Sunday, November 1, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Momentum And Pseudo-Pollling

At the end of the 2020 presidential election, it would appear
that President Donald Trump has some momentum if
reports of early voting turnouts, final published polls, size
and enthusiasm of candidate rally crowds are true.

It’s good to have momentum, but it does not  necessarily
mean victory. In 1948, incumbent President Harry Truman,
doing poorly in the polls, and reviled in the media, surged
at the very end of the campaign, and won an historic
come-from-behind upset win --- but in 1968, Vice President
Hubert Humphrey, clearly surging in the campaign’s final
days, came up short on election day.

Pundits and strategists have, in modern times, depended on
polling for assessment and strategy. Private, in-house polls
continue to be useful to political parties and candidates
because their data is used to instruct  --- while public polling
today is too often employed by groups and media as
propaganda. Both liberals and conservatives have done this
in the recent past, and candidates of both parties still do it
(just read the fundraising appeals of many Democrats and
Republicans this year). This cycle, as in 2016, most of the
major pollsters, often in partnership with major print and
broadcast media, have been publishing polls for months
which reflect their personal or editorial bias --- and not
necessarily accurate public opinion. These polls have usually
shown Joe Biden with very large leads in the national race
and in most competitive state races.

There are a few exceptions. The Trafalgar Group, Rasmussen,
Susquehanna, and Democracy Institute each have consistently
published polls which have shown the presidential race to be
very close. Three of them are now suggesting that President
Trump will win re-election. In 2016, Trafalgar  and Democracy
Institute were virtually alone in predicting the Trump upset
win. They might  not be correct in 2020, but they do have

Republican and other critics have alleged that distorted polls
are a form of “vote suppression” by Democrats --- meant to
discourage Trump voters. If that was  the intention. it has
apparently failed --- although nothing will be certain until
after the votes are counted.

Polling itself has become more controversial in recent years.
No one I know expects President Trump to win the popular
vote in 2020. He did not do so in 2016. He is almost certain to
lose California, New York, Illinois and the northeastern
states by huge margins. The test of the polls will be how
accurately they measured voters in the competitive states in
the southeast, midwest and southwest where the race will be won,

The voters are now, as they always are, in charge. If more
surprises are coming, they will come from those voters.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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