There’s nothing wrong with conservative agencies, nonprofits, and even politicians conducting their own research, which is often used internally to decide how money fundraised by campaigns and super PACs should be spent. The issue, however, is that these results are being used to bring down the poll averages and, thus, lay the groundwork for Trump’s underdog narrative; this is especially given that Pennsylvania, where RealClearPolitics shows Biden just 2.5 points ahead, is widely considered the most critical tipping point state in the presidential race.
In a normal election, such a phenomenon would be benign, if maybe a bit pathetic. But given the Republican party’s naked embrace of voter suppression in 2020, any action which erodes faith in the vote is actively dangerous. The GOP, for instance, is already working to undermine the election by filing lawsuits challenging the counting of ballots in half a dozen states — such as swing states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, which coincidentally Trafalgar Group all claim Trump is already winning outright. In Texas, Republicans are attempting to toss out 127,000 ballots cast through drive-in voting in a predominantly Democratic area of Houston, which could prevent Biden from flipping the state blue for the first time in 44 years.
If the connection between outlier polls and the Republican Party’s attempt to overturn the results weren’t clear, Trafalgar Group is openly doing Trump’s dirty work for him. In an interview broadcast on Fox News pundit Sean Hannity’s show last week, its chief pollster, Robert Cahaly, pushed the president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud to suggest that it is Democrats, not Republicans, who are trying to subvert the will of the people. “I think he’s going to need to win Pennsylvania by four or five to overcome the voter fraud that’s going to happen there,” Cahaly said of Trump.
The president has already signaled that he intends to call the race on election night, despite the fact that ballots will still be counted for days, if not weeks, after November 3, and these sorts of statements are fuel for him. If Trump believes that Pennsylvania has a five-point bias against him and he also has skewed, likely faulty data showing that he was two points ahead before totals came in, how will a leader who famously cherrypicks data he likes interpret the final tally? Bad data is a dime a dozen these days, but the costs are extremely high, given that they are likely to fuel even more bogus lawsuits in hopes of getting a favorable ruling from a conservative Supreme Court that now tips 6-3 to the right after the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the bench. (Given that three justices worked on the GOP side in Bush v. Gore, that’s not altogether unlikely.)
All of this will not matter if Biden wins by a convincing enough margin to make outlier data appear irrelevant, and that very well may happen. FiveThirtyEight, which recently began denoting Trafalgar Group as a partisan group on its website, gives Biden a 90% chance of winning the Electoral College and a 29% chance of winning by a landslide. But even the smallest sliver of hope will be used to rile up and weaponize Trump’s supporters, who recently attempted to run a Biden-Harris bus off the road in Texas and were met with the president’s enthusiastic approval.
You shouldn’t trust the polls. You should vote like Biden is behind 20 points, despite the fact that even a 6.8-point win would be the largest margin of victory since Barack Obama’s decisive win over John McCain in 2008. You should vote like Trump is going to win this election and every election for the next 60 years. But that skepticism should be based on reality, not a team of dedicated hacks who are helping the president do whatever it takes to cling to power.
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