It’s a general given in campaign reporting that the only time you hear about internal numbers is when they’re positive to a candidate, whose campaign then leaks them to the media. Negative internal poll numbers tend to remain internal, for exactly that reason.
But with President Donald Trump, as with many other things in politics, things with internal polling haven’t gone the way they usually do.
President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, per NBC News, has fired some pollsters who had done internal polling, and that the campaign believes was responsible for leaking those numbers to the press.
The fired pollsters have not been named; if they were, it would be highly unlikely that any other campaign would ever trust them again.
The New York Times reported last week that the first internal polls by Trump’s campaign showed him losing by a wide margin in battleground states to former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hypothetical general election matchup. The data showed Biden winning by double digits in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin, four states that Trump won in 2016. It also showed Trump winning by only two points in Texas.
The leaked polls did not show how the president is doing against other Democratic candidates besides Biden.
The president had denied the existence of such data, even referring to them as “fake polls” and “fake numbers,” but then ABC News published the actual polling data, which confirmed the earlier reports. The polls were taken in March, nearly a month before Biden officially entered the presidential race, and well before the former vice president emerged as the leader in most public polls of the Democratic presidential contest.
NEW: We've got new details from the internal Trump campaign polls that show Biden leading POTUS in 11 states, including the nugget that the campaign is cutting ties with pollsters in response to the leak. More from @chucktodd, @kwelkernbc and me herehttps://t.co/c8SF0dlN6g
— Ben Kamisar (@bkamisar) June 16, 2019
“We have great internal polling. They were fake polls that were released by somebody that is — it’s ridiculous,” the president said last week, according to an official transcript released by the White House. “We are winning in every single state that we’ve polled. We’re winning in Texas very big. We’re winning in Ohio very big. We’re winning in Florida very big.” He went on to compare the polling data to polls released in the 2016 campaign, most of which had him losing to Hillary Clinton.
The NBC News story included a quote from Trump’s 2020 campaign chairman, Brad Pascale.
“All news about the President’s polling is completely false,” Pascale said. “The President’s new polling is extraordinary and his numbers have never been better.”
Nate Silver, the election forecaster, wrote the following in a 2018 post called “Internal Polls are Usually Bunk” on his site FiveThirtyEight.
“It’s important to remember that by definition, internal polls are shared by people with an agenda, and you need to take that agenda into account when looking at the results,” Silver wrote.