To BetOnline customers who have seen the vast majority of presidential polling data, from various sources, the picture may look pretty grim for Donald Trump.
When last we looked, the national averages of polls monitored by the website Real Clear Politics show Joe Biden with a lead of 7.2 points, and 2.3 points in the top battleground states.
Steve Rasmussen, who co-founded ESPN with his dad before embarking on a long career as a pollster, also has Trump behind by "seven or eight points" and believes that he can't possibly pull off a win in the Electoral College with a deficit like that.
Nate Silver of the website FiveThirtyEight, who has made a name for himself predicting presidential elections (hence the site's name), gives Trump a one-in-ten chance to win, has him behind 159 electoral votes in his projections, and opines that even if the national pollsters turn out to have made a three-point error in their evaluations, Biden will still be able to come out of all that with at least 279 votes, which will net him a victory.
There is one thing all of these entities have in common.
They all got it wrong in 2016.
And so we will introduce one of the voices in the wilderness, who, both then and now, predicts a Trump victory.
First, here are the odds on this election, as posted by the folks at BetOnline, and take note that it is constantly changing:
Joe Biden -215
Donald Trump +185
Robert Cahaly is the chief strategist for the Trafalgar Group, an Atlanta-based firm. They deal with private clients, according to him, and do not have a presidential candidate for a client.
Cahaly predicted the near-sweep of the "Blue Wall" that Trump executed four years ago to whisk the presidency away from Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. He believes that there are flaws inherent in the process by which the current presidential polling is taking place, and that those flaws have really not been corrected.
For instance, he maintains that there are a considerable number of "shy" Trump voters who, when asked by a pollster over the phone, are very hesitant to express their support for the incumbent president, citing "societal pressures," and that the current atmosphere makes them apprehensive about being judged.
He said he has found that in this act of avoiding such judgment or confrontation with a stranger who calls them out of the blue and knows who they are skews the results of these polls. He says that human nature prompts many interviewees to do what is going to make them look better in the eyes of the pollster.
They are, to use his term, "shy" about discussing those issues that might, in fact, mean an awful lot to them but might seem politically incorrect; things like: violence, the cancel culture, uneasiness about groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa, the attack on police departments nationwide and how it impacts safety and security. These are issues that, in most cases, may be confronting them for the first time.
Many voters who watch mainstream media are conditioned to believe they will be labeled "racist" if they express strong feelings about these issues. So they would just as soon avoid exploring them with a pollster. But they have no problem doing it in the voting booth itself.
Cahaly says that this "shyness" was a key factor four years ago, and it is even more pronounced now, because the issues at hand are much more sensitive.
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And then there is the issue of economic insecurity that can be brought about as a result of shutdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden is "Mr. Shutdown," as Cahaly puts it, and that is what many voters - particularly those leaning toward Trump - are fearing. Some also watch sports and can see how seamlessly players are inserted back onto active rosters after testing positive for the virus, and rightly or wrongly, they wonder why this is something they should be forced to risk losing their life savings over.
The "pocketbook" factor is big, and, in an interview with Newsweek, Cahaly insisted that
"Even [voters] that don't like Trump, they're like, 'I don't like Trump, but we can't have another shutdown.' Because the economy has always trumped--pardon the expression. The economy has always been more important."
On top of that, the questionnaires are long - often more than 20 questions - and people don't want to be bothered, especially if they are usually busy. Cahaly says that Biden supporters, by his estimate, are five times more likely to agree to speak with a pollster than a Trump supporter.
While Cahaly concedes that Biden will pound out a win in Wisconsin, he does insist that Trump will win in so-called "toss-up" states like Arizona, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He doesn't believe Texas is a toss-up at all. And he thinks Nevada could flip over to Trump's column - again, the prospect of shutdowns is a big factor, because casino employees would all find themselves out of a job. "People are going to be shocked," he says.
He believes that the way polls are usually conducted, the questions are not being asked in the right way. What does he do to get the truth out of people? Well, among other things, instead of asking them who they are supporting, he asks them who they think their friends and neighbors are supporting. That tends to open people up a little more, enabling them to get their opinions across without those opinions being attributed to them.
This does not seem like rocket science, but there is vehement opposition nonetheless. He has been attacked by left-leaning media. The Washington Post recently published a story with the headline "There's no such thing as a 'shy' Trump voter." He's been roasted on CNN and referred to as "ridiculous" by other liberal pundits. None of them, as far as we can tell, had the 2016 race called right.
It almost sounds like the skepticism the baseball establishment had about Bill James and the rise of analytics. And look at them now.
Admittedly we don't know if Cahaly is so sage. But there are things people can see with their own two eyes. Trump draws thousands to rallies. Biden has, on a good day, a couple hundred people standing in little circles. Trump is met by hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters at airports. Biden manages to slip in and out rather quietly.
Cahaly was asked on a recent radio show how there could be such an enthusiasm gap between the candidates when Biden is said to be so decisively ahead. His answer was simple, but thought-provoking.
"Everything else tells us this election is NOT a big Biden win," he said. "Except for the polls."
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