Confession time: you might have guessed that I’m a bit of a news junkie and a betting man. And 2020 election predictions are at the top of that addictive combination right now.
But it’s not simply an obsession with getting the news or gambling, it’s a fascination with how and why people forecast events and make big decisions in complex situations. And how people, as individuals and groups, react to the fallout from it all.
Then putting your money where your mouth is about what you think will happen next. And the verdict this time around?
The ever-reliable news media is faithfully telling us that Biden, like Hilary Clinton, has this thing in the bag. The Economist, The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, Business Insider, Fox News, the Stock Market (apparently), and my favorite, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com.
They’ve all called it yet again.
And we’re told that a certain event, in this case, Trump’s win, it’s simply the most impossible of impossible outcomes.
Where should you place your money this time around?
The Damned Errata of the Empire’s Data
Let’s talk polling data.
After the 2016 upset, whether you put your faith in polls and how much seems to have become a matter of which way you lean politically.
Of course, there’s also “Big Data,” which professionals treat as one of their favorite buzzwords. You’d think that all you need to do is put it on a chart and the corporate world will buy whatever you’re selling.
Enter Nate “it’s unpossible” Silver and his intrepid band of merry meteorologists of the political sort.
If you’re not familiar with Mr. Silver’s popular, data journalism website, it’s a staple for political (and sports) junkies. Over the years, it’s covered a wide range of issues but most notably election predictions. You can check out their 2020 election predictions at their official page.
So, why is Mr. Silver worth talking about?
It’s not his hand-waving for why he failed to correctly predict the “tricky” 2016 election, although that’s somewhat amusing. And it is laudable that he gave Trump a 28.6% chance of winning then, one of the highest during that time. Plus, there’s also the site’s track record for prediction and talking about it in a detailed way, which is important. My personal favorite is that Mr. Silver appears to put his money where his mouth is.
But no, that’s not it.
Like many of the professional class, the site’s writers have a certain daftness about them about what matters and what doesn’t to regular people. You might even wonder if Mr. Silver pedantically argues with his bookie about his losing bets. Or if his staff only attends fancy, elite NYT parties where they talk about the New York Times Best Seller list or whatever other boring topics those people pretend anyone cares about.
For that reason alone, you might not be surprised to learn that I’m rolling my eyes again at their 2020 election predictions. Biden’s the shoe-in, of course! Who couldn’t see that fact!
But you and I already know, long before the term “fake news” came around, that journalism was already all but worthless. These people simply cannot see the forest for the trees most of the time.
And like 2016, when the professional class rallies around a cause almost in near lockstep… I become very skeptical. There’s a good chance the opposite outcome is about to occur.
But really, what do we know about the accuracy of polling?
Despite Mr. Silver’s reputation and optimism, they’ve “always been inaccurate and continue to be so.” That’s right, polling has never been very accurate to begin with either.
Surprised? I’m not.
Election polling can be useful but is never the entire story. Combine its inaccuracies with the news media’s inaccuracies (and daftness) and well, you can guess why they’re so good at getting it so wrong.
The New Campaign Marketing: Chaos, Confusion, Corruption
Turning from the polling data, what about the political environment we find ourselves in? How might that affect the voting climate and factor into our 2020 election predictions?
Let’s take a look at few most widely reported factors briefly and one-by-one.
- Panic in the pandemic
By now, you might have come to suspect that the pandemic was just a new form of electioneering. After all, there now appears to be a very, very sharp divide between liberals and conservatives on whether the very worst plague outbreak ever is just around the corner. And this despite overwhelming data, even from official sources, suggesting there was never a serious threat in the first place.
From the previous link, conservatives appear to no longer fear going about their daily lives. On the other hand, liberals are much less likely to do so. And although there are mail-in bailouts, there’s a good chance this situation will suppress Democratic turnout.
- Sanctioned political violence
That’s simply a fact and not a good look for the Democrats.
But with regular people scared, I would guess that we’d see some muted effects on sharing Trump content or putting up Trump signs. Some Republicans may even fear going to the poll, though it’s difficult to say how many or to what degree. This could suppress Republican voting.
Probably what should scare us all the most regarding this topic, however, is that both sides are increasingly viewing violence as a legitimate form of civic engagement.
- It’s the economy, stupid
While Trump likes to talk about the “best economy ever” and “V-shaped” recoveries, the truth is that the country is standing at the edge of an economic cliff. But more telling, is that some 60% of people view the economy as in poor shape as we go into the 2020 election. Food lines in NYC, food lines in Texas, and more food lines in South Carolina.
That plays very poorly for Trump’s chances, no matter who you want to place the blame on.
- Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia
Whether we’re talking about Hunter Biden’s laptop or super-secret disinformation ads, if you’re political tuned in, you might think these are big issues. But regular people simply don’t have the time or inclination to untangle… whatever scandal, let alone ones involving the back-and-forth that most of these have to them.
In fact, I’m so sick of hearing about them, I’m only going to give them this brief mention. People have probably largely tuned out in the same way when it comes to these.
- Fraud and mail-in bailouts
When people say that an institutional process is fraud-free… I have to raise my eyebrows in disbelief. What world are they living? It’s not if there’s fraud and corruption taking place; it’s how bad is it and how long has it been going on?
My on-the-ground professional view is that fraud and corruption are pervasive in human cultures, and the United States is no exception. Dig into government history, and you’ll find no end to it. In fact, the current politicians have proven their willingness, wholesale, to change the rules to keep the game going regardless of their leadership failures.
So, you’ll forgive me if I laugh when people insist there isn’t voter fraud. However, determining how this factor will play out would require an article unto itself. Bottom-line? I expect shenanigans with the popular vote in an attempt to paint Trump as “literally Hitler,” but it’s not clear how it will affect voting beforehand.
Your 2020 Election Prediction
Moving on to the main show, let’s put our money on the table. Who’s going to win the 2020 presidential election?
One single factor sways my prediction: rally turnout and enthusiasm, online and offline.
Now, media sources have hilariously tried to explain why Biden’s offline turnout is so low. Yet, they completely and totally miss the point, unsurprisingly. Of course, it’s trivially easy for either side to frame their opponent’s turnout as poor, but they upfront admit he’s not having big rallies.
Then when we consider some of the initial online viewership and optics of his events…
Of course, when it comes to recent viewership, you may have seen the news proclaiming Biden’s higher ratings for this week’s dualling town halls. Except, when you dig in to the numbers, you find that Trump’s event scored significantly higher viewership across all platforms.
And none of this changes the fact that Trump’s current rallies, up to five a day, draw in hard-hitting numbers and over-the-top enthusiasm. (From the previous link, you can see how media still can’t understand the relationship between the professional class and everyday people.)
And my final business and marketing opinion?
Trump can be a crude bully who seems to talk a big game. But that’s part of his appeal to people who vote for him. Compare Democrats, who look like little more than a Boomer-ish corporate shell of a party more interested in 1960s protests gone wild than as a serious contender for political races.
And for that reason and despite that the news is pre-crowning Biden or eventual grandstanding about stolen elections…
I’m betting that, even though they’ve yet again declared it a total unpossibility, Donald Trump will secure a second term.