The Falvey Memorial Library hosted its second lecture in the 2020 Presidential Election Virtual Series on Thursday, Oct. 22. Given by Matthew Kerbel, Ph.D., the lecture focused on the “State of the Contest, Election Day and What Happens Next.” It sought to explain the importance of polling in the 2020 election and the possibility of there being a wave election, which is when national circumstances override local ones in the minds of voters.
As far as polling, Kerbel explained that this section could be sponsored by the number 42. So far in 2020 public polling, President Trump has been holding steady around 42%, while Joe Biden was at 52.2% at the time of the lecture, according to fivethirtyeight.com. Biden fortified his lead after the first debate on Sept. 29, following Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
This stability sp far contrasts with the 2016 election, which was volatile in polling. Another facet of 2020 polling that Kerbel recognized wass that there are no appreciable third party candidates on the ballot, and at this point, there are very few undecided voters. This settled electorate is in opposition to the unsettled environment of the United States.
This idea of 42 carries over to Trump’s job approval rating as well, with a current rating of 42.6%. While there was a rallying effect at the beginning of the pandemic, the vast majority of Americans agree that Trump’s handling of COVID-19 has been extremely poor.
Kerbel explained that when looking at polls, citizens must think about what is going on in the minds of voters. The easiest way to do that is to realize that they are asking themselves, “Do I want four more years of what I have, or is the challenger better than our current state?”
From the 10-point lead that Biden currently has over Trump, citizens can see that at the moment that the public opinion seems to be straying away from a Trump reelection.
If polling is correct with a 10-point Biden lead, America might see a wave election, according to Kerbel. Not only do many circumstances on the national level eclipse local issues, but these problems can translate to gains for the Democratic Party. The nation experienced a blue wave in 2018, and while Kerbel stated that it is unlikely to experience two waves in a row, it is also unlikely that the president makes minimal changes after that wave.
There are necessary prerequisites to a wave that Kerbel outlined in his lecture. First, analysts agree that the House is not in play, meaning that it will remain blue. In the Senate, Republicans have to protect more seats than Democrats, including seats in Alaska, Kansas and South Carolina. It is also known that undecided voters tend to break away from the incumbent at the end of a cycle. Another vital aspect is how Biden is doing with select demographics. Biden trends strongly with women voters. Kerbel believes that this election might show the largest gender gap in history.
Kerbel speculated that Americans may see the largest voter turnout in the last 100 years; there is tremendous enthusiasm on both sides to vote.
In the Q&A portion of the lecture, Kerbel spent time discussing how overall, Biden is polling a five-point lead in Pennsylvania. He is also surprisingly polling well in the Scranton and Harrisburg areas, which would be instrumental to win the state.
Kerbel also wanted everyone to know that even though there have been threats of Trump not “giving up the White House” if he loses, that his term ends in January no matter what.