Caution Bump Ahead! Here Comes the Truth About the Latest Presidential Election Polls

This election has the potential to roil markets. Cities could collapse if Trump wins. Markets could collapse if Biden wins. With 100 days to go and so much at stake, polls will start affecting the narrative of who’s going to win. But if the election is important to your investment outlook, ignore the polls. They are not accurate.

Some people will hastily conclude that, by questioning these polls, I must be for Donald Trump. The truth is, as an investor and steward of my clients’ assets, I just want to be accurate.

A year ago, I wrote an article explaining why polls failed to predict the last Presidential election. There’s a pretty good chance they fail again. As they have in modern memory, virtually all polls survey many more Democrats than Republicans. Adjusting for this and including the margin of error, the election is a dead heat. Here are a few recent examples of polls that led to dramatic headlines but appear to be skewed.

On June 24th the New York Times released a poll that not only had Biden ahead by 14% but explained what issues were the defining factor in his commanding lead. The headlines roared that day, “Biden Takes Dominant Lead as Voters Reject Trump on Virus and Race.” But after a modest investigation, we found that the poll was composed of 9% more Democrats than Republicans: 35% Democrats, 26% Republicans, 26% Independents, and 13% an unnamed category. The margin of error was 3%. In other words, it’s a dead heat.

The next day, a CNBC headline roared, “Wall Street Executives Brace for a Potential Biden Win as Trump Fades in Polls.” CNBC cited a “Real Clear Average” of polls by Real Clear Politics. It showed Biden’s lead had extended to an average of 10 points. We dug into all the polls listed in the Real Clear results. On average between 5-10% more Democrats were polled in just about every one of the polls included in the average. The margin of error averaged 2.8%. As for the headline, too much depends on their true understanding for Wall Street executives to believe it.

On July 18th, ABC headline announced: “Pandemic Surge Damages Trump, Boosting Biden’s White House Bid,” citing an ABC/Washington Post poll that had Biden up 10%. Turns out 6% more Democrats than Republicans were polled. On July 23rd The Washington Post cited the same poll with this headline: “Republican Feuding This Week Represents Broader Reckoning Over Party’s Future as Trump Sinks in the Polls.” A political consulting firm couldn’t have done a better job. 

Fox News cited a Quinnipiac poll in their July 15th article with the headline, “Trump Down 15 Points to Biden in Latest National Poll.” What Fox failed to mention in the article, however, was that Quinnipiac polled 10% more Democrats with a margin of error of 2.8%. 

 By the way, who answers the phone when a pollster calls? In the 1970s, over 70% of respondents did, in 2018, only 6% participated. And who in their right minds would admit to voting for Donald Trump if you have anything to lose like a house or a job or social status? Considering this political climate, and the pressure coming from the left, it’s a wonder anyone admits to supporting Trump. What I’m trying to say is, Biden might not win after all. If you’re an investor, don’t react to the polls, if you live in Portland, Seattle or New York City, get out if you haven’t already.

By: Thomas F. Landstreet with Joel Biery and Jackson Metzger

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