What’s the point: One of the more interesting phenomenons during this campaign has been watching analysts, pundits and voters grapple with what occurred in 2016. The polling suggested Trump would lose to Hillary Clinton, and he, of course, won in the Electoral College.
The result of the 2016 outcome for this cycle is that the general public doesn’t buy the polling showing Biden clearly ahead. They think Trump is going to win.
Yet, the same poll found that Americans believed by a 51% to 46% margin that Trump would defeat Biden in the election. (Among voters, it was a tighter 50% to 48% spread in favor of Trump.)
The poll indicates that voters either believe the race will shift back to Trump or that the polling is wrong.
Interestingly, the poll was self administered via the internet without live interviewers, so it’s not like the voters who said they were voting for Biden had reason to give what they might perceive as the more socially desirable answer (i.e. not voting for Trump).
Despite this, some voters think the polling is off.
The fact that the conventional wisdom was wrong in 2016 has clearly had a big effect on people’s perceptions and not necessarily in a good way.
A plurality of Americans thought that the Republicans would hold onto the House in 2018, even as polling suggested otherwise. They were blown out.
None of these interpretations of the data are likely correct. Trump may very well defeat Biden, but it’s not the most likely outcome.
While caution in interpreting polling data and recognizing that they are capturing only a moment in time is good, downright dismissing it is not the right answer.
Fortunately, most analysts I know are doing no such thing. They recognize that Biden is a favorite, but acknowledge that there is the possibility that Trump can win.
Whether Trump’s chance shrinks or grows over the next few weeks will be largely dependent on whether the race shifts following the conventions.
If Biden continues to hold a clear advantage in the polls over the next few weeks, Trump’s chances will begin to slide significantly.