Warning: Trump Can Prove the Polls Wrong Once Again
With hours to go, President Trump looks the odds-on favourite to lose the upcoming US election. However, his supporters will be taking solace in his 2016 victory when he proved the polls wrong. The question is, with most pollsters releasing their final polls over the weekend, can Trump once again upset their predictions?
Donald Trump’s win in 2016 sent shockwaves not only throughout the Democratic Party but all of us who had been convinced Hilary Clinton was the red-hot favourite to win. While we all understand polling is not an exact science, we struggled to comprehend how Clinton who had a 71% chance of winning could have lost to a contender with only a 29% prospect of becoming President. These percentages were the final 2016 election standings issued before the election by the well-respected polling company FiveThirtyEight. But other polls painted an even worse picture for Trump, with models tracked by the New York Times recording his chance of winning at 15%, 8%, 2% and less that 1%.
In the world of statistical probabilities, however, someone with less than a 1% chance of winning can still win. And for Trump back in 2016, a 29% shot gave him more than a fighting chance.
You would deem anyone who plays Russian Roulette to have a screw lose, but they only have a 17% chance of losing. Hilary’s chance of losing was more than double that. Put it this way – If I told you I planted a bomb under your car and it had a 29% chance of exploding once you turned the engine on, I would wager you would not take the risk.
One reason often put forward for Trump’s surprise win in 2016 was the notion of “shy” Trump voters. This is also being used as an argument for why Trump can win in 2020 despite his poor standings in the polls. Before giving this theory too much weight, you need to understand that most polls are not done face-to-face. And there was no noteworthy difference in 2016 between polls conducted by phone compared to those carried out online (where the respondent had complete anonymity).
But why should we believe the polls this time around? Well, we all want to peak into the future to get an understanding of what is going to happen. However, there are no certainties in life. So polls are designed to give us an understanding of how voting patterns are trending but can never be viewed as fail-safe prediction models or crystal balls.
The latest polls have Trump’s chances at a mere 10%. But while the odds are seriously stacked against a Republican victory, he still has a clear path to victory if all goes his way. Florida is the state to watch. At present, when margins of error are taken into account, both candidates are more or less neck and neck. But if Biden can take the Sunshine State, it will be a major blow to Trump’s chances.
As the results start to pour in during the week, no one on either side will be taking anything for granted. And even if Trumps pulls off another victory it is unlikely our fascination with polls will wane. This is because we love them because, as Voltaire pointed out, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”