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Have the polls got it wrong again on Trump?


ON the face of it, Donald Trump’s prospects of winning a second presidential term haven’t improved much in the last week.  

At FiveThirtyEight, Joe Biden’s lead in national polls has fallen from 10.6 per cent to 9.4 per cent, while at RealClearPolitics it has fallen from 9.8 per cent to 7.8 per cent. With little over a week until the polls close, these changes are too small to make any difference to the outcome. 

And yet it’s been a good week for Trump. The second and final presidential debate on October 22 went well. Some polls predictably thought Biden won (CNN gave it 53-39 per cent to Biden, FiveThirtyEight gave it marginally to Biden).  

However, veteran pollster Frank Luntz ran a focus group of 13 undecided voters and after watching the debate, nine said they would now vote for Trump, one for Biden and one would either vote for Trump or abstain. 

Polls conducted since the debate show a significant swing to Trump. A Rasmussen national poll gave Trump a one per cent lead, a four-point swing to him from its previous poll and Trump’s first lead since mid-September.  

Rasmussen’s daily national black likely voter poll shows Trump’s approval rating jumping nearly 20 points to over 40 per cent since the debate.  

In the swing states, a post-debate poll in Pennsylvania gave Trump a three per cent lead, reversing the same size lead held by Biden two weeks previously. Biden’s pledge to end fossil fuels may be costing him in a state with a lot of fracking jobs.  

Trump is up two per cent and four per cent in Ohio, while in Florida he is up one per cent and down two per cent in post-debate polls. There are no full post-debate polls yet for North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan. 

The existence of shy or reluctant Trump voters has convinced Trafalgar Group chief pollster Robert Cahaly that Trump will win. And the anomaly of a poll showing voters declaring for Biden but believing their neighbours are voting Trump has emerged again, this time showing an 18 point discrepancy in Trump’s favour.  

Comedian Tim Young has been on a tour of seven states and doesn’t believe the polls. As well as finding Trump supporters who lie to pollsters that they’re voting Biden, ‘in each of more than 50 conversations I’ve had since being on the road, I’ve asked if any person knew someone who voted for then-candidate Trump in 2016 who was not going to vote for him in 2020. The answer was always no.  

‘I’d follow up by asking if each person knew someone who didn’t vote for Mr Trump in 2016, but are voting for him in 2020, the answer was always yes – and it was almost always multiple people.’ 

Trump’s rallies still attract large crowds while Biden’s public appearances have become virtually non-existent, which may be a blessing as he’s not sure which office he’s running for, or his opponent’s name.  

Even Barack Obama has failed to drum up crowds. Speaking at a recent event in Florida, the former president attracted only 280 cars and some 400 people.  

Trump is attracting more supporters to rallies where neither he nor his vice-president are in attendance – whether it’s the Interstate 70 Trump Train in Pennsylvania, or Jews for Trump in New York. And thousands of Trump supporters will line the roads for one of his rallies, even in California

Trump odds at the bookies have changed little from last week. The best one can get on a Trump win are 15/8, tightening from 2/1 a week ago.  

But, as in the EU referendum, the number of individual bets placed is a better guide to the result than the amount of money bet, and the data here is emphatic: Nearly 55 per cent of all bets placed have been on Trump to win.  

And whoever the polls say won last week’s debate, 73 per cent of bets placed on the election result during the debate were on Trump winning. 

The contrast between the message of the headline-making polls and all the other data is becoming starker as election day approaches. Someone is going to be very wrong.  

Frank Luntz has stated that if the polls are wrong, his ‘profession is done’  in terms of faith and confidence from the public – which some might think would be a good outcome. 

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Vlod Barchuk
Vlod Barchuk
Vlod Barchuk is a former accountant, former Tory councillor and current chairman of Ealing Central and Acton Conservative Party Association.

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