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Most Republicans Still Won’t Accept That Biden Won

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. Once again, we’re switching up the format a little, so please let us know your thoughts on it.

A big majority of Republicans still won’t accept the presidential election results.

President Biden took office more than three months ago, but Republicans are not any closer to accepting his victory now than they were then. The latest CNN/SSRS survey, released on April 30, found that 70 percent of Republicans believed the false allegation that Biden did not legitimately defeat former President Trump; just 23 percent said Biden legitimately won. Meanwhile, Democrats (97-3 percent) and independents (69-27 percent) said Biden had won fairly. These numbers are very similar to what CNN/SSRS found in mid-January, just before Biden’s inauguration. 

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And this lack of movement is really the story, as polling over the past few months has consistently shown that a solid majority of Republicans do not think Biden won fairly, despite the lack of evidence suggesting otherwise. Take The Economist/YouGov’s weekly polling, shown in the chart below, which demonstrates how little things have changed since around the time Biden took office — and indicates how deeply entrenched the “Big Lie” is in GOP circles.

Biden isn’t polling well on immigration.

Biden started his presidency with a significantly higher approval rating than his predecessor, and for the most part, he’s pushed popular policies in his first 100 days. However, a new Pew Research Center report suggests immigration could prove challenging for the Biden administration. 

The trouble for Biden stems from the difficult conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border, where a surge in the number of people crossing into the U.S. has reached a 20-year high. Given this situation, 68 percent of Americans told Pew that the government was doing a very or somewhat bad job of handling the number of asylum seekers at the border. Concerns about unlawful entry into the U.S. have also shot up, with 48 percent of Americans saying that “illegal immigration is a very big problem,” the highest share since 2016.

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Immigration is usually a more critical issue for Republicans than for Democrats, and Pew did find that a whopping 72 percent of Republicans said that “illegal immigration is a very big problem” compared with just 29 percent of Democrats; however, for both Republicans and Democrats, those figures marked a recent high in Pew’s polling.

This means Biden may encounter some challenges in passing his agenda. For instance, overall support for giving undocumented immigrants a path to legally remain in the U.S. dropped from 75 percent in June 2020 to 69 percent in the new survey. While the drop in support was driven largely by Republicans (support fell from 57 percent last June to 48 percent) and not Democrats (support barely changed, from 89 percent to 86 percent), Democrats did show a slight increase in support for restrictive policies on other questions. For instance, the share of Democrats who said it was important to reduce the number of asylum seekers at the southern border rose from 61 percent in August 2019 to 68 percent in the new poll, and the share who wanted to make it harder for these asylum seekers to gain legal status rose from 32 percent to 39 percent in that same period.

Such polling shifts are due in part to the current situation at the border, but they also reflect that public opinion is often thermostatic — that is, the public tends to become less supportive of views associated with the party in power. So we would expect, on some level, a reduction in pro-immigration attitudes because Democrats control the government right now, just as pro-immigration attitudes ticked up while Trump was in office. The question is how much immigration will once again become a driving force for Republicans — or matter for Democrats.

Uncertainty reigns as Virginia’s GOP nomination race for governor enters the final stretch.

Virginia Republicans will decide their gubernatorial nominee at a convention on Saturday, but it’s hard to know how it will play out. After all, conventions involve fewer voters than primaries and sometimes require multiple ballots before a candidate wins a majority. There may also be more uncertainty this year because of COVID-19: Instead of gathering in one place, the GOP will hold an “unassembled convention” in which more than 53,000 registered delegates — far more than at a normal convention — will vote at 39 locations around the state using ranked-choice voting.

It’s also unusual to poll convention delegates, but the Trafalgar Group did release a survey Tuesday on behalf of finance executive Glenn Youngkin, one of the four leading contenders. In the poll, Youngkin led with 38 percent, followed by tech entrepreneur Pete Snyder at 26 percent, and then Del. Kirk Cox and state Sen. Amanda Chase at about 10 percent each. Of course, we should take these results with a grain of salt because Youngkin sponsored the poll, and a lead doesn’t necessarily signal victory either, as it may take multiple rounds of ranked-choice voting for one candidate to win.

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Still, the Trafalgar survey had a big sample size — 3,600 — which helped it simulate one of the convention’s other complexities: weighted voting. And like the ranked-choice aspect of the primary, this, too, will play a big role in which candidates amass a majority of the vote. This is how it works: Each county or city has a certain number of delegate votes based on the popular vote cast for Republicans in the 2017 gubernatorial and 2020 presidential elections. In turn, each individual voter will then be weighted by their county or city’s count. Take Tazewell County. It has 100 delegate votes, so if the county has, say, 400 voters on Saturday, each will cast the equivalent of 0.25 votes. What this means for the convention is that a candidate could win the popular vote but still struggle to win the nomination with a majority of the delegate vote if their support is disproportionately concentrated in one part of the state.

This emphasis on broad support was by design, though. Many party leaders feared that Chase, who has called herself “Trump in heels,” might win a primary with only a plurality of the vote and then drag the party down in November (and she did lead in three hypothetical primary polls). Now, though, if Trafalgar’s poll is in the ballpark, Chase is an underdog while Youngkin and Snyder are the favorites. Both wealthy businessmen could self-fund much of their campaigns, too, while also attracting big-time donors (Virginia has no contribution limits). And such resources will be important if the GOP wants to overcome Virginia’s slightly blue hue in November — especially if fundraising machine and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe wins the Democratic nod in the party’s June 8 primary, which at this point looks to be the most likely outcome.

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,1 53.4 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 40.0 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of +13.3 percentage points). At this time last week, 53.9 percent approved and 41.7 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of +12.2 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 53.6 percent and a disapproval rating of 39.6 percent, for a net approval rating of +14.0 points.

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  1. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.