When President Trump talks about polls, he focuses a lot on investigators he thinks are right for him. The polls that show him behind Joseph R. Biden Jr. – virtually all national polls – are “fake news.”
The President’s blind vision has created something of an alternate universe, a universe not governed by poll averages or independent analysis, but by declarative statements that, at times, feel like they came out of nowhere.
This month, Mr. Trump proclaimed on Twitter that he “wins BIG in all the polls that matter.”
These polls seem to boil down to Rasmussen Reports, which still – and in isolation – has a rosier image for the president nationwide than other surveys, and the Trafalgar Group, which has achieved better numbers for Mr Trump in the Midwestern states.
His approach to polls, choose your own adventure, which has shown a weak understanding of data science, and his statements came as his advisers try to take on serious polls and data analytics to make sense of it. that the electorate will vote in 2020. like.
It’s a hallmark of Mr. Trump’s public comments since he first ran for president that he treats the polls as rigged against him if it is not favorable for him. Although his campaign has spent $ 10 million in the past two years on some of the most sophisticated data available, the president prefers to use what he sees on the news. And he treats voter support as a mystical rather than a mathematical proposition.
Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers believe there is a source of “timid” or “hidden” Trump voters – mostly white people with no college education in rural areas – who are not forthright with pollsters about their choice of president, or are not responsive to pollsters at all.
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This week, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, gave his own take on how polls work to Fox News, touting “big data modeling” on old-fashioned phone calls.
“I speak to all of my directors of state,” said Mr. Kushner, who has positioned himself as the Trump campaign leader, although he is not actually the campaign manager, adding: “I thinks phone surveys are an outdated method, especially in an age of cancellation culture. You have a lot of snake oil vendors that have been in the business for a long time and they do.
He concluded: “They were all completely wrong last time around and they haven’t made any changes in the future.”
That’s not quite true: Although many state polls turned out to be grossly false in 2016, the national polls that predicted Hillary Clinton narrowly winning the most votes were close to the target, and many polling stations have made changes, weighting, for example, for educational background. .
Complaining that the polls are “biased” against Republicans has been a vocal pastime for Republican candidates for several election cycles, peaking in 2012, when Mitt Romney was the party’s presidential candidate.
Officials continue to claim in 2020 that the public poll is bogus because they are “biased” against Mr. Trump, overweighting Democrats in the samples.
Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, said incumbents typically found themselves “on election day with a voting share less than a point or two off their October job approval score.” In Mr. Trump’s case, his average approval score is 45%, according to Real Clear Politics.
The Trump campaign has spent years and probably millions of dollars engaging white voters without a college education who are eligible to vote but did not vote in 2016. There are nearly 1.5 million potential voters. in Michigan and over two million in Pennsylvania.
But at the end of the day, much of the “hidden” vote remains hidden – which is why the turnout is never 100%, Mr. Blizzard said.
Beyond polls, fundamentals that shape the electorate, like the economy and the record coronavirus surge, are “increasingly worrying” for Mr. Trump, said Liam Donovan, a seasoned Republican strategist.
“Ironically, the polls are perhaps the best thing the Trump campaign has yet,” he said.
While Mr. Trump is making the poll a mainstay, his campaign and the Republican National Committee are relying on data to decide where to allocate resources. One of the darker issues is the modeling that voters will run for during a pandemic and economic downturn.
And the Trump campaign has made poll data one of its deepest secrets since an internal poll leak at the start of the campaign prompted a reshuffle of the polling team.
The campaign used a variety of analyzes, not all of which overlap. The traditional poll was run by Republican pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin, who were hired when Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager, was leading the effort; Mr Parscale’s deputy campaign manager, former White House political director Bill Stepien, took over in July.
Former Cambridge Analytica manager Matt Oczkowski, nicknamed “Oz”, was also analyzed. Mr Kushner has delayed Mr Oczkowski’s analyzes, which run counter to public polls and suggest the votes will break Mr Trump’s path in the final days of the campaign, people who have heard the comments have said .
The number of polls by Mr. Fabrizio and Mr. McLaughlin has declined in recent weeks. Instead, Mr. Stepien quietly hired another pollster, Bill Skelly, who helped create the intricate modeling of the Republican National Committee for Voter Turnout Scenarios and who performs data analysis for the camp, and Brock McCleary. , who has worked with clients that include Congressional Republicans. Mr. McCleary’s estimates of Mr. Trump’s position in the poll are less “negative” than those of some other Trump pollsters, according to people familiar with the campaign.
Mr Parscale, who had worked fairly closely with the RNC, had envisioned robust and continuous TV ad spending throughout the year. Since he stepped down, the Trump campaign, which has much less money than advisers once anticipated, has cut spending on TV. The exact data that motivated the distribution of the campaign’s remaining ad spend is unclear.
Two Republicans said the campaign had not examined RNC participation models from the time Mr. Parscale was demoted until a meeting a few weeks ago called by Mr. Kushner to have the campaign and the RNC work together more effectively. Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, denied that this was the case, and an RNC spokesperson said the organizations were working effectively together.
The RNC’s participation patterns vary from state to state, but in some scenarios it shows Mr. Trump is performing worse than in the campaign’s own polls, two people briefed on the numbers said.
Nonetheless, this meeting resulted in a final allocation of $ 26 million to RNC-run television.
It remains to be seen whether the weeks without a united front between the campaign and the party committee will have been a major factor in the outcome of the race. It is also unclear whether the “hidden” voters the Trump team has sought count for more than a few percentage points.