The US presidential election of 2016 will forever be ingrained in the minds of many as the one that pollsters got horribly wrong. Many awoke the morning after election day only to find out that, yes, Donald J. Trump would be the 45th President of the United States.
Much to the dismay of many, the presidential election of 2020 between the incumbent Republican president Donald Trump and former Democratic Vice-president, Joe Biden, would (so far) appear to be similar. The night before polling stations opened, the polls had Biden leading by between 1 and 6 points in states of high contention like Florida for example. Two days after the polling stations closed, and although the count has not yet finished, it is obvious that the race is much closer than predicted. Trump won Florida by a margin of 3.2-3.4%, adding a crucial 29 electoral votes to the Trump tally. If the polls were to be believed, Biden should have won not by a huge margin, but certainly more decisively than current tallies are showing in other states. Mere single percentages separate the two candidates in many states, like Wisconsin, which has 0.6% of a difference between the two as of the most recent count.
Even allowing for margins of error, the pre-election day polls still managed to miss the mark, often by large amounts. The presidential election of 2020 has unfolded and continues to unfold into a multi-day event, with the main states that currently remain in play being Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and to a lesser extent Alaska and North Carolina. However, one of the key differences between the tense election of 2020 and the tense election of 2016 is that there were an estimated 101+ million votes cast, either by mail or early in-person, prior to the 3rd of November, setting a new record for the country.
The most notable difference thus far, as the ballots continue to be tabulated and the major networks try to figure out what skewed the polling numbers so drastically once again, is the rhetoric displayed by both candidates. Joe Biden has confidently appeared a total of three times urging the American public to “keep the faith” and let the votes be counted, both via public address and Twitter. On the other hand, Donald Trump has chosen a more divisive and less substantial claim that there has, to some extent, been wide voter fraud and urging those counting ballots in the remaining states to “STOP THE COUNT!” In addition to claiming voter fraud and voter suppression, via his favourite platform, Twitter, the president has filed lawsuits in three states so far. What is also striking is how much the President’s supporters genuinely believe his rhetoric. They are convinced, without any substantial evidence, that there is widespread mail and other voting fraud. Rumours going around include ‘sharpiegate’ – that Sharpie markers had been used (in Arizona) and some votes could therefore not be counted.
In addition to skewed polling numbers pre and post election, as well as adding Facebook conspiracy theories into the mix, Twitter has taken to labelling the presidents’ messages (see above), notifying users that the election results may be disputed, not called and that the Tweets in question could be used to affect the results of a civic process, i.e the presidential election.
As the world eagerly watches on and the final ballots are counted in the coming days, many are urging the American public to use caution and wait patiently for the final tallies to arrive. As for the lawsuits by the President, the verdict on them also remains to be seen. While in some states the margin of difference is close and Biden inches closer to the 270 electoral college votes required to win the US presidency for a 4 year term. No third party or other candidates met a threshold to offer competition between Trump and Biden, in any states, as was considered to be credible in polls pre the 3rd of November.
In the other branches of federal government, the House of Representatives is set to maintain within control of the Democratic Party, while the Senate is still in contention with a split 47 for the Democrats and 48 for the Republicans. Pre-November 3rd polls had Democrats maintaining control of the House and possibly gaining control of the Senate, which now seems like it will be an unlikely occurrence.