How the 2016 Most Accurate Pollster Sees this Election.

October 3 2020

[With the President testing positive for Covid-19 and his current hospitalization, we will follow future polls in the next week to see if any significant changes have occurred. Stay tuned…]]

In 2016, when most pollsters called the election for Hillary Clinton, one little-known pollster called it right. That’s the Trafalgar Group located in Atlanta, Georgia. The company advertises it uses a live callers, IVR (robocalls), email and text messages, but it is their use of what they call the “Social Desirability Bias” effect, where some voters tell pollsters what they believe is the popular response in vote choice rather than their real choice.

So I thought we should look at how they currently see the 2020 election through their latest’s polls and compare it to the average of polls.

One of the drawbacks for this firm is that it doesn’t conduct a lot of surveys, at least in compared to more national firms. So I will use only their latest survey and include the date of the survey as well.

Starting with Florida, on September 3, 2020, their survey gave Donald Trump a 3-pont lead over Biden, at time whey the average of polls gave Biden a 3% lead. However, the current average has Biden leading by only by 1.5%.

In Wisconsin, Trafalgar has Biden leading by 3% (9/24). The average of Real Clear Politics polls at this time had Biden with a 5.5% lead.

In Michigan, Trafalgar has Trump ahead of Biden by 1.7% (9/22), while the average of polls give Biden a 5.2% lead.

Trafalgar Group had Trump leading Biden in Pennsylvania by 2.4% while the average had Biden ahead by 5.7%.

In Minnesota, Trafalgar had the race tied (8/18). The average of polls showed Biden ahead by 9.4% (9/24).

On August 8, Trafalgar reported a 1 point lead for Trump in Arizona, when the average during that same time period had Biden ahead 3.7%.

In North Carolina, they had Trump up by 2-points (9/11) and the average of polls at the same time showed a Biden leading by 1.2%

To compare Trafalgar’s polling average versus all poll averages we find that they have Biden with an average lead in all seven states of only 0.85%. The average lead of all polls, however, shows Biden with a leading by 4.1%. That would indicate that on average, Trafalgar Group differs from other polling firms on Biden’s current lead is 3.2%.

Although the Trafalgar group has Biden slightly ahead, it is statistically far different from other polls on average. The biggest differences are for Pennsylvania and Minnesota where virtually every other pollster has Biden leading substantially.

It is important to know that this polling firm is rated as having a Republican bias, but it still had a better track record than other pollsters in 2016.

The major difference between the Trafalgar and other survey firms is that it says it uses a social desirability bias correction. However, it does not explain how this question is incorporated into the final percentages.

The use of IVR calls (interactive voice response) could explain some of their slant toward Trump as well. IVR surveys cannot use cell phone numbers and are restricted to land line calls. This means an older voter response rate, which translates into more Trump voters in the sample.

If their latest series of polls in the battleground states of Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania are accurate, Donald Trump will win the Electoral vote and, of course, the election. At least, that is what the most accurate pollster of 2016 suggests.

When you see a commercial for a stock or wealth management firm, they always end it with the following caveat: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results

I think that is good advice even for pollsters….Be safe…

By Jim Kane

Jim Kane is a pollster and media advisor, and was for fifteen years an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Kane is founder of the polling firm USAPoll and served as the Director of the Florida Voter Poll. His political clients have included both Republican and Democratic candidates, including the Republican Party of Florida, and both the Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel newspapers. At the University of Florida, Professor Kane taught graduate level courses in political science on Survey Research, Lobbying and Special Interest Groups in America, Political Campaigning, and Political Behavior. In addition to his professional and academic career, Jim Kane has been actively involved in local and state policy decisions. He was elected to the Broward County Soil and Water Conservation Board (1978-1982) and the Port Everglades Authority (1988-1994). Kane also served as an appointed member of the Broward County Planning Council (1995-2003), Broward County Management Review Committee (Chair, 1990-1991), Broward County Consumer Protection Board (1976-1982), and the Broward County School Board Consultants Review Committee (1986-1990).

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