For several weeks, the media has settled on a narrative that Joe Biden is a sure winner in the presidential election. They point to poll after poll that shows Biden with a clear lead, particularly in the all-important swing states. But the media never examines the underlying basis of the polls, and thus misses the forest for the trees. Here is what I believe the election results will show:
Donald Trump is very likely to be reelected.
How could that be?
Because the polls are wrong.
There are several reasons why the polls are wrong, but the most significant is that virtually none of the polls make any adjustment for the phenomenon of “social desirability bias.”
What is “social desirability bias?”
Social desirability bias is a relatively recent phenomenon whereby respondents are reluctant to express an opinion to a pollster that runs contrary to popular culture. This is not a phenomenon that shows up in every electoral contest. In fact, in most contests it is not a factor at all. However, in races that are considered to be particularly controversial, especially those involving particularly polarizing issues or candidates, it is a significant factor.
I have considerable experience dealing with social desirability bias. I managed the successful Proposition 8 campaign in California defining marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman. I can’t think of an issue more polarizing than gay marriage. During the Prop 8 campaign, I studied all 26 state marriage votes prior to the time when Prop 8 was on the ballot, comparing the final public polling to the actual votes. On average, support for traditional marriage was underrepresented in the polling by 7% compared to the final outcome. Support for traditional marriage was under-estimated in 23 of the 26 states studied, ranging from a low of 3% in Kentucky and Oregon, to as high as 21% in North Dakota. Only in one state (Arizona) was support for traditional marriage over-estimated by the polling (by 3%).
Looking specifically at the final three public polls measuring the vote on Prop 8, they showed Prop 8 trailing by an average of 45% Yes to just over 50% No. Our last internal poll on Oct. 30th had the race at 44% Yes, 46% No.
The final results on Prop 8 were just over 52% Yes, just under 48% No. This means that support for Prop 8 was under-represented by a little more than 7% while opposition was over-represented by about 2%.
So, the Proposition 8 campaign experienced a 9-point bias in the polling.
I believe that voter polling in the 2020 presidential election is also being impacted by social desirability bias. Why do I think that? Just like with Prop 8 when traditional marriage supporters were doxed, boycotted, protested and otherwise targeted for retribution (some were fired from their jobs; others were physically assaulted), so too are Trump supporters subjected to public and private scorn. We see this all across social media. We see it with people who attend Trump rallies. And with those who post Trump signs in their yards. Even some grandparents who support Trump have been denied visitation with their grandkids.
If social desirability is real, and it is, what is the potential impact of this on the polls? It’s dramatic.
I have examined the three most recent polls in every swing state published by Real Clear Politics. (In a couple of cases, there were only two recent polls to examine.) I excluded any poll taken on October 15th or before because they are no longer current. In the small number of states where Real Clear Politics did not publish any current polling, I used the most recent polls published by FiveThirtyEight. I also excluded the Trafalgar Group polls because that pollster is one of the few that attempts to factor social desirability into his results.
Let us assume that the desirability bias is 7%, as it averaged in the traditional marriage campaigns, and that we apportion this as an understatement of Trump support by 5 points and an overstatement of support by Biden of 2 points.
Under this scenario, Donald Trump wins at least 286 electoral votes and is reelected. Two states – Wisconsin and Michigan – would be within one point. Factoring in bias, Trump narrowly leads in Michigan and narrowly trails in Wisconsin so his electoral college margin would climb if he picks up either of these two states.
To show the impact of the social desirability bias factor, Florida moves from +1 Biden to +6 Trump. Nevada moves from +3.3 Biden to +3.7 Trump. Pennsylvania moves from +2.3 Biden to +4.7 Trump.
What if the social desirability factor is 5 points? Same result: Trump wins reelection with at least 285 electoral votes. Biden picks up both Wisconsin and Michigan under this scenario, and the 2nd Congressional District in Maine (with 1 electoral vote) would be tied. Big deal – Trump still wins.
Even if the social desirability bias factor is just 3 points, President Trump would still be in the driver’s seat. He’d have 258 electoral votes while Biden would have 253. Nevada (with 6 votes), Pennsylvania (with 20 votes) and the 2nd Congressional District in Nebraska (with 1 vote) would be too close to call. Factoring in bias, Trump leads in Pennsylvania, which would put him over the top.
Obviously, the more that the social desirability factor is greater than 3 points, the greater the likelihood that Donald Trump will be reelected. Remember, the Prop 8 bias factor was 9 points. Conversely, a bias factor of less than 3 points, would help Joe Biden to victory. Even one of his staunchest backers, Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt says that there is some anti-Trump bias in the polling, and he guesses 2 points. That should not give the Biden camp much comfort.
Now, a sobering fact: There will be tens of millions of ballots left uncounted following Election Day. This means the outcome of the presidential race may not be known for weeks. That will be weeks of radical leftists rampaging in cities across America as votes are being counted, completely freaking out over the potential – no, the likelihood – of Donald Trump once again defeating them.
This 2020 election has already been one of the most tumultuous ever. Little did we realize that we may have been experiencing the calm before the storm.