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Chitchat Donald Trump is Winning! America will be great again!



Polls show Trump winning key swing states. That’s partly a failure of the press​

Margaret Sullivan
Margaret Sullivan

Polls can’t predict – but they can warn. And I’m not sure our horserace-obsessed media are heeding the warning
Fri 5 Apr 2024 06.01 EDT


I learned the hard way to be skeptical about the predictive power of public opinion polls.
I remember election night 2016 all too well, as I hit delete on my partially pre-written Washington Post column and instead tried to look into the future of a Trump presidency. It was a future that wasn’t supposed to happen.

An entire nation of journalists was doing much the same. Not everyone, but a whole lot of us.
Given that searing memory, I reacted to the recent much-trumpeted Wall Street Journal poll about the 2024 presidential race with, well, not exactly a shrug, but not a primal scream either.

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That was the poll that said Donald Trump is leading Joe Biden in six of seven crucial battleground states, the very ones most likely to determine who gets elected in November. The former president is ahead, according to the Journal’s poll, in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina; the two candidates are tied in Wisconsin.
That doesn’t mean anything definitive seven months away from the election. Yet – as someone who thinks another four years of Trump would be a disaster – I believe there’s something to be learned here.
Rather than dismiss these findings, think about what they tell us, even if they do so imperfectly and even if they lack any real predictive power.
One of the things these numbers suggest is that the journalists are not getting the truth across to citizens on some key points (or if they are, that truth is being ignored).
The poll respondents claim that one of their big concerns is the economy. If that’s the case, they should be happy with Biden. Among the factors: low inflation, significant growth and low unemployment. Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate economist, wrote recently: “The economic news in 2023 was almost miraculously good.” (Even the cost of a classic Thanksgiving dinner, he notes, was down 4.5% last year.)
If the economy is that strong and that important to voters – and if Biden can take at least some of the credit – why isn’t it coming across? That’s something for the Biden campaign, primarily; but it’s also something for media people since journalists are supposed to be communicating information so that citizens can vote with knowledge. That should be a higher priority than generating profits, ratings and clicks, but one eventually despairs that it ever will be.
Another major voter concern, of course, is Biden’s age. He’s 81; Trump will be 78 in June. They’re both old; both have memory gaps and both exhibit confusion at times.
Only one of them, however, talks about some migrants as “animals” or predicts a “bloodbath” for the country if he loses. Only one is facing dozens of charges related to crimes including trying to overturn a legitimate election. Only one has promised to be a dictator on day one of his presidency and only one has allies that are meticulously plotting a radical revamping of how America works.

A fine Associated Press story carried the headline, “Trump’s plans if he returns to the White House include deportation raids, tariffs and mass firings.” The story notes that the ideas are extreme and the groundwork determined. “Some of his current ideas would probably end up in court or impeded by Congress,” it said. “But Trump’s campaign and allied groups are assembling policy books with detailed plans.”
Poll respondents also claim to be deeply concerned about the state of democracy in America.
They should be, of course, but what they mean by that differs widely. Do they know as much about Trump’s authoritarian blueprints as they do about how Biden walks these days with a stiffer gait?
I’m not quite as dismissive as the media critic Mark Jacob, who scoffed that there’s “only one poll that matters. It’s seven months from now. The rest is just empty calories filling airtime.”
And I do take seriously the analysis by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, who looked at the Journal poll and several others, comparing them with earlier ones, and concluding that Biden is making slow, uneven progress.
That progress, Marshall thinks, may accelerate as more Americans realize that, like it or not, these two candidates are the actual choices. No Nikki Haley or Gretchen Whitmer is waiting in the wings.
Polls can’t predict. But they can warn. And maybe a red-alert warning is what low-information Americans – and our horserace-obsessed media – need most of all.
  • Margaret Sullivan is a Guardian US columnist writing on media, politics and culture
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I hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, I wanted to ask if you would consider supporting the Guardian’s journalism as we enter one of the most consequential news cycles of our lifetimes in 2024.
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Alfrescian (Inf)
Your fake news 'press' was a big part of the problem.

Trump still has a score to settle with you fake news merchants, who helped to steal the 2020 election. :cool: