Andres Oppenheimer: Pollster who predicted Trump’s win in 2016 says it could happen again


One of the few pollsters who accurately predicted Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 says that he may be reelected on Nov. 3.

Raghavan Mayur, director of the Investor Business Daily/TIPP poll, says that while Democratic candidate Joe Biden is slightly ahead in the race, Trump has much better chances of winning than what the average of mainstream polls show.

Mayur’s Oct. 15-19 IBD/TIPP national poll has Biden leading by just 3 percentage points, which is within the poll’s margin of error.

By comparison, a USC Dornsife poll on the same dates had Biden leading by 13 points. The average of all national polls by the FiveThirtyEight website has Biden leading by 10.6 percentage points, a bigger lead than that of any U.S. opposition candidate at this point in the race in many decades.

I talked with Mayur a few days ago, and asked him what he did differently from other pollsters in 2016, and what his forecast is for this year’s election. He told me that he focuses more than other pollsters on the level of voters’ enthusiasm for the candidates.

”One of the things that we were seeing in 2016 was a lot of enthusiasm for Trump,” Mayur told me. “And we figured that into our calculations, which helped us call the election correctly.”

When I asked him why voters’ enthusiasm is so important — after all, one person’s vote counts as one vote, regardless of that person’s enthusiasm — he said that “enthusiasm is very important because people who are enthusiastic will actually show up to vote.” Conversely, many people who tell pollsters they will vote for a candidate but are not enthusiastic about him may stay at home, he added.

Contrary to what most other pollsters say, Mayur says there is less enthusiasm for Biden than there was for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

As Trump campaign surrogates say when asked about the president’s relatively poor standing in the polls, Mayur said that, “Another thing that we are seeing in our data is that the enthusiasm for Trump is coming back, like in 2016.”

Mayur does not go as far as predicting a Trump victory, but comes close to that. “The race will be very close,” he said, and Trump “may” be reelected.

To be sure, Mayur is seen by many of his colleagues as a pro-Trump pollster. After the 2016 election, he co-authored an article in the Investors Business Daily saying that Trump’s victory “represented a victory of the American people over the establishment news media, as they repudiated its liberal bias and attempt at influencing the election.” That sounded pretty much like a Trump campaign talking point.

After talking with several leading national pollsters, I’m not that convinced Mayur will be right this time, as he was in 2016.

First, Biden’s 10.6% lead in the average of polls is much bigger than Hillary Clinton’s six-point lead at this time of the race in 2016. And, at the time of this writing, Biden’s numbers remain pretty steady.

Second, mainstream pollsters say that have corrected some of the mistakes they made in 2016, such as not including enough probable voters without college education in their polling samples. That voters’ bloc supported Trump in 2016, and is better represented in today’s polls.

Third, mainstream pollsters are doing more in-depth polling in swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania than they did in 2016.

While the average of polls correctly predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote in 2016, the polls failed to predict Trump’s victory in those three swing states. Those states allowed Trump to win in the Electoral College, which is what counts.

Fourth, there are many more people voting by mail or in early voting this year. That reduces the chances that last-minute events will dramatically change the election’s outcome, because more votes are already locked in.

Mayur may be right in that the race may tighten before Nov. 3. But, barring a major mistake in the days to come, it’s Biden’s race to lose.

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Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172; email: aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com.

Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172; email: aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com.

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