Like volatile financial markets, public opinion on who’ll win November’s general election has been whipsawed by the global coronavirus crisis.
With fearful U.S. citizens looking to officials for security and solutions, the approval ratings of incumbent leaders are hitting their peaks, according to Smarkets’ head of political markets, Sarbjit Bakhshi.
The online betting site has captured the ebb and flow of the odds between President Donald Trump and his presumptive Democratic challenger, ex-Vice President Joe Biden. Smarkets data showed Trump’s chances have risen by 7% over the past two weeks, making him a toss-up with 50%.
“Right across the world, there’s been a boost for every incumbent President or Prime Minister dealing with this crisis. And this normally [holds steady] for two or three weeks as they seem to take action and deal with something that’s really on people’s minds,” Bakhshi told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.
“But then what unfolds in the next few weeks, generally, is a drop-off in approval ratings for the candidate,” he added — suggesting Trump’s numbers may cool off.
The two men have been neck-and neck in polls and on oddsmaking markets — but the president’s numbers have improved in some polls, as he’s steadied his response to the COVID-19 pandemic that’s infected over 400,000 Americans.
Accordingly, Smarkets investors have recently taken Trump’s odds for winning in November up to 50%, with Biden sinking to 40%.
But as the coronavirus begins to show signs of winding down in the next few weeks, Bakhshi estimated that Trump’s ratings will tail off as well.
Speculation shifts to a Democratic VP nominee
The U.S. is expected to reach its peak number of deaths within the next few days, according to modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.
With that unsettling number continuing to rise, incumbent approval ratings will likely fall. “As the deaths and more problems come in, those numbers come down,” says Bakhshi.
On Wednesday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist who was unpopular with Wall Street, dropped out of the race, ceding the nomination to Biden as the sole survivor. Speculation has now shifted to who the former VP will choose as his running mate.
Since Biden hinted toward choosing a woman, early contenders include names like California Senator Kamala Harris, ex-Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
According to data from Smarkets, former presidential hopeful Harris now holds a strong lead over other potential veep picks. Biden is expected to begin vetting running mates very soon.
“Kamala Harris is the one to beat at the moment,” said Bakhshi. “She’s 32% over other competitors. It’s hard at this point to see how anyone could challenge her.” After Harris, Klobuchar and Abrams come very close, at 18% and 16%, respectively.