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Understanding the US Elections 2020

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US presidential election: can you trust polls?

Episode 4 / 15 Oct 2020

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In 2016 the US presidential election polls incorrectly showed Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump. What went wrong? Can the US election polls accurately predict the 2020 US presidential election? Find out what you need to be aware of when following the election polls and try to answer these questions.

USEFUL PHRASE

‘snapshot’
This word means a short description that gives you a brief idea of what the situation or place is like at a specific time.

QUESTIONS

1. What’s the difference between winning the popular vote and winning more key states?

2. How could the polls have better predicted the 2016 election?

3. What additional issues could cause uncertainty in the polls ability to predict the 2020 winner?

ANSWERS

1. What’s the difference between winning the popular vote and winning more key states?

The popular vote is the total number of people who voted for a presidential candidate, but it does not count towards the final election result. For example, in the 2016 election Hillary Clinton got 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump, but Trump won because he won more states. This means that the candidate who wins the most states wins the presidential election, not the candidate who wins the most individual votes across all the states. So, although in the 2016 election Hillary Clinton won the most individual votes, popular votes, Trump won more states, therefore he won the election.

2. How could the polls have better predicted the 2016 election?

In some states they should have used a larger more representative sample of likely voters.

3. What additional issues could cause uncertainty in the polls ability to predict the 2020 winner?

The pandemic and a big increase in postal voting.

Latest Understanding the US Elections 2020