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Dem Pollster Warns Dems: Polls Are Still Wrong About Trump

Dem Pollster Warns Dems: Polls Are Still Wrong About Trump

“His style is not what won him the presidency. It was, remarkably, his substance”

Mark Penn, Democrat strategist and former pollster for Bill Clinton during his presidency, is reviled by today’s regressive Democrats.  Happily, his truth bombs land amongst his leftist audience with a fizzle amid looks of scathing disdain.

Penn’s latest attempt to speak truth to the left’s waning political power addresses why, as co-director of the Harvard-Harris Poll, he believes that the left is still getting everything wrong, particularly when it comes to polls and President Trump.

In July, Penn co-authored with Andrew Stein a piece in the New York Times urging Democrats to move back to center.  He noted that the Democratic Party had moved so far left and extended their totalitarian tentacles so far into the lives of middle America that the only way back was to adopt Clinton’s triangulation model.

The path back to power for the Democratic Party today, as it was in the 1990s, is unquestionably to move to the center and reject the siren calls of the left, whose policies and ideas have weakened the party.

In the early 1990s, the Democrats relied on identity politics, promoted equality of outcomes instead of equality of opportunity and looked to find a government solution for every problem. After years of leftward drift by the Democrats culminated in Republican control of the House under Speaker Newt Gingrich, President Bill Clinton moved the party back to the center in 1995 by supporting a balanced budget, welfare reform, a crime bill that called for providing 100,000 new police officers and a step-by-step approach to broadening health care. Mr. Clinton won a resounding re-election victory in 1996 and Democrats were back.

But the last few years of the Obama administration and the 2016 primary season once again created a rush to the left. Identity politics, class warfare and big government all made comebacks. Candidates inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and a host of well-funded groups have embraced sharply leftist ideas. But the results at the voting booth have been anything but positive: Democrats lost over 1,000 legislative seats across the country and control of both houses of Congress during the Obama years. And in special elections for Congress this year, they failed to take back any seats held by Republicans.

Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs. They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.

He’s not wrong.  Indeed, many of LI’s writers have noted the same factors in the Democrat’s historic losses.

Penn and Stein went so far as to point out that Americans in the heartland can’t be won over by government handouts and that Democrats need to abandon socialism and (gasp!) be more fiscally responsible.

Bigger government handouts won’t win working-class voters back. This is the fallacy of the left, believing that voters just need to be shown how much they are getting in government benefits. In reality, these voters see themselves as being penalized for maintaining the basic values of hard work, religion and family. It’s also not all about guns and abortion. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both won working-class voters despite relatively progressive views on those issues.

Today, identity politics and disdain for religion are creating a new social divide that the Democrats need to bridge by embracing free speech on college campuses and respect for Catholics and people of other faiths who feel marginalized within the party.

There are plenty of good issues Democrats should be championing. They need to reject socialist ideas and adopt an agenda of renewed growth, greater protection for American workers and a return to fiscal responsibility. While the old brick-and-mortar economy is being regulated to death, the new tech-driven economy has been given a pass to flout labor laws with unregulated, low-paying gig jobs, to concentrate vast profits and to decimate retailing.

Rural areas have been left without adequate broadband and with shrinking opportunities. The opioid crisis has spiraled out of control, killing tens of thousands, while pardons have been given to so-called nonviolent drug offenders. Repairing and expanding infrastructure, a classic Democratic issue, has been hijacked by President Trump — meaning Democrats have a chance to reach across the aisle to show they understand that voters like bipartisanship.

Gallup reported in January of this year:

Many more Americans have considered themselves politically conservative than liberal since the early 1990s. That remained the case in 2016, when an average of 36% of U.S. adults throughout the year identified themselves as conservative and 25% as liberal.

. . . . Since Gallup began routinely measuring Americans’ political ideology in 1992, conservative identification has varied between 36% and 40%. At the same time, there has been a clear increase in the percentage identifying as politically liberal, from 17% to 25%. This has been accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the percentage identifying as “moderate,” from 43% to 34%.

. . . . Most of the long-term change in Americans’ political views occurred after 2000 and can be explained by one overarching factor — an increasing likelihood of Democrats (including independents who lean Democratic) to self-identify as liberal. Democratic liberal identification has increased by about one percentage point each year, from 30% in 2001 to 44% in 2016. As a result, liberalism now ranks as the top ideological group among Democrats.

. . . . People who once opted for the word “moderate” may be more willing to call themselves “liberal” even if their views on the issues are the same.

These numbers are not lost on Penn and Stein who go on to say:

Easily lost in today’s divided politics is that only a little more than a quarter of Americans consider themselves liberals, while almost three in four are self-identified moderates or conservatives. Yet moderate viewpoints are being given short shrift in the presidential nominating process. So Democrats should change their rules to eliminate all caucuses in favor of primaries. Caucuses are largely undemocratic because they give disproportionate power to left-leaning activists, making thousands of Democrats in Kansas more influential than millions of people in Florida.

Americans are looking for can-do Democrats in the mold of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton — leaders who rose above partisanship to unify the country, who defended human rights and equality passionately, and who also encouraged economic growth and rising wages. That is the road back to relevance, and the White House, for the Democrats.

Their NYT op-ed was met with disdain (the 1990’s are SO OVER), delusional outrage (this is asinine! We’re winning . . . um, except those 1,000 plus seats we lost under Obama), to grudgingly realistic (okay, sure, we can’t win back political power without winning Trump voters, but we can do that without budging too much, right?).

Penn’s latest piece at the Hill is likely to go over equally well among the warring factions of the Democratic Party.

Once again, Penn makes sense, something regressive Democrats seem to find intolerable, and argues that the glee Democrats and the left are taking in Trump’s poll numbers is misguided at best, delusional at worst.

The polls that failed to detect the full strength of President Trump on Election Day continue to underestimate the president’s support for the job he is doing, paying way too much attention to the Twitter wars and ignoring the public support for many of the actions is undertaking.

This can create some serious misjudgments by organizations like the NFL and some Republican senators, who find out later that they buck the president only to their own detriment. And nothing was more devastating to Democrats than believing the election was over when it wasn’t.

He goes over methodology and the problems with polling everyone, including those who do not—or cannot legally—vote.

The methodology of some of these polls is to poll “all adults” without any qualification as to citizenship or voting intent. A lot of the nonvoters dislike politics and all politicians, and these polls also include them along with undocumented immigrants who are not screened out. Another group of polls has Trump’s approval in the low 40s, and Harvard-Harris Poll, which eliminates all undecideds, has it at 45 percent, similar to Rasmussen.

Generally, the president does best with voters polled online, as opposed to with live operators. He got 46 percent of the electorate in the election and little has changed since then as 90 percent of his voters support him, unchanged over many months.

Drilling down into issue-related specifics also helps President Trump because a majority of Americans support him on the issues.

When we break down his approval ratings by specific areas, we get a more complex picture of his image. The president gets 65 percent approval for hurricane response and 53 percent approval for the economy and fighting terrorism. He gets his lowest marks for the way he is administering the government.

. . . .  We see the same dynamic being played out over and over again: The president grabs the spotlight with strong statements (typically on Twitter) of his policies, for which he is savaged as over the top on social and mainstream media. Then, over time, he often wins the underlying policy argument. You can see how this played out on the economy and taxes, the national anthem, attacks on bad trade deals and calls for more border controls.

. . . .  For the first time in a decade, a plurality of people see the economy as moving in the right direction and 64 percent see the economy as growing. The voters give Trump significant credit for the economic upswing, and any read on his approval ratings have to take into account that moving the economy forward these days is seen as Job No. 1 for the president.

When it comes to the NFL, 57 percent believe that football players should stand and respect the flag, according to a Reuters poll. While voters are taken aback by the roughness with which Trump took on the issue, there is no question that a solid majority support his position. Moreover, the backpedaling we are seeing by the NFL is reflective of a country that wants its athletes to respect those who went into real battle, without the millions of dollars of pay these athletes receive.

Penn also notes that over all approval rating is not a measure of a president’s success because . . . well, look at Obama.

No question that 68 percent or more say they would like to see Trump stop tweeting, but is measuring that really reflective of his underlying political power compared to what’s happening in the economy? In the end, will voters cast ballots on tweets or jobs?

. . . . Remember, Americans liked President Obama for his way with words and his calm leadership style. They just opposed many of his policies, so Obama’s numbers gave a false sense of approval. Trump is the mirror opposite. People are put on edge by his words while favoring a lot of the positions he is taking on issues.

. . . . The failure to understand the 2016 election was in large measure not a failure of the final polls, many of which showed a close race, but a failure to understand the powerful storyline of Trump’s appeal with his respect for cops and the military, taking a more aggressive position against our enemies, and pushing for tax and health-care reform. His style is not what won him the presidency. It was, remarkably, his substance.

Penn also notes that compared to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP as a whole, President Trump is clearly the favorite among Republican voters.

When it comes to rank-and-file Republican voters, Trump is the undisputed leader of the Republican Party. No poll I’ve seen puts his support from Republicans at below 80 percent and we at Harvard-Harris have it at 84 percent, which is remarkable, given his knock-down-drag-out fight with some mainstream Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has dropped to the least-liked politician on the national scene today. Polls in Tennessee showed retiring Sen. Bob Corker’s reelect with Republican primary votes is at 42, putting him in a weak position with those core voters.

The remarkable thing is that, in response to a president ready to sign their legislation, the Republican leadership is committing hari-kari in failing to pass the very things that won them their elections: opposing Obamacare, enacting tax reform, taking a tougher position on Iran. (Remember when they invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on the Iran deal?)

They are, puzzlingly, walking away from everything they have pledged to their voters, and the revolution they are about to face from those voters is real, much to the benefit of the Democrats at this point.

Penn has some final, warning words for those taking positions based on Trump’s style rather than on substance and on jumping to unrealistic conclusions based on polling.

It is by watching the underlying public sentiment of what he is doing, and not his methods, that you see how polling better watch out here, as reality versus research will again be tested, and reality always wins.


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I hope his point on Hari Kari is right. They were elected to repeal Obamacare. They were elected because we were Taxed Enough Already!

Let’s hope the voters take the mantra of “you’re fired” again.

ugottabekiddinme | October 12, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Penn’s recommendations to the Democrats is a sensible way of reason and policy, but the Democrats are pursuing a rope-a-dope strategy which just might win them back at least the Senate, where the GOP members of that body are

“. . . , puzzlingly, walking away from everything they have pledged to their voters, and the revolution they are about to face from those voters is real, much to the benefit of the Democrats at this point.”

I think this is the Schumer/Durbin gambit.

The most important poll, for Democrats, is how many Trump voters will vote in 2018 and 2020. This is not really a Democrat v Republican political contest anymore. It is now strictly a radical liberal progressive v everyone else contest. The Dems have the radical liberal progressive vote locked up. They need do nothing to keep that demographic. And, because they can’t move more to the center, to attract moderate independents, without losing some of their solid base, they won’t really try. What they need is for enough Trump voters to become disillusioned and do what the conservative Republicans did for years, stay home. Make no mistake about this, the Democratic strategic leadership knows this. And, that is the reason for all of their attacks on Trump. To splinter his base.

Trump is a Teflon President. Nothing that the Dems, and anti-Trumpers, throw at him is really going to stick. The game plan is to disillusion enough Trump supporters to allow the hard-core Democrat liberal base to vote in Dems in the midterms. What is so interesting about all of this is that the Republican Congress Critters do not seem to be attempting to derail this strategy. From a survival standpoint, you would think that the GOP would actually support Trump, thereby attracting the support of Trump voters. That they seem hell bent on handing their seats over to Dems or pro-Trump challengers in 2018, is amazing. In a close district, splitting the Republican vote between the incumbent and a pro-Trump challenger could very well result in the Dems taking that seat in the general election. The Republican strategy does not seem to be based upon keeping control of Congress. Which might be exactly what the GOPe wishes. Should the Dems gain control of either house of Congress, then the GOP can blame them for any obstructionism where Trump’s agenda is concerned.

    Barry in reply to Mac45. | October 12, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    “Which might be exactly what the GOPe wishes.”

    They do what their told by their paymasters.

      Barry in reply to Barry. | October 12, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      Let’s try that again 🙂

      They do what they’re told by their paymasters.

      Mac45 in reply to Barry. | October 13, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      That is what is creating the problems which the GOPe face. They are being told to oppose the Trump agenda because it does not conform to the wishes of the Establishment. However, they have built their “brand” on the premise that they oppose the Establishment agenda and support the same agenda which catapulted Trump into office. Right now GOPe politicians are in the unenviable position of ignoring their long held promises to oppose the Trump agenda. If they have to continue that for the entire Trump Presidency, it could irrevocably harm the Republican Party. But, if a few politicians are removed from office and control of either house of the Congress is captured by the Dems, the Republicans can go back to promising to support the Trump agenda, while still being unable to advance it. The same strategy which worked so well for them for the last 8 years.

I’d like to believe the numbers, but I think that many liberals self-identify as “moderate.” These are the people who can consume the output of the MSM and not call it “biased” because they believe it, and they, are mainstream when it comes to political thought. They do not view themselves as “left of center” because they see conservatives as “far right,” and this perspective gives them the impression that their beliefs are in the middle.

    Tom Servo in reply to DaveGinOly. | October 13, 2017 at 8:20 am

    “I’d like to believe the numbers, but I think that many liberals self-identify as “moderate.”

    Rules for Dealing with Liberals:

    Rule #1 – All Liberals Lie

    Rule #2 – See Rule #1

For a condensed version of the state of our nation, the NFL players and the national anthem vs the fans just about sums it up. On one side people want the tradition of honoring our flag and those who sacrificed so that we can wave it. And on the other side, there are those that claim their grievances are more important than tradition.
For our nation to be thus divided so deeply on a gut level issue is ominous. There is no middle ground on either side except the abolishment of the flag and anthem at NFL games. Or for the disenchanted to remain in the tunnels during the short service. To most Americans, those are not acceptable measures and only wave a red flag in their faces. Our nation is headed for much greater turmoil if a knight on a white horse doesn’t appear soon.

    I don’t see a knight on any color horse being able to head off further turmoil. I just hope this all stops short of further violence.


The only way you will see Trump supporters being disillusioned is through how the media continues to report on the administration.

But even this isn’t working for liberals. People can see through the lies and deceit that is called the news because pretty much EVERYTHING is fake news from the MFM!

Every time the media attempts to ratchet up the shfillness of its self importance they come off looking like even more fake news.

Reporting on things like the Democratic mayor in Puerto Rico, with personalised shirts standing in front of vast stocks of aid calling out Trump as being a callous egotistical sexual predator has the exact opposite effect on Trumps supporters! It entrenched that support even further thanks to constantly being under drive from, yes you guessed it, 24/7 fake news.

And that’s without getting in to the calibre of the leaders on the left!

    Ragspierre in reply to mailman. | October 13, 2017 at 8:21 am


    wHERE in the UK are you…???

    And look again at the picture of the mayor. You’ll see the aid supplies she’s speaking in front of are from private firms, not FEMA.

      healthguyfsu in reply to Ragspierre. | October 13, 2017 at 9:13 am

      Rags, PR is a haven of corruption. I know you hate Trump, but why would you believe anything that comes from that cesspool?

        Ragspierre in reply to healthguyfsu. | October 13, 2017 at 9:18 am

        I believe my eyes. And I can read.

        Did you check out the pictures/video of the mayor’s original presser? You know who and what Goya is, right?

      I have no idea what you are speakng of. But, let me explain how FEMA disaster relief works.

      Fema does not have a bunch of cargo containers sitting around to load with supplies and ship around the coutry. It uses cargo containers which are available. They are usually leased from shipping companies and bear the company logo. So, don’t look for cargo containers with the words FEMA stamped on the sides.

      Also, FEMA does not have an endless supply of perishable disaster relief supplies. And, some of there supplies have been used in Harvey and Irma. So, it would not be unusual for FEMA to procure normal commercial supplies, such as water, food, etc which are not individually labeled as being from FEMA.

      Now, the MSM, hardly Trump supporters, has reported that a significant amount of FEMA relief supplies have been delivered via US Naval ships, such as the Kaersarge. And, the initial cargo containers have been reported as being from FEMA. As to the notion that the hundreds of cargo containers delivered to San Juan, and other ports, are all from private relief organizations, that is just a little hard to believe. Exactly which organizations have pockets deep enough to provide this level of assistance in such a short time after two major hurricane relief events on the US mainland?

        Ragspierre in reply to Mac45. | October 13, 2017 at 12:41 pm

        What a profoundly stupid…and condescendingly stupid…set of utter bullshit.

        Modern supermarkets, compared to FEMA, are marvels of logistics. They provide consumers with fresh foods, water, and other supplies daily. You may want to look into the WalMart response to Katrina, you moron.

        Goya, a private firm, had food and water in San Juan days before any significant FEMA relief arrived.

        You’ll also want to educate yourself (your stupid, delusional self) with what Ret. Gen. Honore of Katrina fame had to say.

          IndependentDem in reply to Ragspierre. | October 15, 2017 at 9:17 am

          I used to believe that maybe, as you claim, you are a lawyer, but not anymore. Clearly, you’re about 13 year’s old, and someone has made you froth at the mouth again by not completely agreeing with you. I’m sure you’ll have a real laugh at school tomorrow when you tell your friends about how you really shut up everyone else.

    Mac45 in reply to mailman. | October 13, 2017 at 11:44 am

    “The only way you will see Trump supporters being disillusioned is through how the media continues to report on the administration.” – mailman

    You’ve got it. And, that is exactly what is happening. There has been a non-stop full-court press, by the media, to tarnish the Trump administration. This is not designed to bolster the rabid liberal/progressives, it is designed to reduce support for Trump. To what extent it will work is unknown.

      Ragspierre in reply to Mac45. | October 13, 2017 at 11:53 am

      Mark provides some important reporting and comment.

      Why are there ANY Obama admin holdovers still in office?

      Some “T-rump supporters” cannot be disillusioned. They’re WAY too far gone.

        What are you talking about? There is no evidence that Trump is going to certify the Iran nuclear deal? Just the opposite is being reported. Whether the Congress does the same, is still a mystery.

        As to Obama holdovers, this is a surprise? It is almost impossible to remove civil service employees from the federal workforce, without cause. That is the reason why so many Obama appointees were switched over to GS positions before Obama left office. Obama inherited Bush holdovers. Bush inherited Clinton holdovers, And Clinton inherited Reagan/Bush holdovers. What Trump doesn’t have, being a total political outsider, is a support organization which will supply him with reliable replacements for holdovers whom he wishes to remove. When you are the only non-Indian in Indian territory, you have to use Indians as guides.

          Ragspierre in reply to Mac45. | October 13, 2017 at 12:25 pm

          Yeh, no. You’re an idiot and a T-rump sucker.

          Levin was NOT referring to civil service employees. Listen c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y, you poor delusional nutter.

          Mac45 in reply to Mac45. | October 13, 2017 at 8:05 pm

          It might have been nice is Levin had deigned to name a single one of the Obama appointees that he was referring to. But, I’m going to ask you the same thing that I have asked others. If Trump does a mass firing of all Obama appointees, exactly who is he going to replace them with? Really, who is going to take the place of these people? Where does he even get a list of people to replace them? How does he get people through Senate review? He put Sessions into the AG slot. How did that work out? Remember, unlike Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama, Trump has NO support in Washington. None. So, who can he trust in these positions?

          One more thing, both you and Levin are apparently wrong when you seemed to predict that Trump would not decertify the Iran deal. He did that today. So, how much credence should we all place in your predictions of doom and gloom?

          Ragspierre in reply to Mac45. | October 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm

          Golly gee whiz…

          When Reagan pink-slipped all Carter appointees, however did he fill all the holes…???

          When Bush pink-slipped all the Reagan appointees, however did he fill all the holes, huh, buckwheat…???

          When Clinton pink-slipped all the Bush appointees, however did he fill all the holes, ya moron.

          What T-rump did today was EXACTLY what Levin predicted was one of the things he’d do.

          It was the option that required the least guts and leadership.

          You’re so stupid and dishonest, it’s actually painful. I’d think less of you, but I really do think you have some bad wiring.

          Ragspierre in reply to Mac45. | October 13, 2017 at 8:36 pm

          “Remember, unlike Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama, Trump has NO support in Washington. None.”

          THAT will stand in memory as one of the most inane and dishonest things anyone has ever said here.

          He had the entire mechanism of the GOP behind him, and standing in his White House beside him in the person of Rence Preibus.

          IndependentDem in reply to Mac45. | October 15, 2017 at 9:23 am

          Mac45, we all appreciate what you’re trying to do, but trying be reasonable with an angry 13 year old almost never works. Rags clearly has anger management issues, and can’t be reasoned with. It is so sad to see this in someone so young.

While it’s easy to blame the entire GOP, there are some things that the party just can’t do. I’m no GOP lover, either, as I no longer even consider myself affiliated.

There are very slim majority margins and those can be easily thwarted by the likes of traitorous RINOs. Need to turn more blue states red for any hope of passing stuff through Congress.

    “… there are some things that the party just can’t do.”

    Yep, all the things their paymasters tell them not to do, all the while campaigning that they will do.

Mr. Penn does make some sense. If the Democrats were rational, I’d be concerned (as a conservative) that the Democrats would listen to Penn and try, once again, Nancy Pelosi’s 2006 strategy of running blue-dog Democrats in the red districts. That’s what got them their majority in that election.

Given the Democratic leadership, I think it’s less likely that Mr. Penn will have a voice at the strategery table.

I will make one other point: for a lot of Trump voters, it was both substance and style that won them over. One could have had Jeb Bush or John Kasich making exactly the same policy and substance points and a fair number of the Trump voters would have said, “no thanks”. Style mattered — Trump signaled early and often that he was going to fight back against the elites in the media, academia, Ho’wood, and government. That’s what a fair number of Trump voters wanted — a man who fights, thinking that such a man would continue to fight after he won. Then they looked at the substance and said, “yes, I can live with this.”

For the Democrats then, they also need someone who does both — provide substance that will glue back together the traditional Democratic coalition, and who at the same time hits the right notes on style. I don’t see such a Democrat today.

Ragspierre, Ragespierre. Crow eater to be. Bon Appetit,
you nattering naybob of negativism.

    Ragspierre in reply to frankiefrank. | October 13, 2017 at 5:29 pm


    Au contrare. I’ve pointed out the positive FACT that private enterprise had relief on the ground in Porto Rico BEFORE FEMA. That’s not only just not even debatable, that’s typical in disasters.

    I’ve stated positively that…beyond ANY rational excuse…Mr. Management (Der Donald) retains Obama holdovers (and not those who burrowed into civil service slots). Lots. And he’s appointing more. You’ll need to listen and learn from Levin.

    Or you can “la-la-la” with your head in the sand.