With Nov. 3 racing toward us, it can be tempting to see the 2020 election as a done deal. For months, Joe Biden has consistently and convincingly led Donald Trump in polls. Swing states in the industrial Midwest and Sun Belt appear to be heading Biden's way, and if you trust the polls, it's not a leap to imagine him winning 330+ electoral votes.
But what if you shouldn't trust the polls?
In 2016, months of national polls confidently showed Hillary Clinton ahead, and set many Americans up for a shock on Election Night, when the Electoral College tilted decisively in Trump's favor. Two pollsters who weren't blindsided by this are Arie Kapteyn and Robert Cahaly. Kapteyn, a Dutch economist who leads the USC's Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research, oversaw the USC/Los Angeles Times poll that gave Trump a 3-point lead heading into election day—which, Kapteyn notes, was wrong: Clinton won the popular vote by 2 points. Cahaly, a Republican pollster with the Trafalgar Group, had preelection surveys that showed Trump nudging out Clinton in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina—all of which he won.