Donald Trump is behind in the White House race. Can he refute the surveys and forecasts like four years ago? In fact, 2020 is a lot different than 2016.
If you believe the polls, things are pretty clear: Donald Trump is way behind. Joe Biden leads the nationwide polls as well as most of the polling states. There are many indications that the Americans will vote out Trump in early November.
But can you even believe the polls? The memory of 2016 is fresh, even painfully fresh, for those citizens in America who reject Trump. At that time, Hillary Clinton was clearly ahead in the polls and forecasts for the election result. Some of Biden’s values are very similar to the numbers Clinton stood at four years ago.
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Then as now, statistics experts put the likelihood of Trump winning the election at only around ten percent. But the end is known: Four years ago there was a surprise victory for Trump.
Does history repeat itself?
Is history repeating itself now? The nervousness about the extent to which the numbers can be trusted is evident in the American election campaign. Many voters see Biden’s lead in the polls or in collecting the all-important campaign donations with great caution.
Trump’s best remaining hope is that this will happen. He himself sometimes campaigns as if it were still 2016: There is hardly a day on which he does not rail against his then competitor Hillary Clinton.
In fact, 2020 is a lot different from 2016 – and the comparison with the situation four years ago is very weak. These are the most significant differences:
1.) The surveys are more reliable
The polls are still just snapshots of the political mood. But according to the polls, more reliable than four years ago. At that time, many institutes underestimated one group of voters in their surveys in individual contested states: white voters without a university degree. These voted in droves for Trump. Their share in the samples is now extrapolated to better reflect actual voting behavior under Trump. In addition, more surveys are being conducted in key states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
And something else stands out: Biden’s lead in the political mood seems cemented, while Clinton’s lead fluctuated significantly over the summer and fall of four years ago. The mood is more stable than four years ago and it is better represented.
2.) Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton
What may sound banal at first has a big impact. The Trump-Clinton duel was a duel between two unpopular candidates. The Clintons had been hated by the Republicans since the early 1990s – and Trump managed to portray Hillary as corrupt and drag her values to the basement. That didn’t work for Biden. The 77-year-old is much more popular than Clinton, is less controversial and is more trustworthy. Even if Trump is doing everything possible to portray him as corrupt – most recently with a story fraught with numerous doubts about his son Hunter – this has so far hardly shown any success: Biden’s values remain stable.
The Democrat is also ahead of such important groups of voters as the non-party and pensioners, the majority of whom voted Trump in 2016.
3.) Trump 2020 is not Trump 2016
Four years ago, Trump was seen as the unspent alternative, as someone who could be given a chance. In fact, a majority of those voters who only made their voting decisions at short notice did so. According to surveys, 13 percent made their decision shortly before the election. After almost four years in the White House, however, opinions have long been consolidated. There is much to suggest that the election will primarily be a referendum on the president and his administration.
The group of undecided voters is correspondingly small, between two and eight percent, depending on the poll. Also have Tens of millions of Americans under the early voting their vote already cast. The room for catching-up maneuvers is much narrower.
Those are the three most important differences compared to 2016. Nevertheless, the outcome of the election this November is anything but predictable. Whether the polls are as good as generally claimed will only become apparent on election evening. The corona pandemic has an as yet undetermined effect on the outcome of the election. The Democrats – unlike the Republicans – have for example dispensed with the classic door-to-door election campaign.
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More Americans than ever before have cast their votes in advance at polling stations or by postal vote. The Democrats have called on their supporters to vote by post. There are big question marks about how well the mobilization actually works, how high the turnout will be and how many of the votes will actually be counted.
There are increasing reports that numerous postal votes in contested states have failed to meet formal guidelines. In addition, legal proceedings are already raging about how long the counting of postal votes in the respective states can drag on. The race in 2020 is therefore characterized by its very own unpredictable factors.