Presidential polls are useless. Will Trump win? Will Biden? Nobody has a crystal ball.

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I have bad news: Americans are political polling themselves to death.

There are way too many people standing open-mouthed in front of the firehose of “BREAKING PRESIDENTIAL POLLING NEWS.” They’re gagging or growing bloated and, quite frankly, I think it’s affecting their brains.

Right this moment, just past the mid-point of May, there are only three things any of us can say with certainty about the November presidential election:

Donald Trump might win.

Joe Biden might win.

RFK Jr. is definitely not going to win.

New presidential polls are here, everybody freak out!

President Joe Biden visits campaign volunteers in Racine, Wis., on May 8, 2024.
President Joe Biden visits campaign volunteers in Racine, Wis., on May 8, 2024.

That’s quite literally it. Anyone claiming anything else is peddling nonsense, and anyone using polling data to assert anything with even a modicum of certainty is a fool.

And yet … fools abound.

Thus the colossal liberal freakout – and accompanying MAGA “Yipeee!” – over a recent set of swing-state surveys by The New York Times, Siena College and The Philadelphia Inquirer. The polls, according to the Times, “found that Mr. Trump was ahead among registered voters in a head-to-head matchup against Mr. Biden in five of six key states: Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden led among registered voters in only one battleground state, Wisconsin.”

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If you’re a Biden backer or a Trump disliker, that would understandably go in the “not great” category.

But, and I’m going to write this real loud for the assorted Nostradami in the back who are busily penning their 23rd “Get ready for Trump to win” Substack posts: THIS IS ONE SET OF POLLS NEARLY SIX MONTHS BEFORE THE ELECTION, POLLS ARE ONLY A SNAPSHOT OF A SPECIFIC MOMENT AND ABOUT A MILLION THINGS CAN CHANGE BETWEEN AND NOW AND THE FIRST VOTE!

Polls are useless to regular voters and are best ignored

The only people in America who should be worrying about or paying attention to polling right now are the people who work for the Biden and Trump campaigns. Polls can provide some useful data for them in terms of strengths, weaknesses and voters they need to target.

For everyone else, it’s empty calories feeding our Sisyphean desire to predict the future. We can’t wait until the election results are in and the contentious race is called. We must know who’s going to win now. NOW, I TELL YOU!

So a willing news media, relishing the chaos Trump brings and the possibility Biden might say something old-sounding, cranks out or reports on poll after poll after poll after poll. It’s not so much horserace political coverage as it is the gleeful creation of a damn stampede.

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So much can change between now and the election

And it is all – with apologies to every news organization, including my own – useless.

Setting aside the possibility of polling inaccuracies in an age in which younger people are harder to reach and people in general don’t want to talk to anybody – polling is a science, but not a perfect one – here are a few of the things that could easily alter the course of the presidential race between now and November:

  • Biden and Trump, as you may have heard, are up in years. One awkward fall or one health emergency – neither outside the realm of possibility – could reshape the race.

  • Trump could suddenly be a convicted felon or additional damaging evidence from one of his other numerous criminal cases could come out. His ongoing trial in New York City, involving election interference stemming from a hush money payment to an adult film star, has not been going well for him. A conviction is by no means certain, but it wouldn’t be surprising. Regardless of what he and his loyalists say, a felony conviction would absolutely damage his campaign.

  • For Biden, any jump in food or gas prices could spell doom. Many voters pay little attention to the nuances of the candidates and make up their minds based on how they feel in the weeks and days before voting. Vibes, dumb as they are, could submarine the president’s chances.

Everything's fluid, from abortion rights to debates to the war in Gaza

  • Abortion rights in the wake of Roe v. Wade getting overturned remain a key issue. With abortion-related ballot measures popping up in a number of states, there’s no telling how they could impact turnout or the presidential vote. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on access to the abortion medication mifepristone, expected next month, could further roil the waters.

  • The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which has angered a portion of Biden’s Democratic base, could end, or it could worsen.

  • There are plans for two presidential debates. One or both could provide voters a stark reminder of Trump’s chaotic nature and authoritarian rhetoric. Or Biden, known for verbal stumbles, could harm his chances and bring back concerns about his age.

  • Trump could pick a complete nutter to be his running mate.

Stop wasting time worrying about polls – focus on what matters

The point is, it’s freakin’ May, for Pete’s sake, and nobody out there – not you brilliant TV pontificator and not you erudite data dude – knows what’s going to transpire in the months ahead.

I’m a liberal fellow and I despise Trump. But do I think Biden is going to cruise to victory? Absolutely not.

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Trump won, as a sizable swath of the populace seems to have grown un-fond of reality.

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About the only thing I feel certain about is that every minute a person who cares about their candidate spends stressing about or heralding polling data is a minute wasted.

Given the stakes of this election – whether you’re a liberal, a conservative or an anti-Trumper or whatever – we should not be wasting minutes.

Ignore the polls. They’re stupid. There are no crystal balls, and we can’t predict the future.

But we can take action that gives us a fighting chance to see the future we want. And there’s nothing foolish about that.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on X, formerly Twitter, @RexHuppke and Facebook

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump or Biden? Presidential polling tells us little if anything.