Two Elections Show How Hillary Could Lose To Donald Trump

October 24th, 2016 | R. Rados
hillary could lose

Nobody really likes or trusts Hillary Clinton. Both her and Donald Trump are the least favourable candidates in modern US history. If either of them were running against someone who had moderate favourability, they'd probably lose in a landslide. Despite all of that, there are still more people who want to vote for Trump than there are people who want to vote for Hillary. Millions of Americans are going to vote for Hillary because they're afraid of Donald Trump, not because they necessarily want her to be president. Herein lies the biggest risk for Hillary.

There's one advantage I think Donald Trump has going into election night. It's the opinion polls. The same opinion polls showing that Donald Trump will lose could be what change his fortunes.

Whether we like it or not, opinion polls influence elections. Not only do they measure people's intentions, they influence undecided voters. In this case, they could influence the millions of voters who dislike Hillary Clinton, but who are planning to cast a vote for her just to stop Donald Trump. Wikileaks has exposed Hillary Clinton – and opinion polls show that more than half of Americans don't trust her. Believe it or not, this weighs on the electorate's collective conscience. Voters know she's a liar, but they are being forced to vote for her because they think Donald Trump is worse. I think this unfortunate state of affairs could play out in a way that favours Donald Trump on November 8.

Because of these opinion polls showing what looks to be a decisive victory for Hillary Clinton, most mainstream news networks are acting like this election is over. Their glee and typically smug partisanship is showing in ways we've never seen before. The consensus among pundits is that Donald Trump is finished. Their reporting always comes with a grin and a middle finger to Trump supporters, but it could be what hurts Hillary Clinton the most. The most dangerous thing that can happen in a democracy is happening to Hillary Clinton. She's being declared the winner before she has actually been declared the winner. In response, her non-supporters who are planning to cast an anti-Trump vote might lose their sense of urgency.

Why would anyone who thinks Hillary is corrupt bother voting for her if they don't have to? If polls and media have already declared her the winner, voters will have no reason to go against their moral principles by voting for her. The ones who have never abstained in an election might even shift to Jill Stein or Gary Johnson just to clear their conscience. Many of Hillary's anti-Trump non-supporters are already feeling like they've dodged a bullet when they see the opinion polls showing a massive Trump defeat. At this point, they probably feel no need to let a vote for Hillary weigh on their conscience.

Right now, everyone thinks Trump's supporters have lost hope in their candidate – except Trump supporters. While the pundits declare Trump a loser, his supporters aren't even paying attention. Some pundits have even suggested that Trump's rhetoric about a rigged election could be suppressing his own voter turnout. Little do they know, millions of Americans have paid attention to Wikileaks and James O'Keefe, who recently exposed DNC tactics to incite violence at Trump rallies. Millions of Americans know that the DNC tried to suppress Bernie Sanders and that DNC chair, Donna Brazile, gave Hillary debate questions to help her prepare. All of Trump's claims about a rigged election are being heard loud and clear. While the media tries to imply that Trump is hurting democracy, millions of Americans aren't even listening anymore.

Media bias has reached such epic proportions in this election cycle that Americans have tuned out CNN, MSNBC and even Fox News. According to Neilsen ratings, Americans will tune into a major network to watch the debates, but they won't stick around for the post-debate analysis. This signifies a huge change in habits from 2008 and 2012, when more than half of debate watchers stayed to watch pundits declare winners and losers. In 2016, less than 40% of viewers stuck around for the post-debate. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 55% of Americans believe that the news media has a bias against Donald Trump. That same poll shows an overwhelming victory for Hillary, meaning that even her supporters think the media has a lopsided agenda.

If we subtract all these favourability ratings and stories of corruption, there are other examples of cases where polls were wrong. Hillary's corruption and Trump's lack of favourability are huge factors in this election and polls might not be accurately predicting sentiments, but other elections without these factors have been miscalculated in the past. Both the Brexit and Alberta's 2012 provincial election are cases that were either miscalculated or influenced by opinion polls. Opinion polls may not have failed in those elections because they were rigged or skewed, but because they influenced voters and caused a major shift.
Virtually every major poll in the UK showed support for Remain ahead by an average of 3% just days before the referendum. As we know, Leave won the referendum with 52% of the popular vote. Voter turnout was historic, as it will be in the United States. Somehow, polls failed to sample a large segment of the UK electorate – or the polls influenced the electorate in an unpredictable way. Both of these answers could be true, but we can only speculate. If the polls influenced voters on both sides, it's possible that some Remain supporters didn't vote because they assumed Remain was going to win, so they felt no urgency. On the other side, it's possible that anxious and angry Brits who don't usually vote were frustrated with the prospect of a Remain win, so they felt compelled to vote in large numbers. If this was the case, it would be similar to what happened in Alberta's 2012 provincial election.

In 2012, there were two kinds of Albertans. There where the scared kind and the angry kind. The scared kind feared the neo-liberal agenda of the Wildrose, while the angry side wanted to end a 40-year-old ruling dynasty. On election day, the scared side clamoured behind the left-leaning Progressive Conservative dynasty to stop the Wildrose. Many on the Wildrose side made the mistake of assuming their party had already won.

Every single opinion poll leading up to the Alberta provincial election in 2012 showed a clear and decisive victory for the Wildrose. This scared thousands of Albertans into voting against the Wildrose, while zapping any sense of urgency out of Wildrose supporters. A neighbour of mine at the time, who had a Wildrose sign in his yard, confirmed this on election day when I asked him if he voted. He told me he didn't, because he didn't have time and because the Wildrose were “going to win anyway”. Judging by the election results, it's easy to assume he wasn't the only one who made that fatal choice. Although turnout was slightly higher than previous elections, the scared side won the battle because the angry side assumed victory before there was a victory.

Opinion polls in Alberta didn't just show a slight Wildrose lead, they showed an overwhelming victory. In most of the polls prior to election day, the Wildrose had a 9% lead over the Progressive Conservatives. On election day, the Wildrose lost by 10%. In the United States, polls have been good at predicting the winners without getting the numbers exact. It's easy to do in a two-party system. However, 2016 isn't a normal year. Donald Trump earned the highest number of primary votes out of any Republican candidate in history. During the Republican primaries, it's estimated that he registered nearly a million new Republican voters. Whether they'll turn out to vote again on November 8 remains to be seen, but we shouldn't assume that either candidate will win by a landslide.

With all this being said, I still think it'll be tough for Donald Trump to win. He has way too much stacked against him, including his own party. I do, however, think the possibility is there for Hillary to lose. If Trump defies the polls and Hillary loses, it'll be because of the same factors that led to a Brexit win and a Wildrose loss. The bigger Hillary's lead gets going into election night, the higher her chances are of losing. If polls show a tie or a slight edge for Trump, Trump will definitely lose.