Polling is at the forefront of every election cycle. Famously, most pollsters got it wrong in 2016, missing Donald Trump’s surprising win in which he unexpectedly flipped Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin from blue to red. Less than a month out from the 2020 election, there are a lot of similarities to 2016. According to the “Election Mafia” (shoutout to Red Eagle Politics on Twitter and YouTube), we’re well on our way to a blue wave election and Democrat control of the House, Senate, and the Presidency. A deeper look suggests that a very different result may be on the horizon.
The Trafalgar Group was the most accurate pollster in 2016, and also called a few unexpected results in the 2018 midterms. Thankfully for Republicans, their numbers are very reminiscent of 2016.
Many “mainstream” polls have Trump trailing Biden by a significant margin in nearly all of the battleground states, including Florida and Arizona. Some even have Texas, Georgia, and Iowa in play for Biden. Trafalgar has Trump ahead in each of those states, as well as Michigan. They also have Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as some of the tightest. In addition to this, Trafalgar claims that at least 1 reliable blue state (Colorado) may be surprisingly close.
So why is polling so flawed? There are several theories, including skewed sampling, but the strongest seems to be the concept of “social desirability bias”. Many people believe that being an open Trump supporter in certain areas has social costs. In some cases, the cost can be more than just social points as we’ve seen with recent left wing violence in several major cities including Portland and Denver.
To navigate around this bias, Trafalgar polls voters using email and text in addition to phone calls. They also ask people who they believe their neighbors are voting for. This tactic has been proven to be surprisingly accurate in predicting outcomes.
Another interesting fact about polling is that women respond far more than men. Many of Trafalgar’s polls tend to favor women by about 8 to 10 percent. If Trump’s polling is this strong among survey groups comprised of mostly women, that is a very good sign for his re-election.
In this podcast, Robert Cahaly of Trafalgar discusses why his polling results are so different from that of mainstream pollsters. Beginning at the 43 minute mark, he makes predictions and gives gambling advice for several key states.
Beyond the world of polling, new voter registrations are a very promising sign for the GOP. Unlike polls, which can be manipulated in many ways, registrations are a real and concrete data point that indicates which way new voters are likely to vote.
For example, here is the change in voter registration in the crucial state of Pennsylvania. PA was decided by less than 45,000 votes in 2016. Since then, registrations have swung by almost 200,000 voters in favor of the GOP.
Arizona is a state that Democrats hope to flip, both in the presidential election and in a tightly contested Senate election between incumbent GOP Senator Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly. Polls have largely favored Biden by several points, and Kelly by an even larger margin. Interestingly, in Maricopa County (where Phoenix is located), the GOP has outpaced the Dems in registrations. A small data point, but the most urban county of a swing state turning out more Republicans than Democrats isn’t a welcome sight for the Biden or Kelly campaigns.
Another factor in Trump’s favor is enthusiasm. It’s hard to remember a candidate that generated this much excitement among his base. 2008 Obama certainly came close, but the Trump phenomenon is something new. Impromptu rallies have sprung up all over the country. Boat parades with massive Trump flags have become a viral sensation.
In September, Baris polled rust belt (including PA, OH, MI, IA, WI, and MN) voters for enthusiasm. Trump voters have a significant lead in that department over Biden voters, 61 to 45. Trump’s base will likely come out in droves to vote. Will the Democrat base do the same? Remember, many Bernie Sanders supporters are unhappy with the party establishment. How many stay home, or vote for Trump out of spite?
It’s easy to buy into the doomsday narrative. We’re constantly hearing how Trump is in danger of losing firewall states like Texas. Barring insane voter fraud or some other bizarre outcome, that won’t happen. Everyone needs to pump the brakes and look at the big picture, not just agenda-driven pollsters. Of course, there are no guarantees, but the light at the end of the tunnel is looking pretty bright.