Top Political Pollster on November: “There’s a Lot of Uncertainty”
In his latest piece on the Trump/Biden election, FiveThirtyEight polling analyst Nate Silver warned that while the polls currently favor a Biden win in November, many pundits in the media are already getting overconfident about a Democratic blowout. Acknowledging that the polls show President Trump facing long odds right now, Silver cautioned his readers to remember 2016…and to remember that a lot can change between now and November.
Especially during one of the most volatile years in recent American history.
“While the polls have been stable so far this year, it’s still only August. The debates and the conventions have yet to occur. Biden only named his running mate yesterday. And the campaign is being conducted amidst a pandemic the likes of which the United States has not seen in more than 100 years, which is also causing an unprecedented and volatile economy,” he wrote.
“Nor has it been that uncommon, historically, for polls to shift fairly radically from mid-August until Election Day,” Silver continued. “Furthermore, there are some reasons to think the election will tighten, and President Trump is likely to have an advantage in a close election because of the Electoral College.”
Silver’s presidential forecast model currently has Biden with a 71% chance of winning the election, which he admits is quite a bit lower than many other forecasts have put it. Some of them have reduced Trump’s chances of winning reelection to a paltry 10%. Silver said that if the polls remain the way they are right now as we head into November, his forecast model will reflect a prediction closer to that figure. However, he said, there are a lot of reasons to believe that things could change considerable between now and then.
He reminded readers that well-performing candidates in August do not always bring that early success with them to the election:
Three of the candidates leading in national polls at this point — Michael Dukakis in 1988, George W. Bush in 2000, and John Kerry in 2004 — did not actually win the popular vote. Bush blew a 10-point lead, in fact, which is larger than Biden’s current advantage. (Luckily for Bush, he won the Electoral College.) In other cases, the polls at this point “called” the winner correctly, but the margins were way off. Jimmy Carter eventually beat Gerald Ford by just 2.1 percentage points — not the 26.6-point lead he had at this point in the campaign. Bill Clinton won by 5.6 points — not 20.1 points. And Barack Obama won a considerably more commanding victory in 2008 than polls at this point projected.
In other words: It’s not over ‘til it’s over. And it’s a long way from over. An economic turnaround, a vaccine for the coronavirus, a major stumble by Biden at the debates, a sudden American backlash against Black Lives Matter riots…any one of these could turn Trump’s fortunes around in a heartbeat. If more than one of those things occur, it could very well be Biden who goes into election day as the underdog.
The MSM is inevitably going to repeat their overconfidence mistake of 2016.
As for us, we’ll just have to wait and see.