The polls are eye-popping. Is Trump toast?
So looks like Trump is on the way out.
You know, this is 2020, so anything is possible, but Biden has opened up a huge lead in the polls.
And of course, the answer to that is that the polls were wrong last time and they could be wrong again.
And that’s true. They could be wrong. But they would have to be epicly wrong for Trump to win this time.
You can actually look at the data on this:
So Trump is currently 10 points behind in the polls. That says that for Trump to win, the polls would have to underestimating the actual results by at least that much.
But the only time that the polls got it that degree of wrong was all the way back in 1948, and even then, they weren’t that wrong. In the modern era it’s a few points at most. In 2016, versus Hilary Clinton, it was just 1.1 points.
So for Trump to win, the polls would have to be the wrongest they’ve ever been, in a huge way.
You’d have to think that’s a low-probability outcome.
But you know, Trump is Trump, and this is 2020, so I’ll believe it when I see it.
But whichever way it goes, I think Trump’s first term will mark a turning point in politics, not just in America, but across the world.
But let’s not give Trump the credit for that. I think Trump just saw where the wave was heading and got in front of it.
And the wave’s name is polarisation.
Take a look at this chart. This tracks how many Americans think that it really matters who is President.
So back in 2000 it was pretty evenly split. 50% of Americans thought it mattered who was President, the other half thought that it didn’t matter. That’s either because they just didn’t care and thought it was irrelevant, or they thought both parties were pretty much the same anyway.
That is, they were either disengaged or cynical.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the numbers are totally different. Now, 83% think that it really matters, while only 16% don’t.
That’s another way of saying that the number of disengaged and cynical voters has collapsed 70%!
On the face of it, you’d think that’s a good thing. The more engaged in politics the citizenry is, the better outcomes you get.
But it is likely that this is largely driven by social-media driven thought-bubble polarisation.
People think it matters who is President because their news feed tells them that the other side wants to eat babies and sell war-veterans to the Russians.
This dynamic was in play before Trump (you can see that in the chart), but I think Trump was the first person to use it consciously.
He knew that there was just no way to talk to the other side – there’s no penetrating the though bubble – so he gave up pretending to be a “President for all Americans”, and focused instead on energising his base.
And it worked… for a while.
But has he lost the political centre?
This will be a very interesting election to watch. Campaign managers from every continent will be watching how it plays out.
And the key question is this, in the age of social media thought bubbles, just how far can you pull from the political centre?