What the media isn’t saying about their national polls showing Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton is that they are worthless. A look at the past two election presidential cycles shows that the polls aren’t measuring what the media thinks they are measuring.
On a nearly daily basis, national polls are being released showing the presidential race as a tie or with Trump having a small lead over Hillary Clinton. The media are passing off these polls as the current state of the presidential race, but, in reality, what they are measuring is a small bump for Donald Trump that is coming from Republicans rallying around their nominee.
Here is a chart of a Gallup poll from 2008 showing John McCain leading Barack Obama, after he had clinched the Republican nomination while Obama and Clinton were in the final stages of the Democratic primary.
Also in May 2008, McCain took a lead on Obama when Clinton was still in the primary contest. pic.twitter.com/sYWusl7eDS
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) May 22, 2016
Like McCain, Trump has gotten a bump from winning his party’s nominee, while his likely general election opponent is still finishing up their primary.
After Rick Santorum had dropped out of the Republican race in April 2012, Mitt Romney led President Obama, 47%-45%. Romney got a second smaller bounce after officially clinching the Republican nomination in late May of 2012.
What is going to happen next is that Hillary Clinton will get a bounce of her own once she clinches the Democratic nomination. Clinton will likely get a second bounce when Bernie Sanders ends his campaign and endorses her.
A problem with media organizations doing and reporting on their own polling is that it creates a conflict between making news and reporting the news. Networks do polls because they provide news content that they can shape into a dramatic storyline.
The current national polls mean nothing. Once Clinton is the official Democratic nominee, the state of the race will begin to take shape. However, the polling that really matters won’t be happening until the fall in the battleground states that will determine who the next president will be.
For now, do yourself a favor and ignore the head to head matchup national polls.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association