In 2020, Presidential Polling is More Reliable Than in 2016, Says Politics Professor Jim Moore

Jim MooreIn 2016, pre-election polls predicted Hillary Clinton would win by about 3 million votes — and she did.

But what the 2016 polls didn’t tell Americans was how Clinton was faring in key battleground states, said Pacific University Professor Jim Moore, director of political outreach at Tom McCall Center for Civic Engagement. As it turned out, Donald Trump squeaked to victory in the Electoral College by narrowly winning such states as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

What happened in 2016 was “a polling failure,” Moore said Oct. 10, in a virtual “Back to Class” event during Pacific’s Homecoming Weekend.

Things seem different this time, said Moore, who provides regular political analysis to local and regional news outlets.

This time, pollsters are not only paying closer attention to how the presidential race is playing out in critical state races, but they’re also factoring in such determinants as education levels and gender. “The 2020 polling is taking into account those factors,” he said.

“The polling is better this time,” he said. “You can trust it more.”

Considering everything, Democratic nominee Joe Biden holds “a built-in advantage” over Trump, Moore said. Trump has lost appeal among American farmers, who have lost their Chinese markets to the president’s trade war, and among industrial workers, who have seen that factory and mining jobs aren’t coming back to America. In general, high disapproval ratings for Trump give Biden a running start for the 2020 race.

Most recent polls didn’t reflect the latest developments, such as the president contracting COVID-19 and his performance in the first presidential debate, Moore cautioned.

The polls showing Biden ahead have been relatively steady over the last five months. Over that time, individual states have shifted, in many cases from Trump to Biden, though Moore said he expects the president to regain some of those states. 

The fact is, Moore said, “most people have made up their minds about him and have made up their minds about Biden.”

Things still can change, and this week’s Supreme Court nomination battle has the potential to hit hard in six Republican states, Moore said. But the picture seems clearer at this point in the 2020 presidential race than it did in 2016.

The only thing left to do is wait for Election Day.

And, said Moore, “Election Day may last four weeks.” 

Monday, Oct. 12, 2020