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LUNCHTIME POLITICS: Electoral College Risk Window – Senate Races in Georgia, Alabama, Arizona – Re-Opening Tradeoffs – Recession Worries

Your Daily Polling Update for Thursday, May 21


Down 1 from Tuesday

RON’S COMMENT: Today’s average is based on six polls, ranging from 41% (Politico) to 46% (Rasmussen, Economist, CNBC). The other two polls average 42%…. President Trump’s disapproval rating averages 54% today (+1 since Tuesday), which is 10 points higher than his approval rating…. See the trend in Trump’s job approval average since the beginning of 2020 at approval trend.


Among voters nationwide

(CNBC) Biden over Trump: +3 (48-45)
(Rasmussen) Biden over Trump: +5 (48-43)
(Economist) Biden over Trump: +5 (47-42)
(Quinnipiac) Biden over Trump: +11 (50-39)
(The Hill) Biden over Trump: +1 (42-41-5)
Average lead: Biden +5 points

RON’S COMMENT: Five new polls show Biden holding a lead. It should be noted that Quinnipiac polls often show Democrats doing better than other polls. And, Rasmussen often has Trump’s approval ratings higher than other polls.

Electoral College Risk Window: As we know, polls of the national popular vote do not necessarily reflect how Electoral College votes will break. In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 2.1 points, but won a majority of the electoral vote. In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote by five-tenths of a point and still won the electoral vote. A split decision can repeat itself in 2020, or in any presidential election. But––as a practical matter: The wider the national popular vote margin, the less likely it is that the popular vote loser would be able to overcome that deficit to win the electoral vote. 

  • We know that a national popular vote loser can survive a 2.1 national popular vote deficit (we saw that happen last time), but what happens when that popular vote deficit grows to say 3 or 4 or 5 points?
  • For example––Had Clinton beat Trump by 3.5 points in the national popular vote instead of by 2.1 points, there would have been an additional 1.8 million Clinton votes spread out among the states. If all those votes had come from California and New York, for example, it would not have made any difference in the electoral vote count. But, if a portion of those 1.8 million votes had come from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin––states Trump carried by narrow margins––then the electoral vote majority may have shifted away from Trump.
  • After studying recent elections and state-by-state vote counts, we conclude that: A national popular vote loser may be able to survive a 3-point popular vote deficit in a two-way race, but when that deficit rises higher, it becomes increasingly unlikely that a national popular vote loser can win an electoral vote majority.
  • This is a practical conclusion, not a theoretical one. Theoretically, you could show how a national popular vote loser could overcome a popular vote deficit of almost any size provided state-by-state votes bunch together in ways to make that possible. But, practically speaking, a candidate who wins the national popular vote by 4 points or more is highly likely to survive most realistic state-by-state permutations to win the electoral vote.
  • So, Biden’s 5-point average lead today means he’d probably win the Electoral College, no matter the state-by-state vote counts. A 5-point margin in the national popular vote puts him outside the Electoral College Risk Window
  • Of course, it could be reversed: Biden, in the end, could lose the popular vote but win the electoral vote. Most analysts, however, think it’s more likely that Trump wins the electoral vote and loses the popular. Any such scenario is only speculation at this point.

Trump over Biden: +16 (55-39)

RON’S COMMENT: Trump carried Kentucky by 30 points in 2016.

Trump over Biden: +17 (53-36)

RON’S COMMENT: Trump carried Tennessee by 26 points in 2016.

Biden over Trump: +7 (50-43)

RON’S COMMENT: Trump won Arizona in 2016 by nearly 4 points. While Republicans won the state in five of the last six presidential elections, Democrats believe they can turn the tables this year.

Biden over Trump: +2 (52-48)

RON’S COMMENT: Most recent polls show Biden with a small lead in this crucial swing state. In 2016, Trump carried the Sunshine State by a narrow 1.2 points. In the last six presidential elections, Republicans won the state three times and Democrats won it three times.

Biden over Trump: +12 (51-39)

RON’S COMMENT: The Clinton-Kaine ticket won Virginia in 2016 by more than 5 points. Democrats have won the state in the last three presidential elections.


Among voters in each state

ALABAMA – Republican Primary
Tommy Tuberville over Jeff Sessions: +23 (55-32)

RON’S COMMENT: These GOP primary numbers are devastating for former AG/senator Sessions. Tuberville is a former Auburn football coach. The primary winner will face Democratic incumbent Doug Jones, who is widely viewed as vulnerable.

GEORGIA – Open Primary, Special Election
Doug Collins (R): 34%
Raphael Warnock (D): 18%
Matt Lieberman (D): 14%
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R): 12%
Ed Tarver (D): 6%

RON’S COMMENT: Incumbent Loeffler was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson (R). The wealthy Loeffler, who has strong Wall Street ties, has been struggling with news reports about stock sales. This poll shows her running fourth in the open primary…. Collins, a conservative House member who was a vocal opponent of impeachment, is running first by a clear margin…. Republicans receive a total of 46% and Democrats get 38%. Others receive 4%…. Democrat Warnock is pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Lieberman is the son of former senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut…. The open primary is Nov. 3 and a runoff, if needed, will be Jan. 5 among the top two finishers…. Handicappers rate the race lean or likely Republican.

Jon Ossoff (D) over Sen. David Perdue (R): +2 (47-45)

RON’S COMMENT: This poll shows that incumbent Perdue has a race on his hands. He’s trailing Ossoff, who lost a big-spending open House race a few years ago. However, the poll has Perdue beating other Democrats by narrow 1 to 3 point margins…. Handicappers rate the race lean or likely Republican.

Mark Kelly (D) over Sen. Martha McSally (R): +13 (51-38)

RON’S COMMENT: This poll finds Democratic challenger Kelly expanding his lead over appointed incumbent McSally. Kelly led the three previous polls by an average of a little under 8 points.


Among Republican primary voters districtwide

Randy Feenstra over Rep. Steve King: +2 (41-39)

RON’S COMMENT: Controversial incumbent King is in a tough race for re-election. This poll of Republican primary voters shows him trailing by 2 points––and that’s among his fellow partisans.


Among voters nationwide

Do you think 6 months from now the economy will be as it is now, going into a recession, or improving further?

Same as it is now: 17%
Going into a recession: 55%
Improving: 28%

RON’S COMMENT: 35% of Republicans, 73% of Democrats, and 52% of independents believe the economy will be in a recession in six months.


Among voters nationwide

  • 70% agree that Americans should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy [Morning Consult]
  • 75% agree that the country should reopen slowly, even it makes the economy worse [Quinnipiac]

RON’S COMMENT: Both Morning Consult and Quinnipiac polls show widespread support for a slower re-opening, even if the economy suffers. The Morning Consult poll finds that Republicans back continued social distancing despite economic implications, 53% to 34%. In the Quinnipiac poll, Republicans back a slow re-reopening despite economic ramifications, 50% to 44%.

Lunchtime Politics is owned and published by Ron Faucheux, Chief Analyst at Certus Insights. For interviews or speeches about polling and political trends, contact Dr. Faucheux at

The publisher of this report cannot attest to the reliability or methodology of surveys that it does not conduct.

Copyright 2020 Ronald A. Faucheux

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Ron Faucheux

Dr. Faucheux is a nationally respected public opinion analyst with a unique background in public policy and legislative research, public communications and message strategies. He combines professional competence with pragmatic problem solving skills.