USC poll predicts another Trump victory based on social contact question

Is a surprise boost of support for President Donald Trump coming on Election Day? It could be more than just wishful thinking.

According to a new poll from the University of Southern California, Donald Trump is favored to win a second term.

Poll: Trump wins Electoral College with social intention question

The result is based on an unconventional polling method: in addition to a “voter intention” question, in which respondents simply report their own voting plans, the poll asks people who they think their social contacts are voting for. The idea is to account for social pressures that some say can skew polling results. The so-called “shy Trump voter” is said to be a part of this phenomenon.

According to the pollsters, Biden wins the popular vote in both the “voter intention” and “social-circle” questions, but he loses the Electoral College vote in the latter.

“When we calculate how many electoral votes each candidate could get based on state level averages of the own-intention and social-circle questions, it’s looking like an Electoral College loss for Biden,” the pollsters said. “We should note that our poll was not designed for state-level predictions, and in some states we have very few participants. Even so, in 2016 it predicted that Trump would win the electoral vote.”

So far, the poll has had better success in predicting the outcomes of five races, including Trump’s 2016 race against Hillary Clinton, than the traditional “voter intention” question.

“In both the U.S. elections, the social-circle question predicted the national and state level results better than the ‘own intention’ question in the same polls,” the pollsters said. “In fact, data from the social-circle question in 2016 accurately predicted which candidate won each state, so it predicted Trump’s electoral college victory.”

Surge coming?

Polling from Trafalgar is similarly optimistic about Trump’s chances. Pollster Robert Cahaly has said that Trump is heading for another victory on account of the “shy Trump vote.”

The University of Southern California pollsters reason that people are more likely to report their real views with the “social-circle question,” and that the poll also takes into account the influence of peers on how people vote. They said that the method is based on previous research into social impressions which showed that people have a fairly good intuition into the lives of people around them.

“Their answers about the distribution of income, health status — even the relationship satisfaction of their friends, family and acquaintances — were often in the right ballpark.”

The pollsters also said that this poll did a better job last time of predicting Trump’s surprise victories in the Rust Belt, something Trump will hope to replicate.

“In fact, in the last presidential election the social-circle question was more successful than both the own-intention question and aggregate polls in predicting winners of four of five swing states that unexpectedly went to Trump (Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin),” they said.

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