Just one day before the highly anticipated presidential election, the USC Dornsife Daybreak Poll 2020 showed Democratic candidate Joe Biden with a double digit lead over President Trump.
The national poll showed Biden with a 10 point (53% - 43%) lead. The poll by the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research in partnership with the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future was conducted Oct. 20-31 among more than 3,500 eligible voters, the vast majority of whom indicated they had already voted or were likely to vote.
In wake of the polls that currently reflect a substantial lead for Biden, many are recalling how polls in 2016 wrongly predicted a successful bid for the presidency for then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Jill Darling, director of the Center for Economic and Social Research survey, said “we actually weren’t accurate. In this poll, we measure the national popular vote, and Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote in 2016. So, we ended up having a sort of a preponderance of rural voters in our sample, something that we didn’t detect until we did our analysis afterwards.”
Darling also provided factors that could potentially mislead voters leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
“There’s definitely a possibility that there’s people who feel uncomfortable talking about [voting], you know, depending on the kind of circles that they’re in,” Darling said.
Other experts suggest the poll may be more trustworthy for this election, citing the design and methodology of the poll to more accurately communicate where voters stand.
“I don’t buy into the so-called shy Trump supporter because what it suggests, of course, is that a voter has a strong opinion in favor of the president, but doesn’t want to tell a pollster that,” Dan Schnur, a USC Annenberg professor and the founder of the USC/LA Times statewide political poll, said.
Schnur calls this social desirability, an idea that suggests someone will support the candidate that they feel the pollster wants them to.
However, Schnur also stated that moving the poll to an online format, as opposed to carrying out traditional methods of calling voters, could debunk this idea. He explained that voters may be more likely to voice support for Trump online rather than on the phone.
“Because online polling is not showing much different results for Trump and Biden than old fashioned phone polling, that suggests that the so-called ‘shy Trump voter’ is probably not as much of an impactor on the overall race as maybe the case four years ago,” Schnur said.
Despite efforts by communication experts to modify 2020 polls to more accurately predict the presidential winner, many refuse to place unobstructed faith in the poll, recalling Trump’s victory four years ago.
Kenall Damon, a sophomore majoring in public policy, took the semester off to work full time as a field intern for the Maine Democratic Party. Damon explained that she typically stays away from polls as she says they fail to encapsulate the dynamic experience that voters have had with this presidential election.
“It’s very difficult to translate talking to one specific voter in your experience and project that onto an entire, for example, county or region or state,” Damon said.
“It’s so hard to reconcile all of those feelings and emotions and all of those hours and conversations with amazing voters, and amazing people, and building these connections and reconciling all of those disparate experiences with the numbers of a poll,” she continued.
Damon said that because the Electoral College ultimately decides the outcome of the election, she thinks national polls have little relevance.
Lilliana Wells, a junior at Williams College, is also taking a gap year to work as a field intern with the Maine Democratic Party. Despite her apprehension to use national polls as an indicator of the winner, she finds them to be a positive indication for the future of the nation.
“I am excited to see polls like the USC one, because I think of it as an indication of the extraordinary organizing in volunteering and the movement across the country. I think it really is a testament to how much Biden’s campaign and Democrats and Independents and people and Republicans, and, you know, the American people have come together,” Wells said.
“It shows how historic this moment is, regardless of what way it goes,” Damon said.