Less than 100 days remain before the US Election, causing many to lean in and listen to the pollsters. With the disruption of a global pandemic and culture wars not seen since the 1970s, the whole world will doubtless have its eyes on this Presidential race.
Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight has Donald Trump trailing Joe Biden by a full 8 percentage points—at 41.9% to 49.9%. Though that gap was closer during the pandemic’s peak in April, President Trump has consistently lagged in the polls through much of his presidency. Mainstream news headlines continue to reflect this sentiment.
For those who have paid attention to Anglosphere elections of late, however, polls are facing something of a credibility crisis. They failed to predict either Brexit or Trump in 2016, and they also missed Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson’s respective victories in 2019.
The million dollar question is, could they also be wrong about Trump in 2020?
The media “echo chamber” is undoubtedly one of the causes for polls’ predictive failures. In America especially, liberal coastal elites crowd many newsrooms, a fact conceded even by the Washington Post.
This creates a cluster of problems. It means that the chattering class lives, generally speaking, in a very different world from the consumers of journalism. This in turn can’t help but contribute to an ongoing distrust of media: a University of Oxford study that covered the US recently found that only 38% of people trust the media most of the time, for example.
But there is more. Social scientists from the University of Arkansas who studied Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 discovered that when polled, people are more likely to suppress their voting intentions if their views are publicly demonised.
And if anything is certain about 2020 America, it’s that Trump voters are publicly demonised.
Indeed a CATO study released just last week made some concerning revelations. Asked if the current political climate prevents them from speaking openly about their political beliefs, over three quarters of conservatives agreed. By contrast, just 42% of strong liberals felt this way; strong liberals were in fact the only group who felt they could express themselves.
There may be a few more surprises come November.
Typically, the African-American vote strongly favours a Democratic candidate. In 2016 for instance, only 8% of the Black vote went to Trump.
But in a recent Rasmussen poll (which is known to lean conservative) a full 49% of likely Black voters approved of Trump’s performance. This follows data that already shocked the pundits last year that put this figure at around 34%. If accurate, these signs point towards a building momentum of Black support behind the incumbent President.
Given that Donald Trump has often been labelled a “racist” by his detractors—particularly in the post-George Floyd era—this is a remarkable set of circumstances.
Portrayals of Trump as an enemy of minorities and an ally of white supremacists has not been lacking. What is dwindling, however, is the number of minorities who are ready to believe that characterisation.
The Blexit foundation—a movement of Black Americans exiting the Democratic party—is a possible harbinger of what is to come in November. With much less visibility than the Black Lives Matter movement, it nonetheless has a clear message.
Founder Candace Owens explains that while Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a society where people were judged by their character rather than their skin colour,
“We now live in a society where the left says people should only be judged by the color of skin. If you’re black, you must be underprivileged. If you’re white, you must have white privilege.”
Owens explains that Blexit is “not a call to leave the left and run to the right. It’s a call to people to think independently.” Other big names in this movement include Brandon Tatum, Larry Elder and Carol Swain, whose stories appear in the wildly popular Uncle Tom documentary.
While elections can be tough to predict, 2020 may yet be the year of the American Black conservative.
Whatever happens between now and November, don’t pay too much attention to the polls: they’ve been wrong before.