Polls can be tricky to interpret. This is because there are loads of numbers, deftly worded questions often designed to mislead, and conflicting results – not to mention the political leanings of the pollster. Still, if you are an honest broker, truth can often be found in a well-conducted survey. Unsurprisingly, this is where Democrats expose themselves to a fair amount of criticism. A recent Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a case in point.
The Twitter account @OccupyDemocrats took a tiny morsel of data from this survey and turned it into a misleading headline. To wit: “BREAKING: A new poll from Harvard University shows Florida Governor DeSantis losing to Vice President Kamala Harris in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up for the presidential race in 2024.”
This statement belies the poll’s overarching truth: Kamala Harris is viewed as an inferior candidate in 2024, posting a measly 19% favorability rating. On the other side of the political divide, this is much lower than both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. To put it into perspective, one needs to review the favorability numbers of potential presidential candidates for 2024.
Trump Trumps the Pack
Of the 18 political figures included in the survey, former President Donald J. Trump weighed in with the highest favorability rating of 44%. The problem Trump ran into was his unfavorability rating of 51%. DeSantis, meanwhile, showed an unfavorable rating of only 29%, but his favorability factor was a full 9 points below Trump at 35%. Harris was entirely upside down, with only 38% backing her and a whopping 51% who disliked her as a potential presidential candidate.
Further, when asked, “If the Republican presidential primary for the 2024 election was held today, who would you vote for?” Forty-one percent of GOP and Independent respondents chose Trump, while only 12% said DeSantis.
Now we get to the hypothetical horserace highlighted by the @OccupyDemocrats folks. In a Trump-Biden match-up, 45% preferred the former president over 42% for Biden. (Let us remember this is a Harvard poll!) In a Trump-Harris contest, Trump displayed impressive numbers – 47% to Harris’ 40%. Finally, in an improbable DeSantis-Harris face-off, the vice president bested the Florida governor 41% to 38%. So, while this poll shows that Harris would beat DeSantis head-to-head, this number must be put in perspective. The simple fact is the path for a DeSantis nomination is a narrow one because Trump looms so large among Republicans and Independents.
Another telling part of the poll demonstrated the deep political hole in which Biden currently resides in the minds of the American electorate.
For example, under the category “Most voters do not approve of Biden in any given area,” with the exception of COVID, the president’s approval numbers are simply ghastly:
The Economy 35%
Stimulating Jobs 44%
Fighting Terrorism 41%
Foreign Affairs 40%
Administering Gov’t 41%
Violence & Crime 38%
These percentages mark a precipitous drop following Biden’s inauguration in January 2021 and demonstrate how unhappy the American electorate is with the sitting president. This poll indicates that 45 is still a force with which to be reckoned. Indeed, DeSantis likely knows this, which is why he has consistently asserted he is not a candidate for president in 2024. A hypothetical is not worth much if it is highly improbable. Perhaps those in the Democratic Party would be better off grasping at something that has even a modicum of reality than hyping dubious scenarios that could easily be perceived as laughable.