It’s what some social scientists call the “rally around the flag” effect. In times of crisis, the leader sees a bump in their approval ratings, regardless of how that ruler is actually performing at his/her job. There are many different ways to try and explain this phenomenon, but at least partially, the simplest explanation is the best.
In times of great uncertainty and high anxiety, like what we’re living through right now with the coronavirus pandemic, people like to believe that whomever is in charge is extremely competent- it’s a lot easier to sleep at night with such a belief. Also, that some of the approval is just a misguided, distorted version of sympathy. It’s basically, “hey, I’m glad I don’t have to work on cleaning up this mess- good luck with that.”
These are the factors that keep President Donald Trump the favorite in 2020 Presidential Election betting to win this November; albeit slightly. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump’s mishandling of it, the disastrous daily press briefings related to it and ths stock market crash that came along with it, POTUS 45 is still projected to edge out Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the fall.
Of course, we still have a long ways to go until autumn gets here and with major news cycles that now move drastically in mere minutes and hours, seven months seems like an eternity right now. Biden isn’t very far behind, and he has plenty of time to make up the little ground that he needs.
Getting the hard left and Senator Bernie Sanders supporters (the Bernie Bros.) on his side could be a difference maker.
Ditto regarding his near certainty of selecting a woman (the current front-runner is California Senator Kamala Harris) as his running mate. The female demographic decided the the 2018 midterm elections, and it’s expected the same will occur in 2020. The prospect of just the fourth woman (Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton) in history as part of a major party presidential ticket should bridge some of the supposed “enthusiasm gap.” Another factor in Biden’s favor is Trump’s falling approval rating. The betting odds show a tightening race, and there is no reason to believe his approval won’t fall further as the year progresses.
Yes, POTUS45 did benefit from the rally around the leader effect early on, but not as much as past Presidents in times of past crises. The boost also receded much quicker than in other recent instances of this type of surge. Trump is not W. during 9/11, JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis or FDR during WWII and the polls reflect that.
A major reason for that is the lost six, some would say seven weeks, in which some of Trump’s most closest and trusted advisors warned him of the impending pandemic, and he did nothing about it. And while yes, his consistent, and some would say now even more acrimonious, skirmishes with the mainstream media greatly appeals to his base, it doesn’t move anybody into his camp that he doesn’t already have.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.
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