- - Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Current U.S. presidential election polls, if they are to be believed, bode very well for former Vice President Joe Biden. An Opinium/Guardian US poll released this week shows Biden leading President Trump nationally. According to their poll, 57% of likely voters intend to vote for Biden and 40% intend to vote for Trump. 

Other polls provide evidence that would seem to give the Biden camp great confidence with less than three weeks until election day. According to an Epic-MRA poll, Mr. Biden currently leads Trump in Michigan by 9 points. An Emerson poll shows Mr. Biden leading Trump by 3 in Florida. The swing state of Pennsylvania favors Mr. Biden by 7 according to Reuters/Ipsos. Other swing state polls look bleak for TMr. rump as well If the polls hold true, Wisconsin goes for Biden. Minnesota goes for Biden. A recent New York Times/Siena poll even shows Biden leading in Ohio. 

These numbers rival the polls of Ronald Reagan before his landslide victory of 1984 and Reagan was one of the most popular presidents in American history. This Joe Biden fellow must be extraordinarily popular as well. 

Except he isn’t. 

In September Mr. Biden attempted to connect with Latin voters in Florida by playing “Despacito” on his smartphone. To say it was an awkward moment is an understatement. Little noted about that appearance, however, was the fact that there was nearly no one there. When Mr. Biden was introduced there was a smattering of applause and by smattering I mean perhaps fifteen people. He didn’t appear on stage immediately and when he did finally come out, the applause was even more thin, perhaps six or eight people. Six or eight people is roughly the number of staff that travels with Mr. Biden to these events.

CNN sponsored a drive-in town hall meeting for Mr. Biden in September in Pennsylvania. A few dozen people sat in lawn chairs in front of their cars. Multiple other empty cars were also parked at the event. 

After Mr. Biden spoke on the final night of the Democrat virtual convention, he and his wife, along with his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, walked outside and waved to rows of cars. In retrospect one wonders if it was more of a parking lot full of empty cars than actual enthusiasts. Nearly no humans were visible.

To the Biden team’s credit they have played the coronavirus like a fine symphony. It is the perfect cover for keeping a far from perfect candidate under wraps. They have gone to great pains to keep Mr. Biden hidden from sight and in the process also managed to conceal the fact that no one is excited by him. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 13 the former vice president held a rally in Pembroke Pines, Florida. The local Florida newspaper, The Sun Sentinel, reported that between 50 and 60 people attended. Included in that tally was mostly media, some campaign staff and a handful of Broward County Democratic activists.

Which is it then? Is this candidate wildly popular with a potentially record-setting majority demanding he spend the next four years as their faithful leader in the White House or is Mr. Biden a guy that so few people care about that he can’t draw more than a couple of dozen bodies to an appearance? Equally important is the question of why the media isn’t reporting this strange paradox. 

When Donald Trump held a rally in Oklahoma in an arena that held 20,000 people and it wasn’t sold out, the American mainstream media breathlessly chided Mr. Trump because there were empty seats. Mr. Trump drew at least 14,000 people to that rally. Mr. Biden drew about 10. Not 10,000. Ten. Why isn’t that a story?

It isn’t exactly a eureka moment to state that much of the mainstream media loathes President Trump. They constantly treat him with contempt and disrespect. One would think that when thousands of people consistently show up for Candidate A all across the country and literally no one shows up for Candidate B, that is news. Logic would dictate A has the advantage. 

This is politics however. Logic has no place here. Polls say Candidate B is going to win big. End of story. 

We are left with one of two conclusions. Conclusion one is that if the American public has zero enthusiasm for Mr. Biden but he leads by 17 points, the public must absolutely hate Mr. Trump. I don’t mean they merely have a bad taste, but rather, if the polls are to believed, a dog could outpoll Mr. Trump simply because America has an overwhelming desire for someone else, anyone else. 

The second option is simpler. What if the polls are wrong? It wouldn’t be the first time. In 1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis led George H.W. Bush by 17 points. My history books find no record of a President Dukakis. In 2016, nearly every poll had Hillary Clinton winning big. Fox News, CBS News, ABC/Washington Post and NBC/Wall Street Journal polls all had Mrs. Clinton up by 4 points and a landslide win in the Electoral College. To this day, Mrs. Clinton can’t get through a speech without somehow complaining about her loss. The polls were wrong.

Polling is a science. It depends on randomly sampled participants, but there is nothing random about the formulas used to assure the statistics are accurate and meaningful. Many of the polls cited in the national news fail to adhere to science. Assessing what percentage of overall actual voters will be Democrat, Republican or independent is one example. 

In one recent national poll touting a 14-point lead for Mr. Biden among likely voters, 45% of the respondents were Democrat. The actual percentage of 2020 voters in the real election expected to be Democrat is between 35% and 38%. By including more Democrats in their poll, the numbers were tainted in favor of Mr. Biden. The Guardian poll mentioned above that shows Mr. Biden up by 17 points included only 20% independent voters. When the ballots are tabulated in November, it is expected that about 31% of them will have come from independents. 

In short, the science of these polls is fatally flawed. Some pollsters adhere to science. Some ignore it. It is why the campaigns themselves depend on internal polling for accurate information. 

There is a well-known philosophical debate that asks, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Some will argue that if no one is there to hear it, it actually makes no sound. 

The 2020 Biden Polling Paradox version of this same philosophical debate may be “If a presidential candidate shows up to speak and no one is around to hear him, does he get their vote?”

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