By Nick Tantillo, third-year journalism major
It’s official: Vice President Joe Biden will not run for president in 2016. In an announcement made Oct. 21—eight days after the first Democratic primary debate— Vice President Biden announced his intention, and cited the griev- ing process of the passing of his eldest son, Beau. “It may very well be that process, by the time we get through it, closes the win- dow on mounting a realistic cam- paign for President” said Biden. “I’ve concluded, it has closed.”
Thus ends the three months of indecision in the Biden camp. Rumors circulated during those three months of super PAC money, and potential staff hiring for a Biden campaign. Media organizations including NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, and the Pew Research Center hosted polls that projected outcomes if Biden were to run. Many predicted that if Biden entered the race his campaign would eat into former senator Hillary Clinton’s already weakening rating among voters. An article published Oct. 21 by Reuters called Biden “one of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s biggest potential obstacles to the party’s nomination.” Said Democratic strategist Bud Jackson, “Most polls reflect that without Biden in the race, it’s more beneficial to [Clinton].”
So, with consideration to Biden’s decision, how is Clinton’s strongest competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders, fairing in the presidential race? On Sept. 4 the polling organization Gallup re- ported Clinton’s favorability rating among Democrats to be one of her worst, while Sanders’ rating had increased from 39 percent in Gallup’s July 8-21 poll to 46 percent. This, unsurprisingly, led many journalists to speculate that Sanders had won over Clinton supporters—the result of Sanders’ growing recognition among the electorate.
Despite these gains, some claim Sanders’ appeal is limited to the overwhelming, white progressive left of the Democratic Party. This discrepancy is corroborated by the Washington Post-ABC News National Poll published in May that asked Democratic and Democratic- leaning registered voters to “cast” their vote for president. Fourteen percent of voters that identified as white voted for Sander (56 percent voted for Clinton). That percentage dropped to 5 percent among voters who identified as non-white (72 percent voted for Clinton).
Limited or not, the habits of his voter base may play into Sanders’ favor. An article published on Oct. 14 by Salon claimed online polls tend to “favor those candidates with active and impassioned fans—something that Bernie’s fundraising numbers and campaign crowds suggest he clearly has in spades.” If millennials are said to favor Sanders over other Democratic candidates—a demographic that, according to a Time article, 90 percent are social media users compared to 76 per- cent of Gen Xers and 59 percent of baby boomers—then the notion that online polls are skewed isn’t hard to conceive.
Sanders place in the 2016 presidential race is further complicated by the results of the Democratic debate on Oct. 13. Social media went abuzz with support for Clinton and Sanders after the debate—no love for Democratic hopefuls O’Malley, Chafee and Webb—and many found Clinton to have won the debate. A faction of Sanders supporters cheapened the Clinton victory, according to a Salon article published October 16, calling it a conspiracy born from journalist’s awestruck impression of Clinton’s performance. Despite the clear preference of Clinton among journalists—her feistiness was a big draw—polls by CNN and Slate, the same polls that are susceptible to bias, indicated Sanders’ won the debate. Some journalists have pointed out the absurdity of winners and losers in debates.
Two weeks ago, one of the most trusted organizations in polling, Gallup, announced it will no longer cover national primary polls on the primary candidates. “Such polls are a waste of resources,” said Frank Newport, editor- in-chief at Gallup, in an interview with On The Media’s Bob Garfield. What this means—as anyone could tell from the turbulent ratings of the Democratic nominees—is the pre-primary campaigns are far less consequential than they appear.
According to Garfield, despite the influence of polls on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, historically high audiences watched the Republican debates, and CNN broke their previous record of viewership of a Democratic debate. While journalists across the web guide readers through the murky principles of democratic socialism—a label Sanders fulfills and defies—it is possible that Sanders’ low name recognition be his undoing. Not his policy. This notion is compounded by the popularity of polls and surveys that inundate newsfeeds, but say little of the current state of the presidential election.
The views expressed in op-eds are solely those of the student who wrote and submitted it. They do not necessarily reflect those of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.