“Don’t be surprised if Biden doesn’t get a convention bounce in the polls. That’s not the point,” declared an early Friday headline in the Washington Post. Post-convention surges are hard when the country is polarized and the parties “stage theirs back to back, as they will this year,” argued opinion writer Karen Tumulty. © Twitter/screenshot
Except both things were just as true in 2016, which didn’t stop the media from treating the “convention bounce” as a thing of conventional wisdom. Either way, the problem was not that the virtual Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin didn’t move the needle for the Democrats and their ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – it’s that it somehow managed to jolt the public opinion in favor of Trump!
The president’s approval rating among likely US voters stood at 47 percent on Wednesday, with 51 percent disapproving. By Friday morning, those numbers had flipped completely, to 51 approval and 47 percent disapproval. © Twitter/screenshot
These are the numbers from the daily tracking poll by Rasmussen Reports, which is weighted at 37 percent Democrat, 33 percent Republican and 30 percent Independent.
This is in stark contrast to mainstream media reactions to Biden’s acceptance speech on Thursday evening – a brief but occasionally intense denunciation of Trump’s “darkness” in favor of the “light” supposedly offered by the Democrats.
Election gurus have been laying the groundwork for managing expectations about the convention ‘bounce’ since July. American politics are polarized, they said, and the Covid-19 pandemic guaranteed the conventions would be virtual, rather than the normally raucous in-person parties that let host cities cash in.
“Maybe more people will watch the conventions than normal because they’re stuck inside because of the coronavirus pandemic,” argued CNN’s Harry Enten last weekend. “Still, the cumulative evidence suggests that a big convention bounce will be hard to come by this year.”
The popular statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight – which gave Trump the same odds of winning this year that he beat in 2016 – cautioned in July that convention ‘bounce’ has been diminishing, “likely” due to polarized politics. Their analysis focused on how Trump will have a hard time boosting his ratings without the ability to hold large in-person rallies, due to the virus.
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