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7 Aug 2020 3:41
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  •   Home > News > International

    Is Donald Trump going to win? The coronavirus pandemic, the economy and polling will help us find out

    You've been thinking about it. Bookmakers have had markets running since 2016 about it. Governments around the world are trying to figure it out too. Let's help you get an answer.


    You've been thinking about it. We know because you've not stopped asking us about it.

    Bookmakers have had markets running since 2016 about it. Governments around the world are trying to figure it out too.

    As November 3 approaches, the question is going to become ever more present.

    Is Donald Trump going to win again?

    If you want a simple answer, we won't keep you waiting any longer — we don't know yet.

    But that doesn't mean the answer is totally out of reach. That's why we're here, to help you figure out the answer to the question we're all asking.

    Here's how we'll help you figure out if Trump will win

    This is the first in a set of monthly check-ins we'll publish as we approach the 2020 US election.

    If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it's that news events can upend our expectations and assumptions about the presidential race overnight.

    So we'll tackle this one month at a time, assessing Trump's chances of being re-elected against some key metrics that the experts are watching closely to figure out that answer themselves.

    There are three indicators we'll be watching every month —the strength of the US economy, national polling averages and the coronavirus pandemic.

    They're based on our conversations with three experts who have decades of experience predicting the outcomes of US presidential elections — Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the UVA Center for Politics, Charles Stewart, founding director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab and Allan Lichtman, who co-developed the Keys to the White House system of predicting American presidential elections.

    These three indicators aren't the only things that will determine if Trump will win in 2020 (Professor Lichtman uses 13 keys in his own modelling), but they're some of the most important that'll help you get a handle on where the race is at a glance.

    In this first edition, we'll explain why each is important, and where they stand as of July 2020.

    Starting with…

    National Polling Averages

    Despite what you might have heard about 2016, polling remains a useful tool to get a picture of the state of the race.

    Kondik recommends looking at polling averages — a figure that takes into account a huge range of opinion polls and then provides a single figure.

    "I think it's easy to find polls that are favourable to one candidate or the other. But you might be deluding yourself if you're just cherrypicking," Kondik says.

    "I think it's best to sort of look at these numbers in aggregate and not overreact to polls that may be what we call outliers. Maybe a little too favourable to one candidate or the other."

    We'll be looking at two widely respected, non-partisan polling averages to give you a picture of what's happening — one from FiveThirtyEight and another from RealClearPolitics.

    As of publication, the FiveThirtyEight average has former vice-president Joe Biden up 9.1 points over Trump (50.7 — 41.6). RealClearPolitics has Biden up 9.5 points over Trump (50.6 — 41.1).

    Stewart recommends looking at Trump's job approval as well, citing it as one of two majors factors he considers when determining the outcome of the election.

    "I think that one of the reasons why the presidential popularity is so powerful is that it's like your socks in the dryer. They just pick up everything," he said.

    We'll use those same two averages of Trump's approval rating.

    As of publication, the FiveThirtyEight average says 56 per cent of Americans disapprove of Trump's performance, while 40.6 per cent approve. RealClearPolitics has 56.1 per cent disapproving, 41.5 per cent approving.

    Keep in mind: Head to head polls are only a snapshot of this moment. They aren't predictions. What they say on July 9 isn't necessarily what they'll say on November 3.

    The bottom line: Right now, Biden holds a bigger lead in polling averages over Trump than Hillary Clinton ever had. And more Americans disapprove of his job as president than approve. But there is still plenty of time for Trump to come back.

    Up next …

    The US economy

    It was Bill Clinton's campaign manager James Carville who coined a famous phrase in 1992 that's been uttered at every US election since:

    "It's the economy, stupid."

    That wisdom hasn't changed. All three of our experts rank the economy as a key factor in deciding the outcome of the 2020 election.

    It's why, until March at least, many pundits believed 2020 was going to be a competitive election despite other indicators that signalled bad news for Trump.

    Our experts flagged the unemployment rate, GDP growth and personal income as figures that help us understand the health of the American economy.

    "My advice is to keep your eye on the big picture. This election's going to be decided by the economy and by what's going on in the streets of America," Lichtman said.

    The June unemployment rate is 11.1 per cent, a fall of 2.2 per cent. A total of 17.8 million Americans are unemployed, a fall of 3.2 million from the previous month.

    In the first quarter of 2020, real GDP by decreased 5 per cent in the US. Personal income decreased by 4.2 per cent.

    Keep in mind: Stewart says America isn't currently on-track for a V-shaped economic recovery in 2020. International Monetary Fund forecasts are similarly pessimistic.

    The bottom line: Like most of the world, the roaring American economy was smashed apart at the start of 2020. New figures due at the end of July will help clarify whether the economy may recover slightly, or if a deeper malaise will settle in for the rest of 2020.

    Our final indicator has plenty of sway over the US economy and what the polling will say on November 3 …

    The coronavirus pandemic

    Coronavirus turned everything in our lives upside down, and the US election didn't escape it.

    It's possible that the pandemic — from the president's handling of it, to the way it brought economies across the globe to a halt and to how Americans' lives have been changed — will have more say on the outcome of this election than any other factor.

    It'll be one of the defining challenges for whoever controls the White House in 2021 and beyond.

    Kondik says that it'll even have an impact on the mechanics of polling day.

    "Are there things that happen because the virus makes it less likely for people to want to come out? Are lines longer because you have to clean the machines or more? If there is more absentee voting available to voters, do voters actually take advantage of that?" he said.

    Lichtman agrees.

    "The pandemic itself may well turn two other keys. So while the pandemic itself isn't a key, through the trigger effect, it might figure in a very major way in the final prediction," he said.

    At the time of publication, there were over 3 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US. On July 7 (local time), the US reported a new daily record of 60,021 confirmed cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

    The US has seen more than 130,000 deaths, but the death rate has been steadily declining since a peak in April.

    Keep in mind: Despite Trump's predictions, the coronavirus pandemic isn't likely to fade away by the election. Stewart likens it to turning a battleship — you can only move it very slowly.

    The bottom line: The pandemic in the US has taken a sharp turn for the worse in recent weeks with record numbers of new cases and several states bringing back harsh stay-at-home restrictions in an attempt to control the virus. America's leading infections expert Anthony Fauci warned the US could soon have 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day.

    But that's not all we're looking at

    For each edition, we're talking to three American voters. We're asking them the same question you're thinking— "Will Donald Trump win?".

    We're not holding these folk to their answers. We expect that they might change as the race itself does too.

    But we want them to tell us how they think the election will go based on the news they're reading, the conversations they're having with friends, and the feeling they get as someone planning to cast a ballot in 2020.

    The first of these is Republican voter Mike McMullen. Here's Mike:

    "Absolutely, 100 per cent [Trump will win].

    "I believe in President Trump. He has taken on a very tough agenda. We live in very tough times with the coronavirus going on. But prior to this, we had the greatest economy this country has ever known. At the end of the day people are going to realise that it is about jobs, it is about the economy. I think people will look at Joe Biden and President Trump and who can lead us out of this pandemic. It's not going to be easy but at the end of the day people are going to vote on the economy and I firmly believe Donald Trump will be re-elected."

    The next is Sarah Becker, who has been a Republican all her life but won't support Trump in November:

    "My gut inclination (and that of most other political professionals I am close with) is that Trump will not win at this point.

    "I pray it's more than wishful thinking. Poll numbers are ugly — and though they were wrong in 2016 — now there is just a gut feeling that swing voters are eroding. Trump holds all the power now, but forgets that he squeaked by narrowly in our swing states here (Pennsylvania). Many voters who weren't thrilled about him but didn't like Hillary and thought they could give him a try in 2016. Many of them are reaching their breaking points with tolerating his antics. If just a few percentage points worth of these voters rescind their support of him, he's done."

    Our final voter is Democrat Mark Kellman, who supported Elizabeth Warren in the primaries, but is committed to voting for Biden:

    "I'm cautiously optimistic Trump will lose the election in November.

    "The way he's sowed a deep, painful divide with race relations — not to mention his inept leadership during the pandemic and the resulting, avoidable economic catastrophe — will lead to his defeat. While the polls right now seem promising for Biden, it's eerily similar to how Hillary Clinton was polling in 2016. We all know how that turned out. Still, it feels like Americans are smarter after four years. They're starting to see how Trump instils fear and hatred into every action he takes. The vast majority of us are hoping for a brighter 2021. We just need to show up to the polls."

    So, will Donald Trump win?

    Hopefully, you've got enough of an understanding to reach an answer of your own.

    We had a discussion with some US Politics fans right here. If you want to be notified when we publish our next edition, plus get lots of inside knowledge about the campaign trail from our Washington DC bureau, you can sign up for alerts from ABC News on Messenger by tapping here.

    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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