As I am sure you have noticed, President Donald Trump does not seem to be doing all that well in the polls of late. Not that he’s down by much in any one poll, he’s down nonetheless. And even being remotely so is cause for celebration in the Democrat camp.
However, there is one pollster that consistently shows a different story.
Enter the Democracy Institute.
If you’ve never heard of it before, don’t worry. Most people haven’t, as their results have not been widely publicized on any mainstream media networks. Neither are they included in the two most significant polling average indices, FiveThirtyEight or RealClearPolitics.
The reason for this is that they have been deemed by most to be an outlier.
And why? Well, because, of course, they have put Trump above Biden, even if not by much, in just about every poll, both nationally and in major battleground states.
But outlier or not, it wouldn’t be wise to simply ignore the polls or their results. After all, this pollster was one of the only ones to accurately predict two of the largest political events in recent years. According to Jim Rossi of Forbes, “The Democracy Institute is a relative newcomer to political polling – but it correctly forecast Brexit and Trump’s historic 2016 upset.”
Not exactly small potatoes, huh?
But then why are their polls so much different than the rest of the industry?
Well, as polling director for the Democracy Institute, Patrick Basham explains, “there is a misreading of the electorate, based on many assumptions that are not likely accurate.” He continued, saying, “Some polls may just be off, some are advancing an agenda, and there is an intertwining of the two.”
To those of us not so accustomed to polls and how they work, Basham explains, “Polling is supposed to be incredibly scientific, and the science is more advanced than ever. But polling has always been a synthesis of science and art – and polls are more art than science in 2020. One of the major challenges is figuring out how the electorate will look.”
Now, the electorate, or assumed turnout for the election, is much more than your basic demographics. You know, men vs. women, whether they have college degrees, how many minority voters there are, and so on. In addition, you must also consider how motivated those people will likely be to actually cast a vote – whether in person or by mail.
And this is where Basham thinks most of those in his industry have gotten it wrong.
“With most of the mainstream polls – New York Times, CNN, the university polls – a fundamental assumption is that the electorate – aka turnout- will be much, much larger than 2016.” As he tells Forbes, most have estimated that some “10-30 million more voters” will use their voice this year. And since it seems that many Democrats didn’t show up in 2016 for Hillary “(t)hat makes it essential that polls capture many, many more Democrat voters.”
However, Basham doesn’t think this is the correct way to handle it.
So what is the Democracy Institute doing? They weigh for a “lower turnout and try to estimate shy Trump voters or secret Trump voters.”
He says this is precisely what they did to determine the 2016 and Brexit results, and, as it turns out, those were pretty accurate. And in 2020, Basham thinks there will be even more “shy Trump voters.”
He said, “Our questions go like this: ‘If you were a Trump voter, would you tell anybody? Would you tell family? A friend? A coworker? Would you put a sign on your lawn or your car?”
Not surprisingly, the answer to most of those is a resounding no, especially among white women and people of color.
Another reason Basham says mainstream polls aren’t likely to show accurate results is that often they have been hired by media outlets which offer a “certain reward for a certain outcome.”
Take ORC Opinion Research Corporation, for example. CNN fired them after the 2016 election because while they predicted “pretty accurate” results, they consistently showed Trump ahead of Clinton.
Or what about USC (University of Southern California)? Similarly, this pollster showed Trump to be “competitive in 2016.” But because of fear or similar punishment, they later claimed ‘technical problems” and changed their results, effectively under polling conservative voters to do so.
Basham and the Democracy Institute have held steady to their methodology, and so far, while earning them quite a bit of criticism from the left, it has paid off well for them.
As Forbes notes, they the “only” poll to currently show “Trump leading.”