To escape drowning in a swamp of American presidential election polls, I will choose a guide to try to negotiate my way through them, and for better or worse will plump for Nate Silver – who got the last two contests more or less right, though he admits to screwing up on Donald Trump. (He didn’t see the latter’s success in the Republican primaries coming, but then again nor did almost anyone else.)
The sum of his view is that the race was tightening before the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails was announced, largely because Trump has been picking up support from undecided voters and those who had previously plumped for other candidates (such as Gary Johnson).
He now believes that “Trump remains an underdog, but no longer really a longshot”, and his model registers the Republican candidate’s chance of winning at its highest since early October. To the view that what matters most is not how votes are distributed overall but how they are cast in key states, he argues that the evidence available suggests there’s no reason to believe these are behaving differently from other states.
“If the polls are about right overall – even if they’re off in some individual states – Clinton will win. We agree with that, and that’s why Clinton’s a favorite in our model overall,” he writes. You may of course respond, in the words of our proprietor, by saying that a poll is a snapshot, not a forecast.
This is true, say, even three days off an election but if a survey is wide of the result and takes place on the day itself matters are obviously different. If the polls taken on the day of the 2015 general election (or the day before) had been in line with the result there would have been no inquiry into the polls’ performance – or not so sweeping a review, at any rate.
If this was an American site we might take a different view of the election to the one we hold – namely, that it will have repercussions well outside the United States, that Trump’s take on Russia and NATO risks the security of eastern Europe, and that Clinton is the lesser of two evils.