With 17 days left until the election, several states have started early voting, and most Americans are set on who is getting their vote. Polls have always been the gauge used to measure early predictions, but the polls were drastically wrong in the 2016 Presidential election. According to the poll aggregate website five thirty-eight, the polls in 2016 had Hillary Clinton leading 45.7% to Donald Trump’s 41.8% on the day of the election in 2016. In fact, with over 1,100 polls represented by five thirty-eight’s calculations, Trump did not best Clinton at any point before election day. The closest Trump came to beating Clinton in the polls came on July 30, 2016, when Trump trailed by only .2 percentage points. On August 8, the largest lead for Clinton was recorded, showing Trump losing by over eight percentage points. How did the polls get it so wrong, and is the same thing happening in 2020?
Yes, the same thing may be happening this year. We will not know for sure until November 3rd, but something strange is going on. Five thirty-eight’s aggregate of polls shows an even larger gap between incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden than Clinton had in 2016. The collected polling data shows President Trump’s best polling numbers came on April 12, 2020, when he was 3.4% behind Biden. The numbers today, October 15th, shows Trump losing by 10.5 points. If this is the case, why have Trump-themed rallies, parades, flotillas, and flag waves pulling in hundreds if not thousands of participants while very few Biden/Harris themed events are happening? Last week, a campaign stop in Phoenix, Arizona, where Biden/Harris were present, drew exactly zero people. Still, when President Trump was at Walter Reed Military Medical Center October 2nd – 5th for Coronavirus treatment and recovery, hundreds of well-wishers came to show support with some camping out until the Commander-in-Chief was released.
The Biden/Harris stop in Phoenix drew many news and social media attention when Nicole Garcia for Phoenix’s local Fox News affiliate Fox 10 Phoenix reported from outside the Heard Museum. The campaign stop was scheduled for Biden and Harris to speak to Native American tribal leaders. Ms. Garcia and her cameraman were the only people outside the venue. The camera pans down the street to show not one flag, sign, or body there to support the candidate.
When news got out about the crowd or absence thereof, Andrew Bates, Biden’s director of rapid response, told USA Today, “Joe Biden is working to earn every vote with a groundbreaking campaign that meets this moment. And he’s doing it in the way he would govern: by putting the well-being of the American families, and he’d fight for every day in the office first — as opposed to Donald Trump, who’s holding divisive, vain superspreader events at the expense of communities hungering to overcome the pandemic that he continues to make immeasurably worse than it needs to be.” The campaign said the event was not widely publicized because they tried to keep the crowd under fifty people.
“Coronavirus” has been the reason given by the Biden/Harris team for every small crowd they have pulled for their events. The campaign has repeatedly reported they discourage attendees and shroud events in secrecy to avoid gatherings due to the pandemic. Still, Trump supporters always seem to find a way to show up to express their support for the President. The public concern over the virus and the simple lack of campaign events scheduled for Biden and Harris may contribute to the lack of enthusiasm, but the difference is puzzling if you look at the polls.
The debut event for the Biden/Harris ticket was held on August 12 at Alexis Dupont High School Wilmington, Delaware, Biden’s hometown. News reports mentioned “dozens” of people in attendance, but no solid number was reported. A Biden/Harris event on September 5th bagged about 100 cars in a community organized “In Solidarity-Ridin’ with Biden” car parade in Harlingen, Texas. In Grand Rapids, Michigan October 2nd, Biden’s campaign did not allow supporters to attend to hear his speech due to virus concerns, and their supporters heeded the advice and did not show. A drive-in rally in Toledo, Ohio, on Oct. 12th, hosted 30 “socially-distanced” cars to hear Biden speak. Meanwhile, a group of 25 to 30 Trump supporters gathered across the street from the rally screaming “four more years” over the sounds of the Biden supporter’s car horns. At Southwest Focal Point Community Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on October 13, 60 people, including staff, were present to see Mr. Biden. These numbers are dismal and do not reflect the numbers in the polls.
In contrast, President Trump has been crisscrossing the nation with a jammed packed schedule. His favorite setting is airport runways where Air Force One can fly in, pull up, and he can walk directly to the podium. This also allows for outside settings, which are said to be better for stopping coronavirus spread. He focuses on battleground states in a campaigning blitz, pulling crowds of literally tens of thousands in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and more. The attendees wait in very long lines at these events to get a glimpse of the 45th President. The people who do not get into the venue stand outside the support of their leader and listen from a distance.
Citizen organizations have been organizing car parades, rallies, flotillas, flag waves, and other gatherings with attendance numbers ranging from dozens to thousands all summer. President Trump’s June 11th tweet showed a video with snippets from flotillas or “Trumptillas” that have been taking place across the nation with hundreds participating. In Lake Murray, South Carolina, organizers broke a Guinness World Record for the largest flotilla in history over the July 4th weekend with 3,417 boats carrying over 30,000 people stretching 16 miles. All were there to support Trump. In the Cincinnati, Ohio area on September 12th, a car parade took place with the final number of participants unknown due to the size. The caravan, which had over 7,000 RSVP and 12,000 “interested” on Facebook, snarled traffic as it proceeded for hours around the I-275 loop around Cincinnati. October 10th in Miami, Florida, a Latinos for Trump group organized a car parade, deemed “Anticommunist Caravan,” that saw an estimated 20,000 – 30,000 people participating. Those are big numbers. Several cities in California’s heavily democratic state have seen many Trump car parades and flotillas throughout September and October, with hundreds and thousands showing up.
Is the political polling system in America broken? With the stark difference in enthusiasm shown from the two sides, it would certainly seem as if the polls are either wrong or not getting voters’ true choices when they ask who they are planning to vote for. The truth will be out November 3rd, but if the numbers on the ground are any indicator, we are in for another four years of a Trump presidency. We will have to wait and see.