Trump vs Biden, Who Will Win the Election? — More than Meets the Eye
With Election Day inching closer, all eyes are on the polls.
However, it’s important to note that election polling in the US is badly skewed for a number of different reasons, which Jim Rickards outlines in today’s DR.
With that in mind, you shouldn’t take the polls as gospel. In fact, in a repeat of 2016, Jim is forecasting Trump to reclaim the White House.
Read on for more.
Until next time,
Editor, The Daily Reckoning Australia
Trump Will Win on 3 November
How can I make a ‘Trump wins’ forecast in the face of overwhelming polling, betting, and favourability data that shows Biden will win? There are two parts to the answer, both explained in more detail below.
The first part is that there’s a lot more than meets the eye in Biden’s polling data. The polls are badly skewed for several reasons. Once adjustments are made for oversampling Democrats and polling ‘all adults’ instead of ‘likely voters’, the polls are actually much closer than the published results.
The second part is that polls are a snapshot. We watch the movie. Where we are today does not necessarily bear much resemblance to where things will end up in November.
To illustrate that point, just compare late August’s 2020 polling data to where things stood at the same time in 2016. In late August 2016, the Democrats led the battleground state polls by 5.3 points. By the end of August, that lead is 4.2 points.
The Democrats were ahead in both cases, but the lead was actually bigger in 2016 than it is today. Of course, Trump won in 2016 despite that lead in August. Trump is in better shape today than he was at this stage of the race in 2016.
The same is true in the favourability ratings. In late August 2016, the Democrats led in favourability by 19.2 points. Today, that lead is 13 points. The Democrats were ahead in 2016 and are ahead in 2020, but the lead is narrower today. If Trump could overcome a 19.2-point lead then he can overcome a 13-point lead also.
You can’t win California twice
The Democrats do look stronger in the national average polls. They had a 4.3-point lead in 2016 and today that lead is wider at 7.6 points. Still, it’s important to bear in mind that national polls don’t matter because the US does not have national elections. Instead, it has 51 separate elections in the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
The national poll lead reflects huge voter support for Biden in states like California and New York. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by four million votes in California in 2016. Biden may beat Trump by an even wider amount in California in 2020.
The problem is you can’t win California twice. You can only win it once, no matter how many extra votes you receive. Every vote for Biden in California over 50.1% is a wasted vote; the same is true in New York.
It does seem highly likely that Biden will win California and New York, but the huge excess popular vote in those states won’t do him any good in battlegrounds like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. That’s why national polls don’t matter while battleground state polls matter a lot.
Looking just at the battleground states, Trump is polling better today than he was at this stage in the 2016 race. That’s a very good sign for Trump.
Polls on the inside
The other aspect of the polls that is good news for Trump is that the gap between Biden and Trump is narrowing and moving in Trump’s direction. While Biden maintains a lead by most measures, Trump is gaining and is within the margin of error in many of the battleground states where Biden is ahead. This trend towards Trump has been noticeable in the past two weeks.
Polls will likely move more in Trump’s favour because polling works with a lag. I have actually commissioned polls for a potential presidential candidate from one of the top polling firms in the business. This gave me an excellent look at what goes on behind the scenes.
It takes days of discussion between the candidate’s advisers and the polling firm to establish just what the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses are. That’s important because, if you don’t ask polling questions on the weaknesses, you create a blind spot your opponent is sure to exploit.
Then the polling firm has to devise the questions, which you review. Next the polling begins, but it’s a laborious process because the pollster has to work hard to get a representative sample of the likely voters.
Many people who are called just hang up or won’t participate, so you make five or six calls for everyone who participates, and you need over 1,000 participants to have a statistically valid sample. Finally, the results are processed by the polling firm and reviewed with the candidate before the poll is considered final.
In short, a well-constructed and valid poll can take two weeks from start to finish. The results may be solid, but they are out of date by the time they are final. This means that polls we are seeing today may have been conducted weeks ago. If the trend was moving in Trump’s direction two weeks ago, don’t be surprised to see much better results for Trump a week or two from now.
Trump versus Biden by the numbers
In a series of television interviews in October and early November 2016, I predicted Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. These were not tentative or wishy-washy forecasts. I was categorical that Trump would win, and I gave the TV anchors specific reasons why this would happen.
My forecast came at a time when Hillary was ahead in all the polls, when betting markets were giving her a 90% chance of winning, and when pundits like Nate Silver and those at The New York Times were giving Hillary odds of winning at 93%.
The TV anchors would turn pale or gasp for breath when I gave my predictions, but they were kind enough to give me time to explain why the polls were skewed, why betting markets are not good predictors of political outcomes, and why anecdotal evidence — which I had gathered on road trips in Spokane, Washington, and the Ozark Mountains — all pointed in Trump’s favour.
Stay tuned for my next edition of the Daily Reckoning Australia, where I reveal how I beat the polls.
All the best,
Strategist, The Daily Reckoning Australia
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