World·AMERICA VOTES

Trump fans wonder how pollsters could have underestimated their guy ― again

While results had still not been fully tabulated early Wednesday for crucial swing states, Trump supporters were cautiously optimistic he would win a second term in the White House.

Republican candidate exceeded expectations in Florida, Ohio, Texas

Steve Jackson, sitting in a Virginia bar watching the election results on Tuesday night, bemoaned the fact that pollsters underestimated Donald Trump's chances of winning. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

If there was anyone less popular than Joe Biden among Donald Trump's supporters last evening, it was pollsters, many of whom suggested Trump would lose the 2020 election by a significant margin. 

While the election result remains unresolved at the moment, much of the celebration at some Trump parties on Tuesday night was due to the Republican candidate exceeding expectations — again.

At the Bungalow Lakehouse bar in Sterling, Va., patron Steve Jackson complained about what he called "purposely misleading" polling on the race between Trump and Democratic challenger Biden, some of which suggested that the latter had a double-digit lead nationally.

"I think they've made a lot of assumptions, and some of them will be overturned during the night," said Jackson, who works as an engineer. 

"The polls were horribly wrong in 2016."

Jackson said he still thought Trump had a good chance of winning this time around depending on what "shenanigans" go on with absentee and mail-in ballots.

WATCH | Catch up on what you missed election night:

How U.S. election night unfolded in 7 minutes

2 years ago
Duration 7:10
Watch highlights of our coverage of the U.S. presidential election.

Polling is 'skewed'

There was a similar vibe about the pre-election predictions 56 km west at Michael's Little Italy restaurant in Alexandria, Va. 

"I feel the pollsters are skewed," said Dan Erbe, who works in the military. "I feel the philosophy of polling is skewed."

Skewed, he said, because they likely miss what many have dubbed as "shy" Trump voters.

"I know talking with my family and some of my friends, sometimes, they just don't want to engage in a [political] discussion. They, I would say, would be the silent majority," Erbe said.

The night certainly confirmed for some that their candidate performed better than predicted. Decisive victories in Florida, Ohio, even Texas — which in the lead-up to the election was considered in play for the Democrats — were all big moments for Trump supporters.

WATCH | Trump supporters in Miami's Little Havana neighbourhood celebrate:

Trump supporters celebrate in Miami's Little Havana neighbourhood

2 years ago
Duration 1:08
Trump supporters began early celebrations in Miami's Little Havana neighbourhood following a Florida win, despite final presidential election results still being unknown

But it wasn't without its lows. Trump's loss in Arizona, for example, was considered a big disappointment.

"I would have wanted Arizona. But I like the Texas win and I love the Florida win," said Erbe. "I'm feeling pretty confident. I have a feeling we're going to win Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and, in a couple days, Pennsylvania."

The challenge for Trump and his supporters, however, are mail-in ballots, which are expected to favour Biden and could herald a victory for him.

'I'm still feeling positive'

In a speech delivered last night to supporters in a parking lot in Wilmington, Del., Biden acknowledged the delay in vote counting but said he felt he was on track to win the election.

"No, you're not!" said a Trump supporter at the Alexandria election party, one of many who took turns yelling at the TV as Biden spoke.

Angie Baskette, a defence contractor from Fairfax, Va. was also cautiously optimistic that Trump would come through.

"I still feel he's going to pull it out. I'm still feeling positive," said Baskette, sitting in Michael's Little Italy. 

Angie Baskette celebrated Trump's early showing on Tuesday night, but said no matter the winner, she would take the result in stride. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Earlier in the evening, after Fox News called the state of Texas for Trump, Baskette declared, "I'm moving to Texas!"

The call had been a boost to her spirits after the network called Arizona for Biden.

Republican candidate Jeff Jordan, who was also at the restaurant, was feeling the sting of losing his race for Virginia's 8th Congressional District. But he, too, expressed optimism that Trump could be on his way to a second term in the White House.

"It's his to win," said Jordan. "It's closer than I would like it to be and closer than I expected it would be, but at the end of the day, I'm still confident Trump's going to win it."

Trump's pledge

Jordan made those comments early Wednesday morning, as the 50 or so Trump supporters who had gathered at the restaurant were getting ready to call it a night. 

Just 12 kilometres north in Washington, D.C., the president and invited guests were watching the results from the White House. 

Having trickled out of the restaurant around 1:30 a.m., Jordan and his colleagues missed seeing Trump on television prematurely declaring victory before all the ballots were counted and vowing to go to the Supreme Court to ensure a win.

WATCH | Trump declares victory prematurely:

Trump claims win despite millions of uncounted votes

2 years ago
Duration 1:12
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said as far as he’s concerned he and the Republican Party have won the U.S. election. He said he will go to the U.S. Supreme Court and wants voting to stop. However, several states are still counting votes that have already been cast.

At that time, the electoral college count stood at 224 votes for Biden and 213 for Trump, with Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania yet to be called.

While she was hoping her guy would be victorious, Baskette said regardless of the outcome, she will take the final results in stride.

"If [Trump] loses, life will go on. We are going to go to bed, wake up in the morning, go to work. I'm not going to go out and storm the city and burn it down."


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gollom

Senior Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

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