March 15, 2019 at 10:09 pm #96716
The campaign slogans hint at the parallels: “Stronger Together” vs. “Make America Great Again” in the United States; “Stronger In” vs. “Take Back Control” in the United Kingdom.
The analogy goes only so far, however. Even with the race appearing to tighten and with the FBI’s investigative disclosures shaking up the contest, a Trump victory would amount to a far more dramatic upset than Brexit was, one that would defy evidence from polls, early-voting data and the organizational infrastructure of the two campaigns.
“The political comparison is absolutely apropos,” said Marcus Roberts, director of international projects for the polling firm YouGov. “The electoral comparison is not.”
As much of a shock as Brexit was, the polls were not far off. In their final surveys before the vote, two major polling companies got it wrong and predicted a victory for “remain.” But two others got it right, forecasting a “leave” win. Another four had results within the margin of error.
On the day that Britons cast their ballots, the only safe conclusion to be drawn from the polls alone was that the referendum could swing either way. And swing it did — to a narrow but clear 52-to-48 percent win for Brexit.
The result hadn’t been anticipated, as evidenced by the plummeting value of the pound and of global stock markets the next day. But the surprise had less to do with the polls than it did with a collective belief among Britain’s political cognoscenti that the polls, if anything, were underestimating “remain” support. Political betting markets reflected a view that voters would play it safe.
Instead, Brits took the leap. The polls, to the extent that they missed their mark, had underestimated turnout among older and less-educated voters in struggling areas, such as the country’s northeast, while overestimating the relative turnout in more affluent metropolitan regions, such as London.
Trump and his boosters have argued that something similar will be at play in the United States on Election Day. British politician Nigel Farage, a longtime Brexit champion who has become a Trump surrogate, has said that pollsters may be missing a Trump surge because they do not realize he has motivated a group that normally stays home to get out and vote.
“The greatest parallel between the Brexit vote and to what may happen on Nov. 8 is that Brexit mobilized a large number of nonvoters — indeed, some people who had never voted in their lives,” he wrote in a recent Washington Post opinion piece. “That was what secured the victory.”
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has gone further, suggesting there are Trump voters who do not want to reveal their true intentions to pollsters, “just as with the Brexit vote in Britain.”
Roberts acknowledged there may be some “shy Trump voters,” but he says the numbers in most contested states simply are not enough to overcome Clinton’s apparent lead. “For the Trump claim to be right, these polls would have to be wrong by double the margin of error,” he said.
Other, more tangible signs that were not available during the British referendum are also working in the Democrat’s favor. The breakdown of party affiliation in early voting, for instance, seems to favor her.
“You have millions of voters being banked in Hillary’s column. So the mountain for Trump to climb keeps getting bigger each day,” he said. “That was not true of Brexit.”
Clinton also has an apparent organizational advantage, having devoted vast sums of money and large numbers of campaign workers to her get-out-the-vote drives. Trump, meanwhile, has been dismissive of the need for a ground game. In the Brexit campaign, the two sides were fairly evenly matched on the ground.
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