Experts: Search, Election Results Don't Always Go Hand-in-Hand

By Jhanvi Verma |  @RedLineProject | Posted: Friday, Oct. 30, 2020

According to the Real Clear Politics polling data, Joe Biden is ahead of Donald Trump in the election polls by 9 percentage points. This was the same case in the 2016 elections when Hillary Clinton was in the lead by 6 percentage points against Trump in the national polls, but he ended up winning the election.

Noor Chaudry, 20, a pre-med student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, believes that this time it’s about voting for anyone but Trump.

Other voters say they support Biden because they don’t want to see Trump in the White House again.

“Trump cannot be the president for the second-term and Biden is the only other option. Hopefully, with Kamala Harris on Biden’s side, he’ll be able to make thoughtful decisions than Trump has as president,” said Areeba Ali, 21, a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In 2016, Clinton won the popular vote, Trump secured the presidency by winning the electoral vote.

According to Google search analysis on Google Trends, Trump has been searched more in states such as the District of Columbia, Oregon, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. When it comes to Biden’s search analysis, he was most looked up in states such as the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maine and Wisconsin as shown below.

During the 2016 election, Trump was searched more in Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut. On the other hand, Clinton was being searched in Clinton Vermont, Maine, Alaska and New Hampshire. But Trump outsearched Clinton nationally during most of the election campaign year.

Historically, only 10 presidents have failed to win in the second-term elections. This raises the question of whether or not this search indicates that Trump might secure his second-term.

Dr. Dick Simpson, a professor in the Political Science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said, “I don’t think the searches on Google are a good guide to voting outcomes. Public opinion polls are better but not perfect as they were in some error in 2016.”

Dr. Alexandra Filindra, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago said, “We don’t know whether it’s Democrats looking up Trump for his craziness or if it is people who are interested in voting for him. This search analysis doesn’t tell me anything because it is too rough. For example, Rhode Island is a solidly blue state, it’s irrelevant why people would look up Trump. The relevant searches in the same state may be more interesting.”

Mail-in Ballots a Factor

In-person voting is a challenge for many due to COVID-19, so many have turned to mail-in ballots. Experts say that it will impact overall turnout.

“So far, early turnout has been high,” Simpson said. “For instance, more than 2 million voters have requested mail-in ballots in Illinois. However, people will be hesitant to go to the polls on Election Day. It is harder for minorities to do so, and they may be less motivated to do so. However, I expect turnout to be up from 2016.”

Moreover, mail-in voting may be new to many voters, and certain rules need to be followed by voters to make their vote count. Furthermore, Trump has opposed funding for Postal Services to hold back mail-in voting.

“COVID-19 is still prevalent, but it’s my first time using mail-in ballot which is why I’m nervous about my vote not being counted due to many rules that need to be followed,” Ali said.

Added Filindra, “We cannot be sure that everyone is following the detailed instructions in many states with mail-in voting. For example, states like Pennsylvania require two envelopes. They have something called a privacy envelope so you put your ballot in one envelope and you put that envelope into a bigger envelope. According to the rules, if you used only one envelope, your ballot becomes invalid.”

Chaudry doesn’t “trust the current mailing system to deliver my vote in time so I’ll be dropping it off at the ballot box at my local voting office.”

Also, there is a possibility that people will have to wait longer to know who has won as it’ll take time for mail-in ballots to be tabulated. According to the U.S. Constitution, if there isn’t a clear winner, the election goes to the House of Representatives.

“There is a serious concern that the election is going to be stolen through inappropriate but constitutional means,” Filindra said. “In the first presidential debate, Trump said that he intends to delegitimize mail-in ballots. Even though he voted by mail-in ballot in Florida. He would try to secure an electoral win by going to the court or by getting Republican legislation to invalidate these votes.”

But early voting may prevent that, Simpson said.

“People are already voting in many states, including Illinois so it will not be easy for President Trump or his senate candidates to reverse the numbers,” he said.

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