Don’t Believe Everything You See

Joe Biden is leading the Democratic polls in almost unanimous fashion and has been as far as the 2020 field has been polled. Once he announced his candidacy, we saw a substantial bump in his popularity at the expense of hot headed Bernie Sanders. Biden has all the name ID and is descended from a popular two-term democratic President. Take a look at the chart below, where you see Biden leading the horserace long before he declared. Bernie has managed to keep his reliable and dedicated calvary in his court from 2016 all the way up until now.

Realclearpolitics.com screenshot taken May 30, 2019

In spite of this, Joe is not the clear leader. Think back to 2016. Hillary was long the favorite, but wound up struggling up until near the end of the primary season to Sanders, who came out of the abyss to wrap his tentacles around her neck. And on the other side of the aisle, Jeb! led the race there for many months before Trump quartered him. You can even look back to the Republican battle in 2012, where Romney lead polls and then one Republican after another took the lead and gave it back, beating Romney to a pulp by the time he was nominated. What we need to remember is the crystal clear fact that the polls indicating these so called clear leaders are structurally flawed. They ask the following question: If the election were held today, which candidate would you vote for? The problem with that question is obvious as the sky is blue. The election is not being held today. In fact, it is just shy of a year away for many primary voters.

These horserace polls are produced because readers like you and me can’t help but follow. They appeal to a hard wired feature of our humanoid nature, one where we always want to know who’s ahead, who’s going to win a competition, and who’s going to screw us over when we get elected. That means we pay attention, we watch, we click, and generate ad revenue for media companies. Each time they do a poll, they get a news story guaranteed to make money. That’s what you’re buying into by following these meaningless polls. They don’t analyze how strong support is or if a candidate is being chosen over others, rather than because a name is easy to remember.

We still have a long walk ahead of us before we start to see a true front runner emerge as the bull in this contest. The Democrats still have to see who else is going to run, as candidates beget candidates. We still have to see who forgets which department they want to overhaul, who has undiscovered scandals in waiting, who can’t raise money, and who gets the message wrong. I’m willing to bet Biden has a few of those to be considered. Not to mention, there’s a platoon of other candidates with dirt waiting to be dug up. Timing is everything and response goes hand in hand.

As we all know, the political news cycle is fickle, easy, and fast. In a week, the environment will be completely different. The shine will be gone from Biden’s campaign announcement, the other candidates will have had chances to respond, and Trump will have tweeted an estimated 3,922 times, each one changing the game. In short, just sit back and enjoy the race.