US election polls: Joe Biden SEVEN points ahead – but can you trust the polls?

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Joe Biden and Donald Trump will clash in the 2020 US election this year, as the Democrats seek to recapture the Oval Office from Republican control. Highly regarded national pollster RealClearPolitics has Mr Biden ahead by 7.4 percentage points, including a similarly hefty lead in key battleground states. Despite his lead, Mr Biden has previously warned supporters not to trust the polls, and pundits across the political aisle have concurred.

Can you trust the polls?

The growing distrust in polling is rooted in the 2016 Presidential election.

Donald Trump’s win caused widespread upset, as his opponent, Hillary Clinton, had managed to maintain a consistent lead against the real estate mogul.

Experts have long attempted to provide answers on what happened, and clusters of possible theories have emerged.

Many of them maintained polling was still accurate, but last second changes such as undecided voters swinging towards Mr Trump and higher than expected turnout weighted the results in his favour.

In reality, the picture is more complex, as several interacting factors may end up skewing the results of promising polls.

For the most part, polls supply valid results, so people can still trust they convey an accurate representation of the people they survey.

But the way they contact their respective participants may vary, as may their quality.

Top US news organisations Fox News and CNN both use telephone interviews on their samples.

By contrast, CBS and Politico use online forms, and others may use a combination of different methods.

Naturally, these may provide different results, especially if they use different questions.

The ability to conduct a poll is now more widespread, and although it ultimately counts on capital, anyone can set one up.

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A lack of concrete barriers may allow businesses with little or no track record of polling to take a large sample and make one on their own.

Cheap, fast polls may dilute a crop of otherwise well-conducted examples and alter the final picture.

Another factor which may undercut the forecasting ability of a polled sample is basic human nature.

Organisations which attach overwhelming victory to one candidate may render their supporters complacent.

One paper published in the Social Science Research Network by researchers with Dartmouth College, the Pew Research Centre and the University of Pennsylvania, found some people may not vote if they think their candidate is all but guaranteed victory.

Some polls forecast exactly this in 2016, with as much as a 99 percent chance the Democrat would win.

Analysts say polls should include a margin of error in their results, and refrain from speculation.

So, people should take the polls with a pinch of salt, and anyone hedging their bets on them should find one from a company with a proven track record and reliable sample.

They should also pay attention to companies such as FiveThirtyEight, which grade pollsters’ quality.

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