Trump trails leading Democrats by record margins, plus Brexit latest and the LNP leads in Queensland

The numbers are not with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson or US President Donald Trump on the homefront right now. AAP/EPA/Stefan Rousseau

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of US national polls, Donald Trump’s ratings are currently 41.4% approve, 54.0% disapprove with all polls for a net approval of -12.6%. With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.6% approve, 53.3% disapprove (net -10.7%). His ratings have slowly slid since mid-July, with economic concerns over the US-China trade war likely responsible for the more recent downturn.

In a late August Quinnipiac University national poll (one of Trump’s worst pollsters), his ratings were 38% approve, 56% disapprove. Trump trailed leading Democratic contenders Joe Biden by 54-38, Bernie Sanders by 53-39, Elizabeth Warren by 52-40 and Kamala Harris by 51-40. The most support he achieved against any Democrat was two points above his overall approval rating.

CNN analyst Harry Enten has compared Trump’s deficits in this Quinnipiac poll against how all incumbent presidents since the second world war have performed in head to head match-ups against their eventual opponents in their worst poll about this far from election day. The presidential general election will be held on November 3 2020.

At this point, only two incumbent presidents trailed in any poll. Jimmy Carter trailed Ronald Reagan by four points, and Barack Obama trailed Mitt Romney by one point. Enten says there were other polls that had Obama ahead. Carter was defeated at the 1980 election, but Obama won in 2012. Trump’s current deficits (11 to 16 points depending on his opponent in this Quinnipiac poll) are far larger than any incumbent president has faced at this point.

Quinnipiac is one of Trump’s worst pollsters, and other polls are not so bad. In RealClearPolitics averages, he trails Biden by 9.9 points, Sanders by 6.0 points, Warren by 4.1 points and Harris by 3.5 points.

To be re-elected, Trump needs the US economy to stay strong. He will also probably need to successfully demonise his eventual opponent. Once again, he could win the Electoral College despite losing the national popular vote.

There was a further bad finding for Trump in this Quinnipiac poll. By 49-46, voters disapproved of his handling of the economy. The only previous occasion in Quinnipiac polls going back to June 2018 where Trump’s rating on the economy was negative was in late January 2019 (51-46 disapproved), owing to the government shutdown.

Biden still leads Democratic primary despite one outlier poll

In late August, Monmouth University had a sensational poll of the national Democratic primary, which had Sanders and Warren leading with 20% each, followed by Biden at 19%. The Democratic primary sample was just 298, with a 5.7% margin of error.

Since this poll, other polls have confirmed that Biden is clearly ahead. In the RealClearPolitics average, Biden has 30.4%, Warren 17.1%, Sanders 16.3%, Harris 6.6% and Pete Buttigieg 4.6%, with everyone else at 3% or less. For some reason, there have been no polls of the earliest voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire taken since early August.


Read more: US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


Some people have suggested that Monmouth should have suppressed its poll, but I strongly disagree. One of the problems with polling at the Australian election was “herding” – where pollsters look at each other’s results as a check. Pollsters should produce an outlier now and again – it means they are being honest.

In late 2015, the old live phone Newspoll was closed, and replaced with an online and robopolling firm. Since this occurred, Newspoll has been excessively stable unless there was a clear reason for a change. This probably contributed to the polling miss at the federal election.

Owing to higher thresholds, just ten candidates qualified for the September 12 Democratic debate, down from the 20 in the first two debates. As a result, this third debate will occur on one night; the first two debates were held over two nights.

UK: Legislation opposing a no-deal Brexit passes against government’s wishes

On September 3, the UK House of Commons changed the order of business to allow legislation opposing a no-deal Brexit to be debated by 328 votes to 301. As a result, the 21 Conservative MPs who opposed the government were kicked out of the Conservative party and will not be able to stand as Conservative candidates at the next election.

On September 4, the legislation passed the Commons comfortably, and will now go to the House of Lords, where it will pass easily. PM Boris Johnson attempted to call an early election, but won far fewer than the two-thirds majority needed to dissolve parliament.

Assuming this legislation passes the Lords and gains royal assent, it does not stop a no-deal Brexit on October 31, as Johnson could defy parliament and refuse to request an extension.

I wrote for The Poll Bludger in August that there are two definite ways for Parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit: no-confidence in Johnson followed by confidence in someone who will follow parliament’s wishes, or revoking Brexit legislation altogether. Neither of these solutions is likely.

Johnson wants an election to be held on October 15, but opposition parties will not cooperate in giving him his election until (at the least) the legislation against no-deal passes parliament and receives royal assent; this should occur by early next week before parliament is prorogued.

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on September 2 that the Conservatives have a large lead in the UK polls, though those polls were taken before parliament returned from summer recess.

Palaszczuk’s ratings tank in a Queensland YouGov poll

A Queensland YouGov poll, conducted August 28-29 from a sample of 1,000, gave the LNP a 51-49 lead, a three-point gain for the LNP since the last such poll in February. Primary votes were 37% LNP (up two), 32% Labor (down three), 13% Greens (up two) and 13% One Nation (up five). The next Queensland election will be held in late October 2020.

34% (down 12) approved of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and 45% disapproved (up seven), for a net approval of -11, down 19 points. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had 30% approval (down one) and 30% disapproval (down five). Palaszczuk lead by 34-29 as better premier, a big fall from a 47-27 lead in February.

In the federal component of this poll, the Coalition led in Queensland by 55-45 (58.4-41.6 at the May election). Primary votes were 40% LNP, 29% Labor, 13% Greens and 12% One Nation. Federal polling in Queensland has had a bias towards Labor, and particularly so at the last election. As The Poll Bludger says, the last YouGov Queensland poll, taken 9-10 days from the election, gave the federal Coalition just a 51-49 lead, more than a seven point miss.

The latest federal Newspoll, conducted August 15-18 from a sample of 1,620, gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, a two-point gain for Labor since late July. Primary votes were 42% Coalition (down two), 34% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (steady) and 4% One Nation (up one). Scott Morrison had a +6 net approval, down from +15. Anthony Albanese had a +7 net approval, up from +3. Morrison led by 48-30 as better PM (48-31 previously).

Far-right Salvini loses power in Italy

In Italy, there was a coalition between the far-right League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. I wrote for my personal website on September 4 that League leader Matteo Salvini broke this coalition to force early elections, but the Five Stars allied with the centre-left Democrats to form a new government. Also covered: Israeli polls ahead of the September 17 election, and the far-right surges in two German state elections.