USC Dornsife Polling Predicts Another Trump Victory Next Week
The pollsters at USC Dornsife added two new questions to their polling that seem to point to a Trump win. They were asking what are called “social circle” questions and it’s probably best to let them give a brief explanation of what those questions are and why they believe those questions are relevant.
From our previous research on social judgments, we learned that people seem to know their immediate social circles quite well. Their answers about the distribution of income, health status — even the relationship satisfaction of their friends, family and acquaintances — were often in the right ballpark. And when we averaged the data from their responses across a large national sample, it provided a surprisingly accurate picture of the overall population.
Yes, in all five of the elections in which we tested this question, the social circle question predicted election outcomes better than traditional questions about voters’ own intentions. These five elections were the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the 2017 French Presidential election, the 2017 Dutch Parliamentary election, the 2018 Swedish Parliamentary election, and the 2018 U.S. election for House of Representatives.
In both the U.S. elections, the social-circle question predicted national and state level results better than the “own intention” question in the same polls. In fact, data from the social-circle question in 2016 accurately predicted which candidate won each state, so it predicted Trump’s electoral college victory.
The USC pollsters are predicting that Biden will win the popular vote by a large margin, but will narrowly lose in the electoral college.
The social-circle question is predicting Biden will win the popular vote, but by a much slimmer margin than what’s being predicted by the standard voter intention question — in the USC Dornsife Daybreak Poll and most others — regarding how poll participants themselves plan to vote.
When we calculate how many electoral votes each candidate could get based on state level averages of the own-intention and social-circle questions, it’s looking like an Electoral College loss for Biden. We should note that our poll was not designed for state-level predictions, and in some states we have very few participants. Even so, in 2016 it predicted that Trump would win the electoral vote.
In fact, in the last presidential election the social-circle question was more successful than both the own-intention question and aggregate polls in predicting winners of four of five swing states that unexpectedly went to Trump (Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). The own-intention question accurately predicted just three of the swing states and aggregate polling failed to accurately predict any of them.
Trafalgar polling rather famously got the 2016 election right and is predicting a Trump win this year. They do something very similar to find “shy Trump” voters who may not tell other pollsters what they really intend to do.
How much stock should we put in this new and rather unconventional style of polling? Well, that depends on how accurate it is this year. If Trafalgar & USC Dornsife call this election correctly while the other pollsters whiff, it will revolutionize the way polling is done.
So, are they right? Well, I am out of the Presidential prediction business, so all I can really do is give you the best argument that either candidate is going to win.
In Biden’s case, it would be that he seems to have a large lead in the popular vote, and only 5 candidates in history have ever won the popular vote and lost the electoral college. Additionally, according to the latest RealClearPolitics polling aggregation, Biden is doing slightly better now than Hillary did in the Battleground states in 2016 and contrary to what you may have heard, Democrats have a large overall lead in early votes. In a normal election, you’d practically write Biden in as the winner.
However, this is not a normal election and Trump has already proven people that counted him out wrong once before. What’s the case for Trump? It’s that pollsters and Trafalgar and USC Dornslife are right and there are a lot of “shy Trump” voters out there. Additionally, the GOP has made a lot of voter registration gains in key states and those often turn into votes. On top of that, because polling has shown Democrats are much more afraid of COVID-19 than Republicans, they may be more hesitant to show up in person to vote. On the other hand, Republicans are less frightened of Corona and are much more enthusiastic about supporting Trump than Democrats are about supporting Biden. All those people going to rallies and having boat parades are going to show up to vote. Will Biden’s voters? Maybe not. Especially with this laptop scandal going on.
Which case will prove correct? Well, that’s why we have elections instead of just declaring a winner by looking at the polling. Cross your fingers and make sure to vote.