I admit: at this point, reading polls and taking them as an indication of anything more than a snapshot in time is a mistake. But to discard what they say now, and what they might portend, is also wrongheaded.
Øptimus Consulting released a poll conducted between January 30th and February 1st, and the results should give pause to Democrats that applaud the party’s leftward lurch. The primary focus of the poll is the impact that a Howard Schultz candidacy might have on the election. As it stands, Democrats have scoffed at the idea that he might run. Whether or not that has to do with any of his ideological preferences is beside the point; a third party candidate disrupts the traditional two-party system. This is borne out by the data in the poll, which suggests that, were the election held today, the former Starbucks CEO Schultz would siphon 6-9% of the popular vote away from whoever the Democrat and Republican candidate is.
The topline results are:
Head to Head Ballot Tests
Biden 50% — Trump 43% — Undecided 7%
Trump 45% — Harris 44% — Undecided 12%
Three-way Ballot Tests
Biden 45% — Trump 41% — Schultz 6% — Undecided 8%
Trump 42% — Harris 38% — Schultz 7% — Undecided 13%
Trump 42% — Warren 39% — Schultz 8% — Undecided 11%
Trump 42% — O’Rourke 33% – Schultz 9% – Undecided 16%
Needless to say, the inclusion of a moderate, third party candidate like Howard Schultz in the general election could throw a wrench into the reelection of Trump or the election of a Democratic challenger. In North Carolina, the effect could be outsized. In cases where we do elect Democrats statewide, they tend to have a moderate and centrist profile. Especially with Trump and Romney carrying the state in 2016 and 2012 respectively, there is little margin for error. Most of our statewide elections came within 5 percentage points in 2016. Democrats could have trouble riding the coattails of a strong top of the ticket if a Schultz third-party candidacy spoils things.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.