Polling and Elections
When the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold
Over the past 48, we witnessed the 2020 presidential elections unfold in the United States. A real rollercoaster of emotions, it can be considered the greatest reality tv show on earth. Just like the syndicate reality tv shows on your TV, politics acts as a great external outlet, matching the massive swings in emotions and with many surprises and upsets to constantly keep you on your toes.
However, this election was like no other. Unlike previous elections, it took us days to find out who the winner of the election. In addition, the elections did not follow a linear path. Instead, we saw both red and blue mirages, indications where one candidate was winning one afternoon, while another candidate won in another afternoon.
Looking back however, there have been three main reasons why this election was much more dramatic than any other. First, we saw a massive mismatch between the polls and the actual reality. Second, this election had a large amount of baggage on both candidates, with massive assumptions on what the world will look like if the other candidate won. Finally, more than any other election in history, the whole world had a giant stake in the outcome of the election, given the massive deviation between the role US will play in the world, as imagined by the different candidates.
Over the past few months, the message from pollsters was very clear. Biden was going to crush the elections. Trump was going to be destroyed. In both situations, the pollsters were exuding deep confidence in their methods, assuring the public that the possibility of a repeat of 2016 was not possible.
The public, and the democrats in particular were constantly being reassured by various proclamations from the prognosticators.
“Oh – we changed weights based on the college education status”
“We are adding weights for the shy Trump voters”
There’s a small irony in this situation, where we saw that the deep unease and concern the democrats of a massive polling error ended up becoming a real phenomenon. All across the company, the massive miss on Florida became a massive foreboding shot across the galley, where immediately democrats across the country began to lose their mind.
With the adrenaline pumping in the veins of the masses watching an election come back to life, possibilities of a Trump win changed dramatically. Instead of a dying campaign, which was broke and unable to secure a win, Democrats began fearing a repeat of the Trump win of 2016.
Then it happened – Fox News, of all channels, called Arizona for Democrat. All of a sudden, everything changed on a dime. Democrats went from being “doomers”, to suddenly cheering the massive changes in election chances for Biden.
As the night progressed, into the next day, we saw more and more states start falling to the Biden camp. From an emotional perspective, it looked like a massive comeback for the democrats. However, this was exactly what was expected from the polls.
While the polling averages were accurate in terms of driving the success of Biden in several states, one question remained. Why we're the polls so wrong?
Over the next few months, several hypotheses will come up to hopefully explain what happened over the past few days. However, the reality is that none of it will really matter.
Why? The same thing happened in 2016. There was a massive polling error. Political scientists and research scientists spent years studying what happened. Politicians were armed with this information, and again – this year in 2020, the same outcome occurred.
This election also represented an incredible level of bipartisanship. Back in 2016, there was an appeal of Trump that went beyond his nature. An argument could be that we should give the man a chance, and that there was no telling what his governing style would look like. After all, Washington was considered a swamp, and people were looking for someone to drain it.
However, things have changed since then. There really is no question about what Trump’s governing style. In addition, Biden was part of the Obama administration, so there isn’t as much of an ambiguity in terms of what to expect.
So unlike 2016, the bipartisanship and the gap between these two candidates, and the vision they espoused is among the widest of any recent election. This meant that the stakes were higher, and thus emotions were boiling over.
Finally, the whole world was watching this election, more than in 2016. Back in 2016, the world was watching the election with a little bit of amusement. Hillary Clinton was deemed to be the major favourite, so the world was watching with amusement as Trump berated other republican candidates in the primary and bungled his way to the presidential election.
However, after the presidential election, everything changed. The world watched in horror as Trump was elected to President of the United States. Slowly, we started seeing the manifestation of Trumpism through the various initiatives he implemented.
• Removal of the US from the Paris Climate Agreement
• Reduction of US’s role in the world
• Strong miss in terms of US role in managing the coronavirus
With this in the background, this meant the whole world suddenly had a much larger emotional stake on what the elections turned out. Each candidate represented a certain reality, true or not, that would manifest itself upon their election.
It will also be incredibly interesting to see how the re-election will impact the standing of Americans in the world. Back in 2016, much of the country was forgiven for choosing Trump during the election. However, if Americans chose Trump again in 2020, much of the world will consider this a deliberate choice for the type of world the majority of Americans wants to live in. Given Trump’s stance on major global crises, from global warming to coronavirus, the world is waiting for America to step up and reclaim its role as global leader.
It remains to be seen who wins this election. Despite who wins the election, this election will likely be studied for many years to come.