I have read commentary to the effect that Biden is in better shape now than Clinton was at this point in 2016 because he has a bigger lead in the polls than Clinton did. I believe that observation is flawed because it seems to rely on conglomerations of polls (like those tracked by RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight), the quality and composition of which varies from day to day, and which has probably changed a lot since 2016.
I follow White House Watch at Rasmussen Reports. It’s superior to most polls because it’s a tracking poll that samples the same group of likely voters throughout a campaign. I suspect (but don’t know for sure) that there’s a lot of overlap between the 2016 sample and the 2020 sample.
The graph below compares Clinton’s and Biden’s lead or deficits against Trump, given the number of days left before election day. As that day draws nigh, Biden is actually doing worse than Clinton.
Notably, the final Rasmussen poll in 2016 hit the popular vote gap right on the head: Clinton “won” the mythical nationwide popular vote by 2 percentage points. And it did her no good because her popular-vote “victory” was the result of lopsided outcomes in deep-Blue States (e.g., California), where extra popular votes didn’t translate into extra electoral votes. I expect the same kind of result this year, though some of the States that went narrowly for Trump in 2016 may flip in 2020.
In my previous post I contrasted the results of polling by Rasmussen Reports with two indicators published by RealClearPolitics: its the “poll of polls” and its summary of election betting markets. Although Rasmussen’s numbers (as of September 30) look bad for Trump, they’re not as bad as the numbers produced by most polls and betting markets.
Why is that? Rasmussen’s polls yield better — more accurate — results than most other polls because Rasmussen’s polls are unbiased. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Rasmussen has an excellent track record. Many pollsters and pundits try to dismiss Rasmussen as pro-Republican, or to denigrate Rasmussen’s methods. This is a classic example of psychological projection because most polls are systematically biased toward Democrats.
There are two reasons for that. Pro-Democrat pollsters (and their media allies) don’t like to publish bad news about Democrats. By the same token, underestimating the electoral prospects of Republicans is a devious form of election-rigging: It helps to demoralize Republican voters and therefore reduce pro-Republican turnout at election time.
How biased are the other polls? On average, extremely biased. The following graph shows the relationship between Rasmussen’s polling on the 2020 presidential election and the average of the dozen-or-so polls tracked by RealClearPolitics:
If I had removed Rasmussen’s poll from RCP’s average, the result would have been more stark, but it’s stark enough as it is. Rasmussen’s (presumably) accurate poll (White House Watch) would have to show Trump leading Biden with 70 percent of likely voters before the RCP average would show Trump tied with Biden.
The moral of the story: I won’t cite the RCP “poll of polls” again.
I will however cite RCP’s summary of betting markets. They don’t estimate the split of the popular vote, but they do measure the degree of confidence that one or another candidate will win. Unfortunately, there is growing confidence on the part of bettors that Biden will win.
I will close with a reminder of what’s at stake in this election: liberty.