There have been rumblings and murmurs of this for weeks now and as Election Day nears, they have turned to shrill cries. Trump supporters cannot accept the fact that their marmalade monarch is about to be dethroned so they are attacking the messenger, namely the polls. Therefore, it is little surprise that a renegade pollster would emerge to provide Trumpkins with much needed psychological balm. Whenever a market appears, a vendor will arise to fill its needs.
That vendor is Trafalgar, a pollster which has been described as being “to Rasmussen what OAN is to Fox News.” If you missed their announcement of a new block of Trump voters appearing on radar, hit the link in the previous paragraph and read it, because it has provided the lit match to what is, hopefully, a temporary flare up between pollsters and not a full fledged conflagration in the last few days of the 2020 campaign. The “shy” or “submerged” Trump voter and the “hidden Trump vote” is the straw that is being clutched by the Trumpkins as the hours inexorably tick down — and the idea of such a thing scares the hell out of libs still traumatized from 2016. This is no small matter, because what’s being challenged here is the validity of the entire polling industry itself. The Hill:
Trafalgar’s Robert Cahaly says there is a hidden Trump vote that is not being accounted for in polls that show Biden on a glide path to the White House.
“There are more [shy Trump voters] than last time and it’s not even a contest,” Cahaly said, adding that it’s “quite possible” that the polling industry is headed for a catastrophic miss in 2020.
This is vintage right-wing defensiveness and deflection. Expect to hear a lot of it in the next four days because the set up for a continuing con of Trump supporters and the continuance of Trumpism is conspiracy theory, and this is the latest. The legitimate end of the polling spectrum weighed in.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman are among those deeply skeptical of Cahaly’s polling.
Both have dug into the crosstabs of Trafalgar polls and pointed to questionable breakdowns as evidence Trafalgar doesn’t know what it’s doing. For instance, the crosstabs in a Michigan poll, which are no longer online, appeared to show Trump leading Biden by 8 points among young voters, a Democratic stronghold.
“[Trafalgar] doesn’t disclose their ‘proprietary digital methods’ so I can’t really evaluate what they’re doing,” said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research. “They’re far enough out on a limb that a year from now, we’ll all remember if they were very right or very wrong.”
Trafalgar is not the only one.
Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research has been another proponent of the “submerged” Trump voter theory.
A recent Susquehanna survey of Wisconsin found Trump and Biden tied, making it the only poll to not show Biden in the lead in the Badger State since August, when the Trafalgar Group found Trump ahead by 1 point. In Florida, Susquehanna shows Trump leading by 4 points, while the FiveThirtyEight average gives Biden a 2-point advantage.
“There are a lot of voters out there that don’t want to admit they are voting for a guy that has been called a racist. That submerged Trump factor is very real,” Lee said this week on WFMZ’s Business Matters. “We have been able to capture it and I’m really disappointed others have not.”
The rule of thumb is that in the last month of an election, you follow the ground game and you focus on the local pollsters. In 2016, there was a failure to do both. That, coupled with the fact that we had Russian bots masquerading as the neighbors on Facebook, and the patent absurdity of Trump as a candidate in the first place, threw everything off balance and that’s why we got massively shocked on election night. Needless to say, course corrections have taken place, and here’s what you need to know, before you reach for the tranquilizers and the booze. The Atlantic:
National polls weren’t more off in 2016 than in previous years. The problem happened at the state level. Whereas state polls underestimated Barack Obama’s support by about three points in 2012, they underestimated Trump’s support by more than five points in 2016, the largest error so far this century. The most important reason, according to a postmortem from the American Association for Public Opinion Research, was that state polls undercounted non-college-educated voters, who turned out in droves for Trump.
Here’s how that happened. Most polls are weighted surveys. That means a pollster collects a bunch of responses and then weights, or adjusts, the answers by age, gender, and political orientation so that the final count closely resembles the American electorate. For instance, if the sample is 60 percent male, the pollster will want to give the women’s responses more weight, because women actually vote more than men.
In 2016, many pollsters failed to adjust for the fact that college-educated Americans are typically more likely to respond to surveys. Another way to say this is that pollsters “under-sampled” non-college-educated voters. At the same time, the electorate split sharply along the “diploma divide” to give Trump an advantage among non-college-educated voters. In short, state pollsters made a huge, obvious mistake: Their surveys failed to account for 2016’s most important demographic phenomenon.
The good thing about huge, obvious mistakes is that they’re huge and obvious. Practically every high-quality state pollster acknowledged the non-college-educated-voter problem and committed to weighting their 2020 polls by education. The Pew Research Center now weights by education within racial groups. The Marist College and NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls now also weight by geography, in part because college-educated voters are more likely to live in urban and suburban areas.
Now the argument appears to be that the same demographic phenomenon is being overlooked yet again, which is implausible. Or, alternatively, the argument could be that Trump has grown a new base of supporters and they’re keeping themselves cloaked. Now we’re getting onto the dangerous ground of conspiracy theory, a place where Trumpkins dwell and swell but the rest of us fear to tread, with good reason.
Staying grounded in reality, another factor that was present in 2016 and which isn’t now, is the fact that undecided voters — and there were a lot of them — broke for Trump at the last minute. And Nate Silver predicted that at the time.
Two weeks before the 2016 election, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noted that 15 percent of voters still hadn’t made up their minds, which was roughly three times more than the number of undecideds in 2012. This statistic was the Chekhov’s gun of the last election: the ominous presence foreshadowing a final-act surprise. “One of the reasons why our models still give Trump an outside chance at victory,” Silver wrote four years ago, was that Trump could eke it out “by winning almost all of the undecided and third-party voters.”
And so he did. Exit polls and post-election surveys found that undecided voters broke strongly for the president. About one in seven voters in key swing states decided in the final week, and they broke for Trump by about 30 points in Wisconsin and 17 points in Florida and Pennsylvania, spelling disaster for Clinton.
Now here is the clincher. The facts were out there in 2016, but we weren’t looking at them. District-level polls were sounding the alarm for a potential Democratic collapse. Plus, the Clinton campaign abandoned the ground game in rust belt states and a lot of that did not come to light until after Election Day. There was some measure of recrimination in the Democratic party, because the ground game in Michigan, for example, was dropped, and in point of fact, the coffers of the California Democratic party could have supported a ground game in Michigan. And that point was rather bitterly made. I am not going to go back and rehash this specific issue right now — and perhaps never — I merely mention it in passing to let you know what was said at the time and what new facts were revealed. In 2020 we’re not making the same mistake.
In early November 2016, several careful polling analysts started sounding the alarm for Hillary Clinton in the upper Midwest.
Six days before the election, The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein noted that “Clinton has not visited Wisconsin since April, and appeared just twice in Michigan from June through October.” By abandoning these key states, she was acting “like a general who has sent out a large expeditionary force and left modest forces to defend their homeland.”
Five days before the election, Dave Wasserman at the Cook Political Report tweeted a poll from upstate New York that found Trump ahead by 14 points in a district where Obama and Romney had tied four years earlier. It suggested that Clinton’s support among white working-class districts was collapsing at the worst possible time. “Five days from Election Day, it’s clear who has the momentum,” he wrote. “And it’s not Hillary Clinton. This thing is close.”
This year, those congressional polls are telling a different story. Rather than illuminating surprising weaknesses for Biden, they’re reaffirming his strengths. In some cases, the district polls are pointing to an even larger Biden blowout than the national or state surveys. Most important, Trump isn’t getting anywhere near his 2016 margins in Michigan and Pennsylvania, Wasserman observed. Four years ago, there was a quiet “Trump! Trump! Trump!” alarm going off that only congressional polling analysts could hear. This year, they’re listening closely—but no Trump alarm is sounding.
There are other factors to look at as well, most notably the stability of this election. Trump has never led Biden nationally, Biden took an early lead and has maintained it. That’s different from 2016, where the polling numbers were like a pogo stick, going up and down up and down. Also, and this may ultimately be the deciding factor, there wasn’t covid, covid, covid to deal with, which to Trump is kryptonite.
No, in 2016, Trump was Mr. Big Mouth — and that hasn’t changed — with all the big talk and a lot of gullible Americans decided to give him a shot and see if he could actually deliver on his outlandish promises and make the United States into a booming business. Now he’s the incumbent and we’ve seen what he can’t do. He had his shot. And he fell resoundingly on his ass and he’s getting a pink slip next Tuesday, just like the yous and mes would if we messed up a job we were hired to do by even a fraction of what he has done.
Donald Trump is going to lose bigly and the entire world is going to watch and point and laugh. Put the champagne on ice. This is feel good time.