Nolte: USC Poll Counts Shy Voters and Donald Trump Wins

President Donald J. Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, to board Marine One en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md. to begin his trip to North Carolina and Florida. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
White House Photo by Tia Dufour

USC Dornlife published a poll Monday that shows President Trump could upset the world again next week.

USC’s normal, tracking poll shows Biden up nationally 53 to 43 percent, a full ten points.

Something USC Dornlife was curious about, though, were those shy Trump voters who either lie to pollsters out of contempt for the establishment media or due to a legitimate fear of expressing a preference for Trump in a country where you can lose your job, have your property vandalized, or find yourself physically assaulted for doing so.

Matt Perdie

To break through and past what USC describes as the “social desirability” question, the pollster asked respondents “Do you think your friends and neighbors are voting for Trump?” instead of “Do you support Trump?”

This is called the “social circle question” and in five different elections over the past few years (including the 2016 presidential election), USC found that this question resulted in a more accurate poll once the final results were known: [emphasis mine]

[I]n 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.

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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

Using this same method today, USC says  “it’s looking like an Electoral College loss for Biden” — with Trump only down by four or five points nationally.

And the truth is Trump could lose the popular vote by four or five points and still squeak out an electoral college victory.

This is not the first study or survey to show there’s a real possibility pollsters are missing a sizable chunk of the Trump coalition, what the president calls his “silent majority.”

A study released in August showed that  “nearly 12 percent of Republicans say they would not give an honest opinion to a pollster,” compared to just five percent of Biden voters.

There are other counterintuitive factors out there that make you wonder about polls that seem so certain a Blue Wave is coming and Trump has almost no chance of winning a second term…

Joe Biden, his vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris, and former President Barack Obama, are attracting almost no one to their public events, while Trump rallies are as big as ever. According to the Trump campaign, they are bigger than ever.

There is no enthusiasm for Biden (this is also reflected in the polling), while enthusiasm for Trump looks as high as it’s ever been.

Early voting also looks good for the GOP. Where we can track those numbers and compare them to 2016 in the states that will decide the election, Trump appears to be doing as well or better compared to this same time in the 2016 election cycle.

Finally, there is one pollster taking a similar approach to the USC Dornlife “social desirability” question, and that’s Trafalgar, who made some tough calls in 2016 and got a lot right. Trafalgar currently has Trump up by just under a point in Pennsylvania, up by three in North Carolina,  up two in Michigan,  down by only a point in Wisconsin, up two in Florida,  and up four in Arizona.

If Trump wins those states, he wins re-election.

So the bottom line here is that a week from today we are going to see which pollsters predicted correctly what the electorate would look like and tuned their models accordingly, and we are going to see which ones failed.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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