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I predict that Trump will lose the election

If we want to predict the vote, we must know what is on voters' minds. We need to ask questions like: Is there anything in particular about [candidate X] that might make you want to vote for him/her?" "…against him/her?" "What do you think are the most important problems facing the country?" "Which political party do you think would be the most likely to do a better job in dealing with the problem?" With these questions and data (data used from the well-known American National Election Studies) I developed a model equation that measures exactly how much, in aggregate, each of the three variables contributes to an election outcome. The outcome of elections estimated by this equation came within ±1 percent of the actual outcome for all the 11 elections I studied. I predict that Trump will lose the election. 

What happened in 2016? 

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntercept DC bureau chief says Biden picks are 'same people' from Obama years The Hill's 12:30 Report - Third vaccine candidate with 90% efficacy Biden won — so why did Trump's popularity hit its highest point ever? MORE was seen positively by some because of her experience in the political arena, because she was a woman, and because of her knowledge and intelligence. She was also favored by some as the lesser of two evils. But she had many more negatives than positives. Thirty percent thought she was dishonest and untrustworthy, and 15 percent saw her as devious. Also, quite a few did not like the fact that she used a private server while she was secretary of State. 

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The only thing going for Trump was that about 10 percent liked that he would clean house and promised to American great again. Some thought he was the lesser of two evils. While about 10 percent thought Trump would either help the economy, bring jobs back from overseas, or prevent illegal immigration, an equal number thought he had not thought out his policies and changed his mind constantly. About 8 percent thought it was good that he was not a politician and that he had business experience, but an equal number criticized him for lack of political experience or for being a poor businessman who had many bankruptcies.

The negative feelings toward Trump were overwhelming. He was seen as not presidential, as someone who would not work well with foreign leaders, as not intelligent, as dishonest, a bully, someone who cares only for himself, arrogant, a loose cannon, and scary. Most comments were that he was a bigot, attacks others, is a racist, a misogynist, and says immigrants are dangerous and that he was generally divisive. When asked what problems the country was faced with, quite a few said "Trump."

In short, a great many voters "had Trump's number" even before he became president. He was perceived very negatively, yet he got to the White House. Note that I said "got to the White House;" it was the Electoral College that got him there.

What the 2016 results tell us about what could happen in 2020

In 2016, Trump was despised by a great many voters and my model equation showed that this moved the electorate 6 percent in the Democratic direction. To counter this, he had two things going for him. Hillary Clinton was very disliked and that moved the electorate 1.5 percent in Trump's direction. And he also got a 1.5 percent boost from self-identified patriots — those who strongly identified with being American. The net result from my analysis was a 53 percent vote for Clinton (which is actually what she got). The Electoral College then intervened and took the victory from her. 

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One of the major reasons the Electoral College vote was so different from the popular vote was that many of the states that went for Trump did so with only the thinnest of margins — a few thousand votes. That 1.5 percent negative Clinton factor was thus very significant. Had she not had this 1.5 percent negative, probably many of the tiny-margin states would have been hers.

This year, polls show that the Democratic candidate has a net favorability of neutral — as many voters like him as dislike him. This removes the 1.5 percent negative caused by the Democratic candidate in 2016 and the Electoral College may better reflect the popular vote. The large number of negative feelings toward Trump that were present in 2016 must now be even larger. Certainly, a president who has put children in cages; withdrawn from doing anything about global warming; calls our soldiers suckers and losers; threatens to end Social Security; and, most of all, who fails to defend the American people from an attack from a virus, will not have gained votes. 

But still, Trump has held onto his loyal following. I asked myself, how could this be? It then occurred to me to look at the 1984 election. An enormous factor in that election was that Reagan gave people hope. (Shining city on the hill and all that.) Trump makes people feel good. They need not worry about the coronavirus, they need not have the inconvenience of wearing a mask, distancing themselves, and staying at home. Trump says a decline in cases is just around the corner. A vaccine is almost ready. And he has destroyed the credibility of the mainstream media — calling it "fake news." 

Thus, I think Biden will win, although there is the Post Office situation. Many ballots may be delayed and not counted. If Trump thereby steals the election, we might be seeing a second American Revolution to rid ourselves of a king. 

David E. RePass is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Connecticut who has studied voting behavior for over 30 years. He is the author of, "Listening to the American Voter: What Was On Voters' Minds in Presidential Elections, 1960 to 2016."