US Election: How the Polls Stand

(Photo: Prachatai, CCL)



The US election rumbles on like a juggernaut on a path to endless, unabating destruction (I always like to begin articles in a cheery mood), and with it comes a fearless haemorrhage of polls from Gallup, Ipsos and even Google Consumer Surveys. Some have Trump ahead, some don’t. But over the course of this article, I hope to shed some light about where the polls are at. I read a couple of articles online recently and thought they were mediocre on the subject; and while this is to be expected from some of our most renowned tabloid publications, even the BBC seem rather confused. The intrinsic mistake they all seem to make is equating nation-wide to state-wide polling figures.

So in this article, I’m going to provide a suitable overview on how the race currently stands. National trends are far less rigid in the USA then they are in Britain. This is down to a whole host of reasons. For example, California and Vermont are very different in terms of demography, economy and culture, yet they are both solidly Democrat. Understanding each state’s electorate must be done by detailed individual polling analysis. Equally, the principle of federalism in the US constitution reflects the fundamentality of the state in American democracy. States have a whole host of different issues that are most important to them, and of no importance to others. But I’m not here to give you a lecture on the flaws and limitations of the American political discourse (I graduate in June and there would scarcely be time to get started). I am here to give you some solid hard facts and what to expect.

The Polls

Clinton leads by around 5% in national polling, no matter what happens from hereon in, can be comparatively sure of winning the popular vote. But as Al Gore would tell you, this means little in terms of the election. Traditionally the Commander in Chief will be decided on approximately 5-10 important swing states.

Due to the Democrats having a larger number of electoral votes in their safe seats, Trump most certainly has the harder job to do. He must win: Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina. This is very much a tall order (see below).

Despite this, he is unquestionably making significant ground. Nate Silver’s roundup of state polls show that Florida is on a knife-edge, 0.1% separating the candidates. There is a similar story in Obama’s strongholds of Iowa, North Carolina and Idaho, yet Clinton is comfortably leading in the traditional Middle-America state of Colorado. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Colorado decides the election, its 9 Electoral Votes tip the balance. Trump can win every other swing state, but if Colorado remains blue, Trump can’t win realistically.
There is, however, one more chilling proposition that I have yet to discuss. What if Trump wins New Hampshire, but Clinton wins Colorado? Put simply, the unforeseeable, worst-case scenario happens. The electoral college is tied 269-269. The House decides on the President and the Senate decides the Vice-President. This would be pretty dreadful for everyone involved, as you have the potential of a split Republican-Democratic administration, thus, the most powerful democracy in the world will be void of effective leadership (even more than normal).

So I leave this brief summary of the US polls and what to look out for, on a similar note to which I began. I will have another article out on polling day itself, with an update on the polls and a prediction of who will be the president. Whatever happens, this has been one of the most bitter and divisive election campaigns of modern history. One in which the US electorate has become ever-more polarised and even less tolerant of one another. No matter who wins this election battle, it may only be the start of the war for the future of America.

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