This article is the second of a seven-part series. Every Tuesday between now and Election Day, SFGATE will report on how the current 2020 presidential election polling averages compare to the polling averages at the same time in the 2016 presidential election. After the election, SFGATE will examine whether the polls in 2020 were more or less accurate than the 2016 polls.

Installment one: Joe Biden’s polling lead is considerably stronger than Hillary Clinton’s was 6 weeks before election

Because we’re going to be spending plenty of time together between now and Election Day, this series will begin by responding to reader questions/comments/concerns from the previous week’s installment.

Q: Does Biden’s national popular vote polling lead even matter, given the Republican tilt of the Electoral College?

A: Yes, because national polling averages were pretty accurate in 2016 (read more on that here), and the margin of the popular vote can inform how close the Electoral College race will be. By examining the partisan lean of tipping point states such as Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin relative to the national electorate, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver calculated the chances of a Biden win with different margins of popular vote victory. Silver estimates that if Biden wins the popular vote by less than 1%, he only has a 6% chance of winning the electoral college, and if he wins the popular vote by Hillary Clinton’s margin of 2-3%, he still only has a 46% chance of an electoral college victory. If Biden over-performs Clinton and wins by 3-4% however, his odds jump considerably to 74% — which is much better, but still far from a guaranteed win. Biden’s odds of winning the electoral college go up to greater than 98% if he wins the popular vote by more than 5%.

Rasmussen Reports — the partisan pollster that often gives Trump much more favorable poll results than other pollsters — is most certainly not “getting it right” in the Trump era. In fact, Rasmussen Reports is one of the only pollsters that completely bungled the 2018 midterms. Every other major polling group’s final survey before Election Day showed Democrats with a 5% to 13% lead in the generic congressional ballot, and Rasmussen showed Republicans leading by 1%. The Democrats went on to win the national vote for congressional races by 8.4% and took back the House of Representatives. Treat Rasmussen polls with the appropriate dosage of skepticism.

And Scott Rasmussen himself has fought back against the narrative that the “polls were wrong in 2016.” In April of this year, he stated, “Contrary to popular myths, the national political polls in 2016 were very accurate… However, while the polling was good, the analysis of the polling was not. Many in the media and political worlds simply could not imagine a Clinton loss. Some looked at the polling, noted the margin of error, and assumed the Democratic nominee would win by far more than three percentage points… The problem was not the polls, but the analysis.”

If you have a question you’d like answered in next week’s installment, email eric.ting@sfgate.com.

With that out of the way, let’s jump into this week’s comparison of the 2020 and 2016 races:

At this time in 2016, Hillary Clinton and were over a week removed from the first presidential debate, and three days before the release of the Access Hollywood tape. Clinton received a bump coming out of the first debate as multiple polls showed that debate viewers thought she “won” the evening.

Clinton expanded her lead both nationally and in several states in just one week, whereas in 2020, we don’t see much movement from this week to last. Next week will be the week to watch as we will presumably have polling from after the first Biden-Trump debate and fallout from the New York Times story on Trump’s taxes.

When comparing polls from this year and 2016, note that Biden not only has larger leads than Clinton, but also has more overall support in the averages since there are fewer undecided and third party voters in 2020 compared with 2016. For more on that phenomenon — and why there’s reason to believe polling will be better this year than in 2016 — read last week’s installment.

National polls

FiveThirtyEight average five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 44.2%, 40.1% (Clinton +4.1%, was Clinton +1.5% previous week)

FiveThirtyEight average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 50.1%, 43.2% (Biden +6.9%, was Biden +6.8% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 48.1%, 44.2% (Clinton +3.9%, was Clinton +3.0% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 49.7%, 42.9% (Biden +6.8%, was Biden +6.5% previous week)

Actual national popular vote in 2016: Hillary Clinton 48.2%, 46.1% (Clinton +2.1%)

Pennsylvania

FiveThirtyEight projected vote share five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 48.7%, 43.5% (Clinton +5.2%, was Clinton +2.5% previous week)

FiveThirtyEight average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 49.6%, 44.4% (Biden +5.2%, was Biden +4.5% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 49%, 41.5% (Clinton +7.5%, was Clinton +2.4% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 49.0%, 43.7% (Biden +5.3%, was Biden +4.0% previous week)

Actual Pennsylvania results in 2016: 48.2%, Hillary Clinton 47.5% (Trump +0.7%)

Wisconsin

FiveThirtyEight projected vote share five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 48.1%, 42.3% (Clinton +5.8%, was Clinton +3.6% previous week)

FiveThirtyEight average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 50.5%, 43.8% (Biden +6.8%, was Biden +6.4% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 45.0%, 39.5% (Clinton +5.5%, was Clinton +4.7% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 50.2%, 44.0% (Biden +6.2%, was Biden +6.7% previous week)

Actual Wisconsin results in 2016: 47.2%, Hillary Clinton 46.5% (Trump +0.7%)

Michigan

FiveThirtyEight projected vote share five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 48.6%, 42.7% (Clinton +5.9%, was Clinton +3.0% previous week)

FiveThirtyEight average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 49.9%, 43.0% (Biden +6.9%, was Biden +7.7% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 47.0%, 41.3% (Clinton +5.7%, was Clinton 4.7% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 49.2%, 44.0% (Biden +5.2%, was Biden 4.8% previous week)

Actual Michigan results in 2016: 47.5%, Hillary Clinton 47.3% (Trump +0.2%)

Arizona

FiveThirtyEight projected vote share five weeks before Election Day in 2016: 46.1%, Hillary Clinton 44.1% (Trump +2.0%, was Trump +4.8% previous week)

FiveThirtyEight average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 48.5%, 44.9% (Biden +3.6%, was Biden +4.5% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2016: 43.0%, Hillary Clinton 40.5% (Trump +2.5%, was Trump +2.5% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 48.2%, 44.8% (Biden +3.4%, was Biden +5.0% previous week)

Actual Arizona results in 2016: 48.1%, Hillary Clinton 44.6% (Trump +3.5%)

Florida

FiveThirtyEight projected vote share five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 47.5%, 45.4% (Clinton +2.1%, was Trump +0.8% previous week)

FiveThirtyEight average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 47.9%, 46.2% (Biden +1.7%, was Biden +2.0% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 46.2%, 43.3% (Clinton, +2.9%, was Clinton +0.6% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 47.8%, 46.7% (Biden +1.1%, was Biden +1.6% previous week)

Actual Florida results in 2016: 49.0%, Hillary Clinton 47.8% (Trump +1.2%)

North Carolina

FiveThirtyEight projected vote share five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 47.1%, 45.9% (Clinton +1.2%, was Trump +1.4% previous week)

FiveThirtyEight average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 47.5%, 46.4% (Biden +1.1%, was Biden +1.3% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2016: Hillary Clinton 45.0%, 43.7% (Clinton +1.3%, was Clinton +0.3% previous week)

RealClearPolitics average five weeks before Election Day in 2020: 47.0%, 46.2% (Biden +0.8%, was Biden +0.9% previous week)

Actual North Carolina results in 2016: 49.8%, Hillary Clinton 46.2% (Trump +3.6%)

Eric Ting is an SFGATE reporter. Email: eric.ting@sfgate.com | Twitter:@_ericting

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