Early results from several key battleground states show President Donald Trump running further ahead than suggested in polls that had placed them in Joe Biden’s column, suggesting the ‘hidden Trump vote’ may again play a role in the presidential election.
Final polls ahead of the election from Quinnipiac, Reuters/Ipsos and CNBC/Change showed Biden leading in Florida by 5 points, 4 points, and 3 points respectively, suggesting the Democrat would take the key state.
Yet with 98 percent of Florida reporting, Trump led Biden at 51.3 percent to 47.8 percent — though the notoriously fickle state remained too close to call for many outlets.
Across the country, battleground states such as North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin showed Trump leading with partial results reported, raising the prospect that polls showing those states leaning toward Biden might have been flawed.
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A Morning Consult poll out Monday showed Biden leading Trump in five battleground states
The final election forecast from data journalist Nate Silver’s 538 website on Tuesday morning gave Biden an 89 percent chance of winning the election — though as midnight approached, a Biden landslide had yet to materialize.
For Biden’s boosters, the early returns raised the frightful prospect of a repeat of 2016, when polls showed a commanding lead for Democrat Hillary Clinton that failed to materialize when the votes were tallied.
‘There are more [shy Trump voters] than last time and it’s not even a contest,’ Trafalgar analyst Robert Cahaly (pictured) told The Hill
Among those suggesting that the Trump’s prospects are being understated is Robert Cahaly of The Trafalgar Group, one of the only nonpartisan outlets that predicted a Republican victory in 2016 after finding that Trump was leading in the key battleground states of Michigan and Pennsylvania.
This year Trafalgar’s analysis in the final days leading up to the election has again found a small lead for Trump in both of those states, contradicting nearly every other major poll.
In the last presidential election, the polling industry faced embarrassment after projections vastly underrated Trump’s chances at winning.
Cahaly said its ‘quite possible’ that the same will happen in 2020, again because a hidden Trump vote was overlooked.
‘There are more [shy Trump voters] than last time and it’s not even a contest,’ Cahaly told The Hill on Monday.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden visits The Warehouse for teens by teens in Wilmington, Delaware on Election Day
Susquehanna Polling and Research has also promoted the hidden Trump voter theory, as its most recent survey put Trump and Biden neck and neck in Wisconsin and gave the president a four-point lead in Florida.
‘There are a lot of voters out there that don’t want to admit they are voting for a guy that has been called a racist,’ Susquehanna analyst Jim Lee told WFMZ this week.
‘That submerged Trump factor is very real. We have been able to capture it and I’m really disappointed others have not.’
But many pollsters have rejected the idea that Trump voters are hiding, in part by disputing the reliability of Trafalgar’s polling methods.
‘[Trafalgar] doesn’t disclose their “proprietary digital methods” so I can’t really evaluate what they’re doing,’ Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research, told The Hill.
‘They’re far enough out on a limb that a year from now, we’ll all remember if they were very right or very wrong.’
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stand on stage after a campaign rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, early Tuesday in Grand Rapids, Michigan
McHenry said he thinks its unlikely that Trump voters would lie about their voting plans when approached by pollsters, but acknowledged that data could be skewed if Trump voters are less likely to participate in surveys altogether.
However, he said that kind of ‘skewed response pattern’ wouldn’t necessarily result in worse projections for Trump.
He cited Pennsylvania as an example of a state where Democrats have been found to be less likely to speak to pollsters than Republicans, meaning that they may be underrepresented in the results.
McHenry said that while he can’t rule out response bias, he’s ‘skeptical’ of it.
‘It certainly wouldn’t be enough to explain the national deficits we’re seeing,’ McHenry said.