We are edging ever closer to the end of this long and turbulent presidential election season; and it’s time to look at the polls. Read more to find out if current polls suggest it will be former Vice President Joe Biden or current President Donald Trump that takes the victory in November.
It is important to first remember that winning the most votes does not necessarily mean winning the election. Instead, the USA’s Electoral College system determines the winner of the election. In the Electoral College, every state has a different number of points depending on their population. States vary in Electoral points from 55 in the most populous state to only 3 in the least populous states. The candidate with the most votes in each state takes all of that state’s points. The total number of Electoral points adds up to 538, meaning that the first candidate to reach just over half of that, or 270, wins the election.
This article explores what current polling averages tell us about the likely makeup of the Electoral map; and will also predict how some of the key swing states are likely to go in this election.
Let’s start with the solid states; these states are almost definitely going to go to a certain candidate. The image below shows how different solid states are expected to go; and also shows where this leaves the Electoral map.
As you can see, the current polls indicate that within the solid states, Joe Biden should take 182 points, and Donald Trump should take only 70 points.
Secondly, let’s look at the states that are classified by pollsters as likely states, meaning they are likely to go to a certain candidate, but an opposition win cannot be ruled out entirely. The image below shows how these likely states are expected to go and how this leaves the Electoral map when combined with solid states
As you can see, the solid states and likely states together should earn Joe Biden 213 points and Donald Trump 84 points
Thirdly, let’s add in the states that are classified by pollsters as lean states. These states are favoured for a certain candidate, but there is still a good chance they could flip to the other side. The image below shows how different lean states are expected to go and how this leaves the Electoral map when combined with solid states and likely states.
All told, the solid, likely, and lean states together should earn Joe Biden 279 points and leave Donald Trump with only 126 points. Based on this, it’s possible that Biden could cross the necessary 270 point threshold before even getting to the Toss-Up States (discussed below). It is important to remember, however, that lean states could easily flip, which is exactly what happened in 2016 when Hillary Clinton lost.
The final category that pollsters organise states into is toss-up states. These states could go either way. If Biden takes all the solid, likely, and lean states that he’s currently projected to win, these toss-up states may not have any real impact. A flip in a lean state is absolutely possible, however, even one that could bring Joe Biden back under the 270 threshold, so we should still look at what the current toss-up states are and make some predictions as to how they might go.
*NB: The states that meet the criteria for a toss-up are states which have a margin of under 3% in polling averages
· 2016 Result: Trump won by 3.6%
· Current Polling Average: Biden leads by 2.5%
· My projected winner: I predict Donald Trump will win in Arizona. Arizona has gone to the Republicans in every election since 2000, and Joe Biden’s current polling lead seems too slim, especially if Trump’s numbers improve like they did in the last week of the 2016 election.
· 2016 Result: Trump won by 9.0%
· Current Polling Average: Trump leads by 2.6%
· My projected winner: I predict Donald Trump will win in Texas. Between his current polling lead and his commanding victory in 2016, it seems unlikely that Joe Biden will be able to turn the Lone Star state in his favour.
· 2016 Result: Trump won by 1.2%
· Current Polling Average: Biden leads by 2.4%
· My projected winner: I predict Donald Trump will win in Florida. This is arguably the closest state in the entire contest. A lot of Trump’s rallies and events have been in Florida, and he has a large fan base of retired Conservatives in Florida. Also, polls may not be indicative of the full story in Florida, as the pandemic is keeping older people at home out of major polls.
· 2016 Result: Trump won by 5.0%
· Current Polling Average: Trump leads by 0.6%
· My projected winner: I predict Donald Trump will win in Georgia. Since 1996, Georgia has always gone to the Republican candidate. Considering this trend along with Trump’s (albeit small) lead in the polls, indicates a likely Trump victory in Georgia.
· 2016 Result: Trump won by 3.6%
· Current Polling Average: Biden leads by 2.1%
· My projected winner: I predict Donald Trump will win in North Carolina. Trump had a successful campaign in this state in 2016 and since 1980, North Carolina has only gone to the Democrats once (Barack Obama in 2008). Consequently, I think Donald Trump will be able to overcome this deficit in polls and win in this state.
· 2016 Result: Trump won by 7.9%
· Current Polling Average: Trump leads by 1.0%
· My projected winner: I predict Donald Trump will win in Ohio. Between winning easily in 2016, and holding a lead now, I struggle to see a generally Conservative state flipping away from Donald Trump in 2020.
· 2016 Result: Trump won by 9.5%
· Current Polling Average: Trump leads 0.2%
· My projected winner: I predict Donald Trump will win in Iowa. Despite being President Trump’s most slender lead currently, his commanding victory in 2016 should be enough to tilt this state to the incumbent.
All these projected successes for Donald Trump in toss-up states, however, doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom for the former Vice President. It is important to remember that a lot of former toss-ups (such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) have now become lean states for the Democrats. This change in the political landscape over the past four years means that even a Trump sweep of the toss-up states, when coupled with Biden wins in the more predictable races, would still put Biden in office on January 20th, 2021.
As always, these predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. Pollsters predicted a landslide for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and look where that brought us. While I do believe, and hope, that polling information is more accurate this time around, nothing is certain. And, in this unique political climate, any outcome is possible.