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Dhaka Tribune

US opinion polls: Repeat of 2016?

Polling quality has improved since last election and better pollsters are polling in battleground states, says expert

Update : 31 Oct 2020, 06:49 PM

In the lead up to the United States presidential election on Tuesday, almost every opinion poll is showing that Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden is leading by double digits against his Republican rival and sitting President Donald Trump.

Biden is also leading most of the polls in around ten battleground states that will ultimately determine the presidency. Of course, Democratic candidate Biden’s lead in the battleground states is within the margin of error.

But, what does past experience say? For instance, despite leading in most polls at the same time in 2016, democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump by electoral college votes. That might prompt one to question, “Are these opinion polls right? Will there be a repeat of 2016? Do they really reflect the opinion of the people? What about the quality of these polls?”

The simple answer is: “No one really knows.” Opinion polls across the world have proven time and again wrong although in most cases they were proved right.

The opinion polls might prove wrong for the election in 2020 due to various reasons including a “late voters” revolution for Trump’ as it happened in the last moment of the 2016 election.

Some experts of the US, including media personalities, have also expressed their doubt about the accuracy of some polls in battleground states that have been solid or leaning Republican for a long time.

“I just do not believe the numbers,” said Joe Scarborough, a veteran anchor of MSNBC.

Also Read - Electoral college: A unique system to elect US presidents

The Democratic Party seemed to have learnt their lessons from the complacency in the 2016 election. Despite enjoying a significant advantage in the record-breaking early voting, the party is telling its supporters not to believe the polls and urging them to vote by mail were still possible and in person on the election day.

Things are looking good for the Democrats, but the party continues to urge supporters to vote, Christian Ulvert, a Democratic Party strategist, told a virtual event titled– “2020 US Presidential Election Reporting Seminar,” when he was reminded of the party’s pre-election approach four years ago.

The East-West Center, a US organization, is organizing the 14-day seminar from October 25 to November 7. Twelve journalists, including one from Dhaka Tribune, are participating in the event virtually from across the globe.

Opinion polls always do not prove right, admitted Scot Keeter, a senior survey adviser of the Pew Research Center.

Having said this, he said: “The polling this time is better than 2016 and better pollsters are polling in the battleground states.”

What the gist came from talking to quite a few experts over a few days based on opinion polls is: Yes, Joe Biden is favorite. But, Donald Trump is in striking distance in the all important battleground states. The presidency is not yet in Biden’s bag.

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