On Election Day 2016, at precisely 10:41 a.m., wunder pollster Nate Silver posted a story on his website FiveThirtyEight.
“Final Election Update: There’s A Wide Range Of Outcomes, And Most Of Them Come Up Clinton,” read the headline.
Silver said his “forecast has Clinton favored in states and congressional districts totaling 323 electoral votes, including all the states President Obama won in 2012 except Ohio and Iowa, but adding North Carolina.” He hedged his bet a bit, though, saying Clinton could lose North Carolina or Florida, so “the average number of electoral votes we forecast for Clinton is 302.”
Clinton lost both (North Carolina by a lot, 3.8%). She also lost Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. In the end, she got crushed in the Electoral College, 304-227.
The polls in 2020 are nearly identical to those in 2016, according to Real Clear Politics, which keeps a running average of all polls.
In the top battleground states—North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin—Biden currently holds a four-point lead in the average. In 2016, Clinton held a 3.5-point lead. That means there’s just a .5-point difference this time around.
There’s more data to suggest that the 2020 race isn’t all over.
While most presidential pollsters blew the call in 2016, Trafalgar Group chief pollster Robert Cahaly got it mostly right. His group’s polling in 2016 showed Trump leading Clinton in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan on the eve of the election. Trump won all three, despite most polls saying he would lose the states.
Now, Cahaly says Trump is poised to do it again and will top the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win re-election.
“I see the president winning with a minimum of high 270s and possibly going up significantly higher based on just how big this undercurrent is,” Cahaly said recently on Fox News.
“What we’ve noticed is that these polls are predominantly missing the hidden Trump vote, what [we] refer to as the shy Trump voter,” he said. “There is a clear feeling among conservatives and people that are for the president that they’re not interested in sharing their opinions so readily on the telephone. We’ve seen people be beat up, harassed, doxed, have their houses torn up because they expressed political opinions that are not in line with the politically correct establishment. And so, these people are more hesitant to … participate in polls. So if you’re not compensating for this, if you’re not trying to give them a poll that they can participate in … you’re not going to get honest answers.”
Cahaly said his group conducts surveys in a different way than other pollsters.
“All we focused on was battleground state polls, because when it’s over, in my mind, it’s all about the electoral map and state-by-state Electoral College,” he told Politico last month. “So the big difference was the people they were surveying; and second, and I don’t know who else would agree with this, is the fact that taking people on their face for what they were answering was not a smart move, because people were not being forthright as to who they were supporting.”
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