Internal pollsters found Trump trailing Biden in 11 states, including double-digit gaps in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is in rough shape for a sitting president, according to its own internal polling. A 17-state poll conducted in March showed the president trailing former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in 11 states. ABC News obtained some of the actual data that showed “a double-digit lead for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41 and had Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.”
The Trump campaign responded with an odd mash-up of denials. Trump told his aides to claim that the polls, which were conducted in late March, didn’t actually exist. When Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale was confronted with the actual numbers by ABC News, he said, “These leaked numbers are ancient, in campaign terms, from months-old polling that began in March before two major events had occurred: the release of the summary of the Mueller report exonerating the President, and the beginning of the Democrat candidates defining themselves with their far-left policy message.” Trump himself called the numbers “phony polling information” and asserted that his polling was actually “the strongest I’ve ever been.”
And, now, the campaign has, according to the New York Times, fired three of its five pollsters to minimize the chance of damaging leaks in the future. That includes the Polling Company, previously run by Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and current White House counselor. The campaign also fired Adam Geller, who worked for former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and Michael Baselice, a pollster for former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom were on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Only pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin are staying on the 2020 campaign for now.
The fierce reaction isn’t entirely surprising given that Trump is notoriously obsessed with polling data on himself, and his staff has been known to hide polls from him if they show red flags for his approval rating. They also put together scrapbooks of flattering headlines and present it to him multiple times a day.
National polls also show Trump trailing leading Democratic contenders. But even if internal polling is more useful as a snapshot rather than a way to predict results (especially 18 months out from the general election), Trump’s internal polling might be more troubling to his team. The 2016 presidential election, when Trump claimed victory despite the majority of polls showing it was far out of his reach, may have shaken people’s faith in the accuracy of electoral polling, but Cambridge Analytica, working for the Trump campaign, actually managed to predict the final results just weeks before.
“We came to realize the way folks were polling in terms of their samples and who they consider likely voters, it’s probably been incorrect,” Matt Oczkowski, then-director of product for Cambridge Analytica, told Wired immediately after the election. He added, “This is not something that political intuition would tell you, but our models predicted most of these states correctly.” At this early stage, the pollsters he’s working with aren’t quite as positive on his chances.