Four years ago in the pages of Research News (November 2016 edition) I predicted Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton to win the American Presidency. Now, despite favourable polls for Democrat Joe Biden and a media onslaught against him, I project President Trump will win re-election.
The central reason for my conclusion mirrors what happened in 2016.
In key battleground states, non–response bias will again determine the Electoral College result. This situation occurs when poll respondents differ in meaningful ways from non-respondents. The research and opinion industry created this analysis after the 1936 U.S. election. The Literary Digest had correctly predicted five straight presidential winners before stumbling, believing Alf Landon, Kansas Govenor, would defeat President Franklin Roosevelt in his re-election bid.
The Digest polled subscribers and people who owned autos and telephones.
Clearly, the underclass during the Great Depression were not on any polling
radar. That’s true today in America, where voting is not compulsory. Census
and election websites estimate 100 million non-voters who are eligible to sign up. Nobody has polled them.
Trump in 2016 was flying by the seat of his pants with rallies and media
exposure. As President, he announced early to run again and hired digital
master Brad Parscale to create an online network that would identify and
target Trump people. Three years on, their database is in the tens of millions.
Parscale added a demographic I’ve never seen before: “Inactives” –
people who didn’t vote in the previous four presidential elections. When
President Trump visited Minnesota before getting Covid-19, his rally in The
Iron Range at the top of the state bordering Canada included 17 percent
inactives. Another 20 percent said they were Democrats. The Iron Range pool of blue collar workers up for grabs is 250,000. Hillary won Minnesota by 45,000 votes.
Given these variables, it’s astonishing to see headlines proclaiming Biden
ahead by double digits. Scratch the surface and you see voter composition is
skewed: Democrats are over-represented by five percent, Republicans under–counted by two percent. A recent survey says Biden up 17 percent! It was done online. Remember the Digest poll filled with people who owned telephones?
Discussion about “the shy Trump voter” is more real than you think. If
men and women avoid political talk because they think it will harm them at
home or at work, why would they confess to a total stranger in a phone call? Pew Research shows 62 percent of Americans are afraid to tell pollsters what they really believe. The only ones not shy were Highest Income, Liberal.
Amid the media clamour about Trump comes a Gallup Poll saying 56
percent of people agree they are better off now than four years ago. This is an incredible number given the pandemic. It also represents the highest number ever recorded on this question, dating back to Ronald Reagan’s era.
For those interested, the legendary “tea leaves” are out there. For months
Rasmussen has had surveys with Trump at or near 50 percent positive,
better than Obama when he won again in 2012. Young black males are turned off by Biden. Democrats know they are in big trouble if they don’t have 90 percent of the African-American vote. Today, I project it’s 85 percent. In 2016, Hillary won 62 percent of Hispanics in Florida but lost the state by 100,000 votes. Now, Trump has a 45-43 edge among Florida Hispanics with 59 percent of Cubans pledging support for Trump.
On Election night, an early indicator of outcome will be New Hampshire in the eastern time zone. Trump lost it by 3,000 votes. This year, his Republican primary total was 30,000 more than 2016. New Hampshire and Minnesota are probable Trump pick-ups. Look for Republicans to hold the Senate and retake the House of Representatives. They need a net pick-up of 19 seats.
Covid-19 stopped a sure-thing Trump re-election. But the average person who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 is still with him, along with many inactives who have decided now is the time to cast their ballot.
Author: Steve McManus was director of field operations for Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in New Jersey in 1980 and served in his Administration. He is a former newspaper reporter and editor.