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28 Nov 2020 2:35
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  •   Home > News > International

    Is Donald Trump going to win the US election? Here's how our key indicators have moved, and what they're saying in the final stretch

    There are just six days until the 2020 US presidential election. For five months, we've been following key indicators of the President's re-election prospects. Let's check in one final time.

    For five months, we've been examining Donald Trump's re-election prospects through a series of key indicators — the same that experts use to predict election outcomes.

    In that time, we've also seen more than a few surprises that can't be quantified or easily factored into an equation:

    • In July, we saw continued unrest over police brutality.
    • In August, Democratic Nominee Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate.
    • In September, both parties held their nominating conventions in an historic, virtual format.

    And just in this last month alone, a rocky presidential debate frustrated millions of Americans, Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and a new Justice tipped the balance of the US Supreme Court towards a conservative majority.

    The indicators can tell us how Americans may vote, but for this final instalment, we're also looking at one measure that should hold a little extra weight: How they've changed in light of all that's going on.

    National polling averages

    The polls. Something plenty of US politics watchers have been quick to doubt since 2016, but have been unable to tear themselves away from in 2020.

    As a reminder, our experts told us that polling averages and the President's approval rating were some of the best ways to get a picture of the state of the race.

    So, with six days left until election day, here's where both stand.

    As of publication, the FiveThirtyEight average has former vice-president Biden up 8.5 points over Trump (51.6 — 43.2). RealClearPolitics has Biden up 7.1 points over Trump (50.6 — 43.5).

    We also check in on the President's approval rating as one measure of his chances of being re-elected.

    As of publication, the FiveThirtyEight average says 53.7 per cent of Americans disapprove of Trump's performance, while 43.3 per cent approve. RealClearPolitics has 53.0 per cent disapproving, 44.0 per cent approving.

    Keep in mind: Even this close to the election, polls only remain a snapshot of a moment in time. And some of these polls were taken up to a week ago. This race could still move between now and election day.

    How Trump's chances have changed: They've barely moved at all. Our very first edition five months ago had Biden up 9.1/9.5 points over Trump. There was a small amount of tightening between August and September, but in the end we're right back to where we started.

    In the polling stakes, this has been a remarkably steady year (despite the chaos that is 2020). So steady that we might look back after November 3 and wonder why we didn't see what was there all along.

    The bottom line: Donald Trump has consistently trailed Joe Biden by high single digits in polling averages. His approval rating has consistently been underwater. On the polling alone, Trump needs a miracle to win re-election. But he needed one in 2016, too.

    The US economy

    Donald Trump started 2020 with a US economy so good pundits believed it was the single issue that would earn him a second term in the White House.

    But the coronavirus pandemic led to worldwide economic upheaval largely out of the hands of the President.

    In a good sign for Trump, the US economy is largely continuing its march to recovery.

    The September unemployment figure is 7.9 per cent, a fall of 0.5 per per cent in the past month. A total of 12.6 million Americans are unemployed, a fall of 1 million from the previous month.

    The latest GDP figures are due to be released tomorrow. It's expected to show record-breaking growth of over 30 per cent, a strong rebound from the worst falls since records began in the last quarter.

    We haven't got fresh figures on personal income. Last month, it decreased by 2.7 per cent.

    Keep in mind: Congress has still not passed a new coronavirus stimulus bill. It now looks all but impossible that a new stimulus will pass before the election. It means Americans won't get more economic relief like unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, housing assistance and childcare. The bill also includes relief for state and local governments and for industries like airlines and restaurants.

    How Trump's chances moved: The economy has rebounded since it was hit with a sledgehammer by the pandemic.

    But the trouble for Trump is that it's looking like a K-shaped recovery so far — where some sectors are rebounding strongly (technology, retail) while others (travel, hospitality) have continued to suffer.

    The bottom line: Out of all our indicators, the economy has been the best one for Trump. It's one area where Americans still view his work favourably.

    But delays in passing more coronavirus stimulus, one the President himself personally took responsibility for, make for a complicated picture in the minds of Americans. And one thing that isn't complicated at the moment is …

    The coronavirus pandemic

    In our first edition of this story we wrote that despite the President's wishes, the coronavirus pandemic wasn't going to disappear by the election.

    What we didn't know was that the US would be entering its worst phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic when November arrived.

    The US shattered the record for the most number of cases confirmed in a single day last week when it confirmed 77,640 cases. Then it shattered the record again the very next day with 79,303 new cases.

    And yet, officials are warning the worst is yet to come.

    At the time of publication, there were more than 8.79 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US, an increase of 1.3 million since the last edition.

    The US has seen more than 226,800 deaths. With the sharp increase in cases, the number of deaths is rising again.

    Keep in mind: As far back as August, Trump began making promises about a vaccine arriving before the election. Experts warned him then that it was dangerous. At the debate last week, "a vaccine is coming" was still a key part of his defence of his handling of the pandemic. But even Trump had to acknowledge he couldn't "guarantee" a vaccine would arrive "soon".

    How the pandemic has moved: The story of the pandemic in America from July to October is a grim one. More than 225,000 Americans have died. Studies show the proportion of Americans dying from coronavirus is the highest in the developed world.

    A deadly second peak in July gave way to a brief month of respite in August. But since September, cases have been spiking again and unlike the first two waves, experts are warning that this one is spreading like "wildfire" across the US.

    The bottom line: In February, Trump publicly said the coronavirus would "go away with the heat".

    Eight months later, at the moment millions of Americans will head to the ballot box, the pandemic is entering its worst phase yet.

    What do our voters say?

    This is the last time we'll check in with our three American voters to see how they're feeling about the campaign. As always, we ask them: "Will Donald Trump be re-elected in November?". But for this edition we asked an extra question to help us understand how much of this campaign really matters. We also asked: "What one moment will you remember from this campaign the most?".

    First up is Republican Mike McMullen:

    "Unequivocally, 100 per cent. Not only is he going to win Pennsylvania, but he's going to win in a landslide nationwide. Unequivocally, without a doubt. The road to the White House is through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

    Mike's biggest takeaway from this campaign is the "focus" the President has shown:

    "Donald Trump has been focused during the entire process. The will, his tenacity and energy every single day. Getting the job done, not hiding in a basement like Hiden Biden is and busting his ass every single day. He doesn't have to be doing this. I mean, the guy's in his mid 70s. He's doing it for God and country and making the US one of the best, greatest economies ever in the last several decades. [He's had] tenacity and energy and synergy of staying focused while seeking re-election."

    Next is Democrat Mark Kellman:

    "The polls may favour Biden, but everyone has post-traumatic stress disorder from 2016 when all polls showed Hillary Clinton would win. Elections are anything but predictable these days, and I am just happy that we are finally just a week away and all of the hypotheticals will be answered. I have no idea who will win. My fingers are crossed."

    Two moments tie for his biggest takeaways:

    "Either Trump contacting coronavirus and doubling down that it is not a threat (with over 225,000 Americans dead from it) or confirming a Supreme Court justice eight days before the election when 63 million people already voted."

    And finally we have Sarah Becker, a Republican who says she will not vote for Trump at the 2020 election:

    "I continue to believe Trump will not win. However, it is close, and I will be biting my nails for the next week. Even then, it's a big question whether he (and his base) would participate willingly in a transfer of power — a horrifying thought. It's my deepest hope we will have a clear defeat next week and a smooth transition."

    Sarah's takeaway won't be from the President or his opponent:

    "I am hoping what I will lock into my memory the most is not an action of his, but rather all the good Americans who have spoken out against him so loudly, especially those in his own administration who were brave enough to speak out and blow the whistle. I will do my best to remember that instead of all of the despicable things our President has done and said."

    So, will Donald Trump win?

    On the surface, the polls, the economy and the state of America's coronavirus outbreak all point to a defeat for Donald Trump.

    But this is not a year when the surface is a solid reflection of all the unknown factors swirling beneath.

    If there's one thing we've learned watching politics in 2020, it's to expect the unexpected.

    If you want to make you get results and breaking news as election day news, 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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