Let’s talk about that bad New York Times poll

Indivisible Guide
4 min read6 days ago

By Leah Greenberg, Indivisible Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director

If you’re like me, you woke up to a splash of cold water yesterday: Once again, The New York Times has released a big battlegrounds poll with some very troubling results.

The highly respected poll has Trump leading Biden in five out of six swing states, though Trump’s lead in three states (Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania) is within the margin of error.

I wanted to send a few quick thoughts on what’s in the poll, how to read it, and what this means for our own strategy:

1. This is bad.

There’s a common tendency when a bad poll drops to dive into the crosstabs to explain why it’s wrong. And it’s real that there are sometimes funky crosstabs and weird outliers. But that doesn’t mean we should turn around and straight-up deny the trendline. Because honestly, while this poll is particularly bad, it’s not uniquely bad.

So let’s just state the obvious: Most polling right now suggests that the race in battleground states is at best tied, and at worst, tipping towards Trump. If the election were held today, we’d be very, very worried.

But…

2. It’s not time to panic.

The good news is: The election is not being held today. A poll is a snapshot of the current moment — it tells us where we’re currently in trouble, what’s resonating and not resonating, and where we need to target your efforts.

Here’s what this poll tells us: Trump is retaining most of his 2020 voters, while a meaningful portion of Joe Biden’s 2020 coalition is not committed to voting for him in 2024. The biggest gaps are among young people and voters of color. And there’s a huge gap between how registered voters are answering right now compared to likely voters (we’re doing significantly better with the latter).

And here’s perhaps the biggest takeaway from this poll: Most of the critical voters who we need to win are not paying much attention yet. This can feel hard to wrap your head around if you, like me, are a high-information voter who consumes political content in your spare time. But the reality is that a lot of the people we’re worried about just aren’t focused on the election. They’re bored by the idea of a rematch. They’re not huge fans of either candidate. They’re disillusioned by politics in general.

Don’t take it from me. Here’s the NYT polling analysis on Trump:

“His strength is concentrated among irregular, disengaged voters who do not pay close attention to politics and may not yet be tuned into the race. They may be prone to shift their views as the race gets underway.”

We think a lot of those voters are gettable. They may be frustrated right now — but that doesn’t mean they want Trump’s abortion bans, plutocratic economic policies, or fascism.

The task before us is to reach those disengaged voters, and to do it in ways that help them understand what’s at stake here.

That’s why…

3. The outcome in November depends on rebuilding our coalition — one conversation at a time.

We’ve got a simple plan. We’re targeting the voters we need to reach: 2020 Biden voters at risk of drop off or third party appeals. And we’re doing that outreach using trusted messengers: their own neighbors. Our innovative Neighbor2Neighbor program empowers volunteers in swing states to directly reach out and build relationships with target voters in their community.

Neighbor2Neighbor has been shown by independent analysis to be twice as effective as traditional canvassing. It’s very possibly one of the most effective forms of voter contact out there.

And while the voters we need to reach might not start paying attention to what the campaigns are putting out until the fall, we have a HUGE advantage because we’re kicking off this program in battleground states and districts next month.

So I’ll repeat: It’s not time to panic. But it is time — not this fall, not later this summer, NOW — to do everything we can to reach voters, establish the stakes of this election, and save our democracy.

If you’re able to make a donation to help fund this essential work, please chip in today.

We can win this election, defeat Trump, and protect our freedoms — if we do the work. That’s what we’re here to do, and that’s why we’re asking for your support.

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Indivisible Guide

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