More than 80 million people have already voted and there is almost no time to change the course of the race. While most pollsters show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a sturdy and stable lead over President Donald Trump, a handful of contrarian pollsters believe Trump has a chance of being reelected, claiming that support is underrepresented and that election analysts could be headed for another embarrassing miss on Election Day.
One pollster, The Trafalgar Group, which was the only nonpartisan outlet in 2016 to find Trump leading in Michigan and Pennsylvania on Election Day, shows Trump with small leads in both states, which would be keys to another Trump win in the Electoral College. Nearly every other pollster shows Biden with a comfortable lead.
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.
But prominent political analysts have dismissed polls that show Trump leading Biden.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman are among those deeply skeptical of Cahaly’s polling.
Both have analyzed 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.”
FiveThirtyEight’s model gives Trump about an 11 percent chance of winning — roughly equal to pulling an inside straight in poker — after giving him about a 30 percent chance on Election Day in 2016.
Biden appears to have a more comfortable lead in the polls than Hillary Clinton had at this point in 2016. Polls show Trump is underperforming — in some cases dramatically — among the key coalitions that powered his 2016 victory. Biden is also a more popular candidate than Clinton.
McHenry said he does not think there are many “shy” Trump supporters who would lie about their intentions.
Rather, there is concern about a “skewed response rate pattern,” whereby Trump voters would be less likely to participate in a survey or answer the phone when a pollster calls.
Still, McHenry noted that this wouldn’t be an automatic benefit for Trump. In Pennsylvania, for instance, he found Democrats were less likely to answer the phone than their registration would suggest.