last few days of state polls have been rough for the president. We’ll now wait to see if it’s as bad for the president as it looks.