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An array of national polls across the USA prior to the election had the Democrat nominee Joe Biden ahead in all but a small handful of swing states. Betting houses had Mr Biden as a firm favourite to take the presidency with relative ease – so why, three days later, are we still counting the votes? And how did the polls get it so wrong again?
On Election Day, a seven-day rolling average of polls collected by Real Clear Politics indicated Mr Biden was leading by 51 percent compared to Donald Trump’s 44 percent, which is a strong lead for the blue candidate.
For months, polls have swayed but largely stayed in the Democrat’s favour, with suggestions of him having a clear advantage going as far back as June, before he was even formally nominated.
What’s more, according to FiveThirtyEight, his lead was the largest of any candidate since Bill Clinton in the 1996 election.
Throughout election night, it became clear the polls were significantly skewed when Mr Trump took Florida, long considered the key state for any candidate wanting victory.
Florida’s 29 Electoral College seats are usually an indicator of how the rest of the nation will play out, with a winning candidate not losing the sunshine state since 1964.
Results in Florida are generally always extremely close, and results are usually expected just before midnight – so it gives a good indicator of how the election is going to go.
Prior to the night in question, Florida was showing a three-point lead for Mr Biden according to Real Clear Politics.
But this has not been borne out by the still pending results of this election, with a number of key states that were thought to indicate less marginal numbers still counting votes.
How did the polls get it so wrong?
A number of reasons have caused the polls to be considerably skewed this year.
Pollsters have clearly underplayed the value of the Hispanic vote, which has made a somewhat surprising shift to the right despite Mr Trump’s long-drawn-out war on Mexico and immigrants entering America.
States like Florida have a significant Hispanic population, and early research shows they came out for the Republicans instead of the Democrats.
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Another factor is the surge of mail-in voters due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged America far worse than any other country in the world.
Telephone polling is much more difficult in the modern world as people are more apprehensive to answer calls from unknown numbers – whereas back in the days where landlines were in every home, picking up the phone whenever it rang was much more likely.
With a lack of voters showing up at polling stations, pollsters have found it harder to target all demographics of voter, making an accurate representation more difficult to gage.
There is also a margin of error when it comes to predicting something as huge as a general election.
States with a narrow margin come within the boundaries of error, making the polls somewhat ineffective.
This is not the first time we have seen such a poorly inaccurate prediction for who will take the White House.
A considerable victory was predicted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 before she dramatically lost to Mr Trump.
Despite winning the popular vote, Ms Clinton failed to secure the White House after losing a number of key states, including Wisconsin and Michigan, in her doomed campaign.
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