What polls are saying about the 2020 election in Arizona

Posted at 4:50 AM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 10:25:50-04

PHOENIX — It's crunch time for both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Pollsters, pundits, and politicos are doing some crunching of their own -- number crunching, that is.

Nathaniel Rakich with FiveThirtyEight spoke to us to help us break down what's happening.

"Yes, it's very scientific," he explains. "We take that polling average and add it to things we call fundamentals...things like the state of the economy, things like the partisanship of a given state, things like candidate fundraising, and then that spits out a final forecast."

But in 2016, a lot of voters felt let down by the polls, many of which predicted Hillary Clinton would win.

"Pollsters definitely had to take a long look in the mirror after the 2016 election," says Rakich. "Even though the polls actually weren't that far off. It was a fairly normal polling error by historical standards. It just so happens the error was the difference between a Clinton win and a Trump win."

This time around, Rakich says polling methods have changed and references 2018 polls that are largely seen as more accurate than 2016. Pollsters are putting more emphasis on a number of factors, including education level.

"The numbers that pollsters get initially are unweighted and what you have to do is weight those or adjust those numbers based on things like the racial composition of the electorate, things like the age breakdown of the electorate. And historically, people really haven't been accounting for the educational breakdown of the electorate."

And what about Arizona? With it's all-important 11 electoral votes, our state is critical for both candidates on the road to 270.

"It's definitely one of the big swing states and a new position for you guys," explains Rakich. "Joe Biden leads in the average of Arizona polls by about four points...that is a fairly small lead and is susceptible to a polling error. So I certainly wouldn't be shocked if Trump wins Arizona. But it's definitely enough to give Biden the upper hand."

The upper hand for now at least, but it's important to remember polls capture a moment in time, and aren't always indicative of the final outcome.

"Biden has a 69 in 100 chance of winning Arizona. That is more likely than not to happen, but it's not something you should take the bank. If I told you Trump has a 31 in 100 chance of winning Arizona....We always try to tell people to be aware of the possibility of both outcomes."

One thing is clear - it is still anyone's race, both here in Arizona and nationally.

Rakich adds he believes Arizona will now be a swing state for the foreseeable future, meaning each year, candidates will have to fight tooth and nail for our votes.