Election Update: Who’s Leading the Polls?

The polls are showing an undeniable lead currently belongs to challenger Joe Biden in the US presidential race. Incumbent Donald Trump has proven unpopular, nationally, for his entire first term. Despite a deep well of fervent support among conservatives, Trump is considered an unpopular president at the national level. This has translated into a commanding polling lead for Joe Biden.

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Of course, with Election Day tomorrow, it’s worth reiterating that polling researching and polling places are two very different things. Surveys aren’t votes, and Democrats learned that the hard way in 2016.

During that election, Hillary Clinton seemed to be leading Trump in many battleground states, but lose by a few fractions of a percentage point across tightly-contested states. This didn’t stop Clinton from winning the popular vote, however, leading to many calls for the abolition of the Electoral College.

2020 Looks Different

However, polls in 2020 look different than polls from 2016. It would take a massive polling error, one orders of magnitude larger than 2016, to see Trump surge ahead in states he needs to carry to secure 270 Electoral College votes.

His only plausible path to victory currently involves winning every toss-up state, (Texas, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida) as well as one of the three true battleground states that are leaning towards Biden.

This means he needs to secure a majority of the votes in either Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, an unlikely occurrence by any national poll’s estimate. This, coupled with the difficulty of carrying all of the toss-up states, puts Trump decidedly on the back foot going into Election Day.

Voter Turnout

Another factor working against the incumbent is voter turnout. This year has already seen eye-popping, record-breaking early voting turnout, both in-person and by mail. High voter turnout, especially among young voters, is kryptonite for conservatives. The GOP, historically, performs well in elections with low voter turnout among young people and high engagement with older voters.

What’s worse, polls suggest that, in many states, Trump is struggling with older voters. His choice to attack Joe Biden by alleging that the 78-year-old is battling dementia seems to have backfired and eroded his support among voters in that age range in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Of course, Republicans tend to fare better on Election Day than in early voting. So, while early voting shows an overwhelming number of newly-registered, young voters casting their ballots, the GOP is relying on a late surge. That surge, they hope, will be composed of shy Trump voters who have avoided responding to surveys, allowing for a monumental polling error and allowing them to win in the biggest electoral upset in modern history.