Trump and Polls – Why the Reverse-Bradley Candidate Will Win Again

Trump and Polls – Why the Reverse-Bradley Candidate Will Win Again

Randall Foxglove

It’s no secret that Donald Trump has a closeted following of people who do not want to be identified as supporters, but who will nonetheless vote for him once they are in the polling booth and no one is looking. He essentially has the Reverse-Bradley Effect. As background, Tom Bradley was a popular L.A. African American mayor who ran for governor of California in 1982. All the polls leading up to election day projected him to have a substantial margin of victory over his opponent, who was white. He lost on election day, and the assumption was that many white voters weren’t honest with pollsters, and thus his support was perceived to be much greater. They wanted to believe (or pollsters to believe) they would vote for an African American mayor, but in the voting booth chose otherwise. Trump, of course, seems to have the reverse effect. Many don’t want pollsters, co-workers, or maybe even friends or family to know that they support Trump, but will punch the Trump ticket when in the booth.

2016 proved this point whereby his numbers nationally, and in many swing states, were 1 to 5 percent higher on voting day. Pollsters argued that the demographics of their polls weren’t accurate based on rural areas, cell phone users, etc., or that to their credit many of the results were within the margin of error. But there were too many discrepancies to believe that it was a small scientific digit shift. Clearly there were a decent amount of Trump supporters who did not want to be associated with him but ended up voting for him.

Fast forward to 2020 and the same arguments can be made.  Obama’s approval rating stayed in the high 40s for most of his reelection year, he received a slight bump right before election day and ended up with a slight majority of the vote in 2012. Trump is right there, and possibly even in a better position. Because of the Anti-Bradley Effect, that I will peg at roughly 3 percent, Trump only needs to be within striking distance of 50 percent to win this election. He is now polling close to 50 nationally, and has been polling near, at, or above 50 in most of the swing states (Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, etc.).

He has the 30 to 35 percent of supporters who are not going away no matter what he does. To get over the top he needs to convince those moderate Republicans and Independents that they should give him 4 more years. He is garnering the support of 90 percent of Republicans.  The independent vote probably needs to swing upward over the next 7 months, but he is right where he needs to be. 

So the question any of the his opponents have to ask themselves heading into November—If unemployment is low, the stock market has recovered, a recession is avoided, impeachment is behind us, African American and Hispanic unemployment is low, and Trump is possibly more wiling to engage Congress and get something done over his next 4 years, what will be the choice of voters once they are in the booth by themselves, and no one but them will know their vote? Trump wins.

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