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Trump And Biden Both Got Small Convention Bounces. But Only Biden Got More Popular.

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Poll(s) of the week

More so than Joe Biden, President Trump got a small boost in head-to-head polls coming out of the party conventions (although it appears to have been short-lived). But Biden got a convention bounce of sorts, too: The share of voters with a favorable opinion of him has ticked up.

Several pollsters have asked Americans whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of both Trump and Biden since the Republican National Convention ended on Aug. 27. On average, these polls gave Biden a 48 percent favorable rating and a 46 percent unfavorable rating — or a net favorability rating of +3 percentage points.1 That’s a slight, 4-point increase from his net favorability rating in the same polls before the conventions. To be more minute about it, his net favorability rating actually went from -2 points in polls conducted entirely or mostly before the conventions, to +3 points in polls conducted entirely or mostly between the two conventions2 (after the Democratic National Convention spent four days talking him up), to +3 points in the post-convention period. In some cases, this uptick was within the polls’ margins of error, but the overall upward trend was still pretty clear.

Biden left the conventions a bit more popular

Polls of Joe Biden’s net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) before, between and after the conventions

Net Favorability
Pollster Pop.* Pre-DNC Between Conventions Post-RNC Change
SSRS/CNN RV -1 +9 +10
Ipsos/ABC News A -3 +5 +6 +9
Monmouth University RV -5 +3 +8
Global Strategy Group/GBAO/Navigator Research RV -1 +9 +5 +6
Morning Consult/Politico RV -2 +4 +6
Harris/Harvard RV +1 +6 +5
YouGov/The Economist RV +1 -1 +5 +4
Morning Consult LV 0 +6 +4 +4
SurveyMonkey/Axios A -7 -1 -6 +1
Change Research/CNBC LV -5 -2 -6 -1
YouGov/Yahoo News RV +2 +6 -2 -4
Average -2 +3 +3 +4

*Population surveyed: Adults (A), registered voters (RV), or likely voters (LV).

Includes only pollsters that conducted surveys of the same type of respondent (e.g., registered voters) of Biden’s favorability both shortly before and after the conventions. Polls that were fielded during one of the conventions are grouped by whether they were fielded mostly before or mostly after the first night of the convention. The Morning Consult inter-convention, Morning Consult post-RNC, and YouGov/The Economist post-RNC numbers are averages of two polls each.

Source: Polls

Trump, on the other hand, went into the convention period with lower favorables than Biden and does not appear to have emerged from it any better liked. Before the conventions, his average net favorability (according to these same pollsters) was -13 percentage points. After the DNC started, but before the RNC, his net favorability rating ticked down to -15 points. And the RNC didn’t do much to boost his standing. In the most recent round of surveys from these pollsters, Trump has an average favorable rating of 41 percent and an average unfavorable rating of 55 percent. In other words, his net favorability rating is now -14 points.

The RNC didn’t give Trump a favorability boost

Polls of President Trump’s net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) before, between and after the conventions

Net Favorability
Pollster Pop.* Pre-DNC Between Conventions Post-RNC Change
Morning Consult/Politico RV -18 -13 +5
YouGov/Yahoo News RV -14 -17 -13 +1
Monmouth University RV -14 -13 +1
Morning Consult LV -12 -12 -12 0
SurveyMonkey/Axios A -10 -10 -11 -1
YouGov/The Economist RV -13 -11 -14 -1
Harris/Harvard RV -12 -13 -1
Global Strategy Group/GBAO/Navigator Research RV -9 -16 -11 -2
SSRS/CNN RV -12 -14 -2
Change Research/CNBC LV -10 -13 -14 -4
Ipsos/ABC News A -23 -28 -28 -5
Average -13 -15 -14 -1

*Population surveyed: Adults (A), registered voters (RV), or likely voters (LV).

Includes only pollsters that conducted surveys of the same type of respondent (e.g., registered voters) of Trump’s favorability both shortly before and after the conventions. Polls that were fielded during one of the conventions are grouped by whether they were fielded mostly before or mostly after the first night of the convention. The Morning Consult and YouGov/The Economist post-RNC numbers are averages of two polls each.

Source: Polls

I don’t want to overstate the bump Biden got relative to Trump, though: The increase in Biden’s favorables, much like Trump’s improvement in head-to-head polls, was small by historical standards. As former FiveThirtyEight writer Harry Enten found in 2016, candidates from Jimmy Carter in 1980 to Bill Clinton in 1992 to Al Gore in 2000 to George W. Bush in 2004 saw double-digit surges in their net favorability rating after the conventions, as measured by CBS News polling. That definitely didn’t happen this year.

In addition, Enten found that favorable ratings can also fluctuate a lot after this point in the election cycle. The average candidate between 1980 and 2012 experienced a 6.4-point change in his net favorability between CBS News’s post-convention poll and its final poll of the election. So there’s plenty of time for Biden to sink, or Trump to rise — or Biden to rise, or Trump to sink — in popularity. On the other hand, the conventions’ failure to budge the candidates’ favorable ratings more than a few points could suggest that opinions of both Trump and Biden are already baked in, thanks to intense political polarization.

Speaking of polarization, a handful of the post-convention polls also asked respondents how strongly favorable or unfavorable they felt toward the two nominees. And going just by their “very favorable” and “very unfavorable” ratings, both candidates are underwater; that is, they are both more hated than they are loved.

But Biden still has the advantage in the polls that have asked about this. On average in these polls, since the conventions ended, 26 percent of Americans have said they view Biden very favorably, and 36 percent have said they view him very unfavorably (that’s -10 points on net). By contrast, Trump has an average “very favorable” rating of 29 percent and an average “very unfavorable” rating of 47 percent (-18 points on net).

That’s a much narrower gap than FiveThirtyEight contributor Michael Tesler found in late June, when Biden was at -3 points and Trump was at -23 points in that measure. But it still suggests that voters’ motivations to vote against Trump are higher than their motivations to vote against Biden. As Tesler argued earlier this summer, this could mean that Biden, not Trump, is the candidate with the enthusiasm edge in this election.

Other polling bites

  • Late last week, The Atlantic reported that Trump called fallen American troops “losers” and “suckers” during a 2018 trip to France. Trump and a number of other administration officials vigorously denied the report. This week, YouGov found that 50 percent of Americans believed the report, while 31 percent thought it was false. Nineteen percent didn’t know.
  • Despite Trump’s claims that a coronavirus vaccine could be available before Election Day, the American public is skeptical. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 81 percent of Americans didn’t think a vaccine will be ready by then. And if a free coronavirus vaccine is developed and approved by the Food and Drug Administration before the election, just 42 percent of Americans said they would want to get it. Why? Sixty-two percent of respondents said they worried that political pressure would lead the FDA to rush to approve the vaccine before it is proven to be safe and effective.
  • A new Pew Research Center survey of thousands of verified voters — who Pew independently confirmed voted in 2016 and 2018 — found that Democrats’ gains in the 2018 midterms came from several sources: More Hillary Clinton voters turned out to vote in the midterms than Trump voters did, more Trump voters defected to Democrats than Clinton voters to Republicans, and those who voted for a third-party candidate or didn’t vote at all in 2016 broke for Democrats in 2018.
  • Voters in Portland, Oregon, will vote on a ballot measure this November that would set up an new system for police oversight with more input from the community. This week, a group campaigning for the measure released an internal poll that found 70 percent of Portland voters in favor of it. The poll also gave Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is up for reelection, a 26 percent favorable rating and 63 percent unfavorable rating.
  • A SurveyUSA poll of California’s 50th Congressional District, conducted for KGTV-TV and the San Diego Union-Tribune, puts Republican Darrell Issa at 46 percent and Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar at 45 percent — a surprising result, given that this district voted for Trump by 15 points in 2016.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.7 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53.1 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.4 points). At this time last week, 43.4 percent approved and 52.3 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -8.9 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.4 percent and a disapproval rating of 54.8 percent, for a net approval rating of -13.4 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 6.6 percentage points (48.5 percent to 42.0 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.4 points (48.7 percent to 41.3 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 7.6 points (48.5 percent to 40.9 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Footnotes

  1. Yes, 3, not 2 — because of rounding.

  2. Although four of the pollsters did not conduct a poll between the two conventions, so this is based on a smaller sample of data.

Nathaniel Rakich is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

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