What the U.S. Election Result is About

 I said Trump might still win.  Three weeks ago, when the mainstream media and the polls said Hilary Clinton would win. 

So what happened?  What is this election result about?

election-polls

This election result is about contempt.

It is about the utter disregard that the ‘governing elite’ has had for really important issues and their effects on people.

It is about the sham of electorate polling and how the pollsters missed a gigantic, wave of support: if they missed this result, really what use are they?

It is about ‘free trade’ – what a disaster it has been for vast sections of the population.

It is about big banks – what a disaster they have been for vast sections of the population.

It is about immigration – what a disaster it has been for vast sections of the population.

It is about NATO and that most countries in it the military alliance would not pay their

share of the expenses.

It is about illegal immigration and the fact that few politicians would actually speak about it.

It is about China gaming the international currency markets for their own benefit.

It is about the media and the polls getting this election spectacularly wrong.

It is also about the political establishment – on both sides of the Atlantic – getting

it spectacularly wrong.

It is about the election of a right-wing businessman running as a left-wing demagogue. Donald

Trump is Juan Peron, the Argentine president who ran spouting populist, left-wing ideas and

in office ran the country like a corrupt businessman.

Most of all, it is not about tens of millions of Americans voting for right-wing ideas.

It is actually about tens of millions of Americans voting for left-wing economic ideas, wrapped

in right-wing social policies. If left-wing parties in Europe want to survive , they should learn this lesson.

**

PS. A reprint of the blog from three weeks ago…

Donald Trump may still win the U.S. Presidential Election

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I know, I know, I know… most of the media is telling you otherwise. They claim that the U.S. campaign is over. The only thing that they, the journalists, need to do is plan their dresses and tuxedos for the Clinton inauguration ball. Everything else is a formality.

The evidence they are using is poll data that indicates Clinton has an overall lead in the popular vote, the Electoral College votes are slanted towards her and that in a number of key states (Florida, Ohio, North Carolina) she has a 3 – 5 % lead. The excellent www.fivethirtyeight.com polling site puts her chances of occupying the White House at about 88.4%.

They might be right, but here are a couple of points on why things could change very drastically in this election.

First, all polls have a margin of error of roughly 4%, so unless the lead is above 5% they are essentially saying the overall vote is too close to call. This is the reason why you currently have a Monmouth poll predicting a electoral victory for Clinton of 12%, while at exactly the same time the Los Angeles Times/USC Tracking poll is showing a 1% lead for Trump.

Too Embarrassed to Admit It in Public

More importantly, some of these same pollsters have been spectacularly wrong about two recent major British votes: the Tory majority victory in the UK election (May 2015) and the Brexit Referendum (June 2016). There are similar circumstances around those votes in Britain and the upcoming U.S. election.

The most obvious similarity is that they were bitter campaigns that showed the country was deeply divided. This meant that there was a strong social punishment for admitting in public to voting for the ‘wrong’ side.

After the Brexit vote, UK talk radio was full of callers who asked how to deal with their friends and family who had voted for the other side. People were seriously asking if they should break up friendships, get divorces or disinherit relatives for voting for the Leave/Remain side.

Today, the same circumstances exist in the U.S. It would take a brave woman in northern California to admit to her liberal friends that she was going to ignore Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct and vote for him because she liked his stance on illegal immigration. A New Yorker supporter of de Blasio would have equal difficulty admitting in public that they preferred Trump’s ‘get-tough-on-crime’ stance to Clinton’s.

Trump is not Romney

This is a fundamentally different contest than the Obama vs. Romney election of 2012. Very few of Romney voters were embarrassed to admit that they supported him in public: while, potentially, many of Trump’s supporters may be afraid to do so.

The phenomena is called “social desirability bias’ (or more commonly ‘The Bradley Effect’ after Tom Bradley the 1982 California Gubernatorial candidate who was surprisingly defeated by racist voters too frightened to admit their prejudice to pollsters) and it is particularly strong in this age of anti-establishmentism.

It is the reason why the UK pollsters failed to accurately predict the results of those recent votes. They did not factor in the small, but significant group, of the electorate (2-4%) who were going to vote for the unpopular candidate or choice, but were too embarrassed to admit. These voters will, in public or to a pollster, nod or say what their friends expect them to say: but, in the privacy of the voting booth do something else.

None of the American polls factor “social desirability bias” into their analysis. They could not do so, as it is almost impossible to accurately measure. However, it may explain why Trump does better in online polls where voters do not have to reveal to another person who they will vote for.

A week is a long time in politics”

There are three weeks to go until election day, time enough for any number of surprises to emerge. There will be more hacked e-mail scandals to come. There will be another major televised debate on Wednesday. Anything may happen that could change this election.

Finally, Clinton’s apparent lead in the polls has not been propelled by support for her or her policies but out of dislike for Trump’s objectionable comments about women and the numerous accusations of sexual harassment against him. This means that Clinton’s support is fundamentally weak and can be reversed.

So to be clear, I do not support either Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton. That is not my job as a journalist. And, Clinton may still win the election, it is just that her path to the White House is not as clear as many observers are telling you.

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2 thoughts on “What the U.S. Election Result is About”

  1. James Cork says:

    Bang on.
    What a gob-smacking to the media who created Trump the Republican candidate and Trump the president-elect, and now regret their stupidity. I am so happy, even though there was one other candidate that impressed me. Now they are ranting about how Trump has no political experience. And what experience did Obama have? He was a senator, not a governor, nor was he the president of a billion dollar enterprise.
    Wanna be a Democrat candidate? Make you sure you have a plant in the back rooms! Did Hillary use her political or financial capital to corrupt what should have been a democratic process? It`s irrelevant now but Democrats should be concerned for the future.
    Can victory save the Republican party? It didn’t take long for Trump’s greatest detractors to suddenly become his greatest admirers. This about-face was necessary for them because the only ethical option for them would be to ingest some political cyanide and disappear from the party.
    With regards to your article, the big banks are not the only problem in the world of finance. Bourses around the world need to return to their fundamental raison d’être of being a place where companies can sell shares for investors to buy. It must not be a place where insiders can play with investment money for their own benefit. Government needs to oversee stock exchanges and approve proposed derivatives only if they serve a public good. The crisis of 2008 should serve as a lesson.
    As for the inaccuracy of polls, I have heard the opinion that people are so brow-beaten by the politically correct crowd that they keep their opinions secret from everyone, even pollsters, until they are in the voting booth. I subscribe to that. It means that if pollsters says that the left-wing candidate is leading by 3% then she is really trailing by 2%.
    Juan Peron was not the left-wing demagogue as much as his wife (Eva) was. It was not lost on him that his wife’s popularity, thanks to government welfare spending under her influence, spilled over to him. His military friends did not appreciate his largesse, as he eventually found out the hard way.

  2. Snarly says:

    I seriously thought about plopping $100K (or more) on Trump when he was 5:1 a few weeks back, but it would have only been a value bet, not that I really thought he would definitely win (I live in Australia, so gambling winnings are taxfree to boot). Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to follow the market lines (Betfair), and would have had to bet all-or-nothing (Pinnacle). From pollsters, I hear that turnout is just becoming too hard to predict, as from one cycle to the next its expectation can dramatically differ. Romney and Trump got about the same # of votes (albeit with nonidentical bases), while Obama outdid Clinton substantially. The media of course also loved to hype the Hillary winning storyline in their overestimation.

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