Polls of voters done to predict the outcome of a Presidential election are not as simple as one might expect. There are actually two polls that are typically done, and both are of great interest. The second, more critical one, is both more difficult to do well and more expensive. It is critical to understand the distinction between these two types of polls.
Polls of voters for the office of US President are a simple poll of all voters for a region, be it a county, state, group of states, or the entire country. This gives us a sense of what the electorate wants. But in the USA, the President is elected by representatives (called “electors”) sent from each state to form what is called the Electoral College. The Electoral College then votes to choose the President.
How critical this distinction can be may be seen in the 2016 national election: Hillary Clinton was the choice of the nation’s voters by several million votes in the general election, but Donald Trump won the vote of the Electoral College. So, in predicting the outcome of the Presidential election, what matters most is a projection of how the Electoral College will vote. However, this is a significantly more complex and costly prediction to make than that of the simple national vote, so we see it less often.
Summary articles published to date:
- 2020-08-25: Biden still leading, but by less, and there’s a problem on the horizon
- 2020-07-19: Biden is ahead, thanks to Independent voters and suburban voters
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page author: Tom Cloyd | reviewed 2020-08-29: 0618 PDT