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PollyVote 2020 Forecasts Victory For Biden

Image courtesy of PollyVote.com

Since 2004, the PollyVote political forecasting project has successfully projected the winner of the popular vote in the U.S. race for president. For a discussion of PollyVote’s 2020 forecast, WUWF recently called on University of West Florida government professor and project co-founder, Dr. Al Cuzan.

“The forecast as it stands right now is for Biden to take 52% of the vote and the president to take about 48%,” said Cuzan, pointing to the difference of four percentage points in a two-party vote, just between Democrat Joe Biden and the Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

“Now, there are two other candidates out there, the Libertarian candidate and the Green Party candidate. They took more votes in 2016 than they appear to be taking this time, okay. So, Biden seems to be picking up some of the vote that went to third parties last time,” Cuzan stated.

This fall, Cuzan is on Sabbatical and was not actively involved in PollyVote this 2020 election cycle. However, as a co-founder of the forecasting tool, he says the structure is virtually the same, aggregating four streams of information to make a daily projection of who will win the popular vote.

The first component considered is polls, which is a measure of vote intention. Next is retrospective and prospective voting models that consider things like economic conditions and presidential job approval. The expectations component utilizes betting markets, a panel of political science experts and a survey of who voters think will win. The naïve component that assumes a 50-50 two-party split and projects a winner based on whether the incumbent's party is in their first or second term.  Here’s the breakdown of what each component is now saying.


“The polls right now are the most optimistic for Biden,” Cuzan said. “So when we read about Biden being ahead by six, seven, eight points, and right now, frankly the PollyVote aggregator of polls shows him eight points ahead.”

He explained that the Models give Biden a bit less of a lead, a six-point difference. The expectations, which are even less optimistic, give Biden a little under six points.

Then, there’s the Naïve component, which gives each candidate a 50-50 shot.

“The Naïve component is the only one that has Trump ahead by a hair, basically a little less than two points. So, not all components point to a Biden victory, but those that do is by substantial margin in the popular vote, okay,” said Cuzan, putting emphasis on the popular vote.

That brings us to what PollyVote has to say about the Electoral College, where 270 votes are needed to win.

On that front, PollyVote is again showing Biden with the lead.

“In fact, actually, they say the Democrats have a solid 212 votes. The Republicans have a solid hundred votes less than that. So, it’s 212 to 122. But, then you have the likely votes and the lean votes on both sides. And, basically, right now the PollyVote thinks Biden will win,” Cuzan explained.

That said, Dr. Cuzan acknowledges that predicting the Electoral College is more difficult, as it’s partially based on probability.

“What PollyVote is doing right now is saying that Biden has roughly a 75% probability that he will win the Electoral College and the president has about a 25% probability,” he said rounding the numbers up.

“So, one-in-four chances for Trump to win. And, it’s just more difficult to predict because it depends on a number of states that are in play.”

According to PollyVote, there are about a half-dozen states that are in play, including Florida.

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
File photo of UWF political science professor, Dr. Al Cuzan.

“Florida is a big one,” said Cuzan.

Also in the toss up category are those mid-western states, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, that went to Trump in 2016. For 2020, the PollyVote electoral map also puts North Carolina and Georgia in play.

Cuzan pointed numerous solid red states for Trump, such as states Mississippi and Louisiana, solid south states that used to be Democratic and are now Republican. He says states along the Northeast and Western coasts, such as California, Oregon, and Washington are strongly for Biden.

“If you look at the map, it’s quite interesting because the map almost looks like a map of the United States, but this time, it’s circles. And, each circle tell you the probability that each or the other will win and how much of a probability it’s going to be in play,” said Cuzan.

He says there are still a few different paths available for both Biden and Trump to secure the Electoral College vote, with big-vote states, including the Sunshine State, playing a major role.

“Obviously, Trump needs Florida. Trump needs Texas. I think the probability of losing Texas is lower than losing Florida. But, if he loses Florida, it’s all over. If he loses Texas, it’s all over,” Cuzan declared.

In 2016, PollyVote produced mixed results; correctly projecting that Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote, but wrongly projecting that she would win the electoral vote.  

Four years ago, Clinton’s campaign was boosted by the polls. This time around, there’s less emphasis on the polls, which did not account for so-called “shy Trump voters.”

“There’s a certain percentage of voters who are for Trump, but they don’t want to say,” explained Cuzan. “So, they will either refuse to talk to pollsters or when they talk to pollsters they will engage in what used to be called ‘preference falsification.’”

For more details about this year’s PollyVote presidential forecast, go online to PollyVote.com.

UWF political science professor Al Cuzan maintains that the bottom line for the 2020 projection is the same as it was in 2016; Trump voters should not assume defeat and Biden voters shouldn’t be too confident of victory.

“Remember, this is only a forecast; this is not a prophecy,” Cuzan said with a chuckle. “Let the electorate decide.”

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.