Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Underwhelming Uncle: Joe Biden by the numbers

Joe Biden = dramatic person; totally ordinary results (photo: White House)

We all know that Hillary Clinton is crushing both Joe Biden and her potential 2016 challengers.

But let's say Hillary doesn't run. Suddenly, Joe Biden becomes much more relevant.

So how's he been doing in 2016 pollling?

Unfortunately, there hasn't been a torrent of Biden vs. GOP polls, but I took a look at the the last 16 head-to-head matchups between Biden and his potential Republican opponents, and here's what I found (see polling data at bottom of post).

1. Biden is dead-even with GOP competitors, and well under 50%

In 16 head-to-head matchups, Joe Biden is averaging 44% of the vote, while his respective Republican opponents are averaging 44%.

The GOP number is understandable, considering the candidates struggle with name ID.

But Biden's name ID is nearly universal, and he's still well south of 50%.

Generally, incumbents are in danger if they can't crack 50%, and the big question is whether Biden should be held to the standard of an incumbent.

Probably not, but with his high name ID, he's got to do but much better than 44% to impress.

2. Biden's bipartisan appeal lags against his GOP opponents 

In 11 out of 16 polls, Biden's potential GOP opponents scored better with Democrats than Biden did with Republicans (there was one tie).

In PPP's most recent survey, Rubio scores twice as well with Democrats as Biden does with Republicans. #CommonTale.
In other words, Biden bleeds more support from his party than his Republican foes do from theirs.

Right now, the GOP is supposedly reeling from its inability to broaden its coalition, but in matchups against Biden, the Republican candidates are showing more crossover appeal.

That's not as much a good reflection on the GOP as it is a telling sign of just how limited Biden's appeal is.

So what's the answer to the GOP's problems broadening its coalition? Run against Joe Biden.

2. Biden is underwhelming with Democrats

There's a narrative out there that Joe Biden is beloved by Democrats.

Yes, certainly quite a few interest groups and activists like him.

But the reason Biden can't put daylight between himself and his Republican foes is precisely because he's unable to lock up Democrats in head-to-head matchups with Republicans.

Normally, a candidate might be forgiven for failing to lock up his party three years in advance, but again, Biden's the vice-president. His name ID is universal. Everyone has seen and heard him, for better or worse.

That means he should do at least somewhat better in consolidating his party than his unknown Republican foes do in consolidating theirs.

But he doesn't.

On average, he locks down 81% of Democrats in sixteen head-to-head matchups with Republicans.

By way of comparison, Barack Obama won 93% of Democrats in 2012.

Now, it's generally true that as the heat of a general election turns up, voters rally to their party's candidate.

But it's also true that -- for a sitting vice-president -- it's a bad sign to already bleed 11% of your party with another 8% undecided.

4. Biden doesn't even crack 40% with independents

Yeah, we know that Republicans seem to increasingly call themselves "independents", which makes it perilous to suggest that independents are truly independent.

But "independent" is still a tossup category which Mitt Romney only managed to win by 5% in 2012.

Well, in 16 head-to-head matchups, Biden manages to lose independents by an average of 9%, and his average score of 36% is abysmal any way you slice it.

A Democratic nominee can't win a general election if he loses independents by double-digits, and right now, that's what Joe Biden's facing.

5. The myth of Biden's common man appeal

Here's something I wrote about earlier this year -- the fact is that, despite the ancient narrative, there's just no empirical evidence that Biden holds any sort of unique strength with the white, working class voters that are supposed to swoon over him.

Of course, white working class voters tend to be Republican, so it's not surprising that he polls poorly with them.

BUT... you can get a measure of his relative appeal with them by comparing his numbers with Barack Obama's.

After all, if white, working class voters like Obama better than Biden, can't we put to bed the whole Scrappy Scranton Loves Joe Biden meme?

Unfortunately, detailed polling is limited, so we have to just go with what we've got.

In the final Fox News poll before the 2012 election, Biden's favorable rating among whites without college degrees was 39%/52% for -13%. Barack Obama's stood at 42%/56% for -14%. That's a meaningless 1% difference.

Meanwhile, Biden stood at 32%/61% among white men, while Obama sat at 37%.61% among white men. In this case, Obama's net approval rating was 5 percentage points higher.

In a February Quinnipiac poll, Biden's favorable rating among whites without college degrees was 35%/51%, and among white men, it stood at 37%/52%, which was only slightly better than Obama's 39%/58% rating with white men.

In August of 2012, CNN found that Barack Obama's favorable rating in rural areas of the country was 42%/56% for -14%. Meanwhile, Joe Biden's was 37%/54%, which was a net 3 percentage points worse than Obama's.

White working class voters don't like Biden any more than they do Obama (photo: Employee Leasing Quotes)

One month later, CNN put Obama's favorability rating in rural areas at 39%/61%, while Biden's was 37%/54%, which was a net 5 percentage points higher.

So in one poll, Obama scored higher; in the other Biden. Neither was clearly stronger than the other.

Biden was recently tasked with selling gun control to the working class voters who allegedly love both Biden and guns, but in January, Pew showed that just 29% of gun owners had a favorable opinion of Joe Biden, while 60% had an unfavorable rating.

Thus, the idea that Biden is uniquely appealing to guys in overalls is unique wrong. That is -- unless you think Obama has built an unassailable bond with this demographic.

Finally, to wrap up, here's the polling upon which I based the first four points.

Quinnipiac University poll of Iowa (May 2013).

a. Marco Rubio 40% Joe Biden 39% (Biden only locks up 78% of Democrats; Rubio takes 6% of Dems).

b. Rand Paul 44% Joe Biden 39% (Biden only locks up 80% of Democrats; Rand takes 7% of Dems ).

Public Policy Polling national survey (May 2013).

a. Chris Christie 49% Joe Biden 40% (Biden only locks in 75% of Dems; Christie wins 16%).

b. Joe Biden 46% Rand Paul 44% (Biden locks in 82% of Obama voters; Rand wins 12%).

c. Joe Biden 46% Marco Rubio 45% (Biden locks in 80% of Obama voters; Rubio does twice as well with Dems as Biden does with Republicans and wins 14%).

Public Policy Polling national survey (April 2013).

a. Chris Christie 49% Joe Biden 40% (Biden picks up 76% of Dems; Christie wins 13%).

b. Joe Biden 47% Rand Paul 43% (Biden wins 84% of Dems; Rand Paul wins 8%

c. Joe Biden 46% Marco Rubio 44% (Biden wins 86% of Dems, Rubio wins 7%

d. Joe Biden 48% Paul Ryan 45%. (Biden wins 86% of Dems, Ryan wins 8%).

Public Policy Polling national survey (February 2013).

a. Joe Biden 48% Jeb Bush 45% (Biden picks up 85% of Dems; Jeb wins 10%).

b. Joe Biden 44% Chris Christie 44% (Biden picks up 80% of Dems, Christie wins 12%).

c. Joe Biden 48% Marco Rubio 43% (Biden wins 82% of Dems, Rubio takes 12%)

d. Joe Biden 49% Paul Ryan 45% (Biden wins 85% of Dems, Ryan takes 11%).

Quinnipiac University national survey (March 2013):

a. Chris Christie 43% Joe Biden 40% (Biden wins 74% of Dems, Christie wins 16%).

b. Joe Biden 45% Marco Rubio 38% (Biden wins 80% of Dems, Rubio wins 7%)

c. Joe Biden 45% Paul Ryan 42% (Biden wins 84% of Dems, Ryan wins 9%).