Remember all those presidential polls in 2016 showing Hillary winning or enjoying a slight but reassuring lead? Remember the sickening shock of Election Night when, instead, Trump won? Remember how afterward pollsters and news organizations declared “Mea culpa,” because their polls had failed to register crucial facts about what the candidates and the electorate were thinking and doing? Hillary trusted the polls. As a consequence, she became complacent and ran a poor ground game in states that she took for granted and lost.
Since then, the best polling sites have supposedly upped their game (and hedged their bets) by using more sophisticated and nuanced models. Nonetheless, relying on polls remains dangerous because they are based on information that is always a little bit old. It’s a little bit thin. It’s always a bit scattered. It tends to be crude. Meanwhile, the 2020 race will hinge on up-to-the-minute efforts by the nominees and their parties in specific localities. This is how Trump won last time: by building on microlevel advantages in several key states, and leveraging those advantages into state-level wins.
Now Trump and his backers are at it again. In Wisconsin, Republicans are mounting a concerted door-t0-door campaign to get out the vote, where, later this month, the state supreme court will hear arguments on whether to purge some 180,ooo voters from registration rolls. Trump backers have pleaded with judges to limit ballot collection boxes and disqualify mail-in ballots lacking a secrecy envelope in Pennsylvania. Finally, in the crucial matter of voter registration, the New York Times is reporting that in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, “overall registration is up by 6 points through August compared to the 2016 cycle, but net Democratic registrations are down by 38 percent. That’s about 150,000 fewer additional Democrats than were added in 2016.” Surprising numbers of whites without college degrees are registering, a demographic that went heavily for Mr Trump in 2016. Such are the unobtrusive developments that will make all the difference in this election–developments that even the best polling, which focuses mainly on opinion, cannot capture. The fate of the US will hinge on last-minute, local actions occurring in real time.
So, if you care about the future of the United States, please ignore the polls. Act on your fears and redouble your efforts to get out the vote for Joe.
Thomas B. Edsall, “Five Things Biden and His Allies Should Be Worried About” (NYT)
Barton Gellman, “The Election That Could Break America,” (The Atlantic)
Image: from this source.