In 2016, the former first lady and Secretary of State had a small lead of three percentage points going into Election Day, and various models forecast that she would win, as Time had reported. Further, at various points leading up to the election, Clinton had even bigger leads in the polls.
History, however, proved those polls wrong, and Clinton, though winning the popular vote, lost the election to Donald Trump.
It’s a fact that’s been pointed out repeatedly during this election cycle, by both Democrats and Republicans; Biden may currently have a commanding lead in the polls — as much as 14 percent, according to some — but polling numbers can shift and the polls can be proven wrong.
However, Saletan believes that Biden has something that Clinton lacked, and that will carry him to an easy victory over Donald Trump in November: likability.
Simply put, a lot of voters simply didn’t like Hillary Clinton, and their votes proved that.
“You can argue that public antipathy toward Clinton was sexist, based on lies, or propelled by the media. But that antipathy was a fact, and polls consistently documented it,” he wrote.
Biden, by comparison, scores consistently well when the issue of his likability is brought up in polls.
Saletan looked at polls that asked about likability/favorability in 2016 and compared Clinton’s numbers with Biden’s numbers in polls that do the same. The difference, he says, is staggering.
In five particular polls, Clinton was viewed unfavorably by between 39 to 49 percent of voters. By comparison, Biden’s net unfavorability rating is about 30 percent by Saletan’s math.
Among Independent voters, whose votes could be the difference between victory and defeat for Biden, the former vice president’s net favorability rating is 22 points better than Clinton’s. Among men, it’s 19 percent better. Among women, 10 percent better.
Further, Biden seems to have been immune to the Trump campaign’s efforts to paint him unfavorably with voters.
“Biden has endured a yearlong smear campaign by Trump and the GOP, with little to no effect. And long-term data show no sign that Biden can be vilified as successfully as Clinton was,” Saletan wrote.
There is some wiggle room about which Biden’s supporters should be concerned, however, Saletan said. He notes that in 2016, Trump’s net unfavorability rating has fallen from 61 percent in 2016 to 55 percent now. However, Saletan chalks that up to the fact that, in 2016, Trump hadn’t yet consolidated support from his Republican base, which he has done since then.
“For now, the numbers send a clear message: Biden is in a much better position than Clinton was,” Saletan concluded.