One of the most commonly embraced false narratives from the 2016 Presidential election cycle was that the polls were wrong. That simply wasn’t true. The aggregate of the national polls suggested Hillary Clinton would win and she did based on what those polls were representing. The mistake people made and continue to make is to take polls at face value and misapply what they represent. National polls are representative of a national popular vote. In 2016, Hillary Clinton was shown with an average lead of 3% on Election Day in an average of all accredited national polling. She won the national popular vote by 2%. The polls proved to be highly accurate. Of course, Presidential elections aren’t won with a national popular vote, they’re won in the Electoral College and that’s where people often misinterpret polling.
Day after day you’re hearing about how Biden dwarfs Trump in this poll and that one, etc. What you’re not being told is that those polls mean nothing in the context of the Electoral College and the double-digit lead those polls suggest point toward nothing more than a national popular vote advantage. CNBC’s most recent polling helps illustrate the point of what’s real and what isn’t at this stage of the game. According to their polling, Biden leads Trump by ten points, 51% to 41%. But even in their own polling that’s not at all representative of the Electoral College reality. They also polled in six specific swing states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. States that with the exception of Arizona, voted for Obama previously but broke for Trump in 2016. Here’s the average of the polls in those states: Biden +3% with 47% of the vote.
The difference in comparison almost couldn’t be larger. You have a national poll which suggests Biden would run away with the election if it were held today. This includes Biden showing enough support than even if Trump won overall undecided voters he’d still lose. In the swing state polls Biden’s edge is within the margin of error and in a position to where if just a majority of undecided voters broke for Trump, he would win. It’s not worth further analysis of any particular polling at this point in the process. The only takeaway is this. As of now, it appears that Donald Trump would once again perform better in the Electoral College, where it counts than in the national popular vote which means the real race is much closer than what the national polls currently suggest.
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