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Why was the popular vote so close in the US presidential election?

Regardless of the eventual winner, one thing that stood out was how close the popular vote was. What does it imply that the polls, predicting a Biden win with up to 10% more votes, were wrong. Why were many voters afraid to tell even an anonymous pollster that they preferred Trump over Biden?

What we choose to believe the reason to be greatly impacts how we, as a country, proceed.

  • We could choose to believe that the Trump supporters are simply closet racists, sexists, and bigots who secretly want to support one of their own - doing so reaffirms the narrative that America is a terrible place.

  • Or, we could choose that they were not buying the narrative that America is fundamentally flawed with racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry .

  • Or, we could choose that they simply believed that Trump was a better choice despite the best efforts of mainstream news, social media, and the entertainment industry to highlight his flaws - factual or not.

Especially for Biden/Harris supporters, how to move forward really depends on what was learned from this election. If it's the first option, perhaps Trump supporters simply need more CRT (aka, racial sensitivity) and similar training? If it's the second, perhaps it's a time to re-examine some of the assumptions of the progressive movement? If it's the third, perhaps these organizations should try harder?

What do you think?

Why did Trump get more votes than the polls predicted?

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Admin 8 Nov 5
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Romney nailed it when he said 47% of voters will vote Republican no matter what. We could have bombs, concentration camps, you name it. Doesn't matter.

UrsiMajor Level 8 Nov 5, 2020

Sad isn't it? Same really as being bought up in a certain religion.


To your third point, I believe Biden has the stronger message moving forward by stating, clearly and literally, that he will work to represent both those that voted for him and those that did not. OTOH, Trump has not made that message and, IMO, has made the exact opposite message, that he will work for the interests of his people and his people alone. That I'm aware, he has never said that he would work with or listen to people that didn't vote for him. And that is a prescription for driving the country further apart, not together.


Jim Wright

So, what have you learned?
I mean, you should have known this already, but it's obvious many of you didn't.
So, what have you learned?
I'll tell you: people lie.
That's what you learned.
"Decent" Conservatives are embarrassed to vote for Trump.
They are (and note the quote marks before you reach for the keyboard).
Decent Republicans, or at least those who think of themselves as such, they're embarrassed by Trump.
They're embarrassed to see what's become of their political party, their ideology, the so-called Party of Lincoln.
They're embarrassed to see the hate, the racism, the bigotry, the sexism, the nationalism, the Swastikas and the Confederate flags and all the things that so much resemble 1930's Germany -- oh, I don't mean they're embarrassed by those things themselves, I mean they're embarrassed to see Trump waving it around out in the open.
See, so long as they keep their white sheets hidden away in the closet and they're not actually burning crosses in a black family's front yard or shoveling Jews into the ovens, they can pretend they're not horrible people.
They can pretend they really ARE living up to those ideals their religion tells them are the ticket to some better afterlife.
And there's Trump, reminding them everyday who they really are.
Rubbing their noses in it.
Some, well, they embrace it. They mount flags on their trucks and shout it from the windows. They'll be the first ones in line when the job of Concentration Camp Guard opens up.
But many? Maybe even most?
They're embarrassed.
So, when the pollsters call, they lie about who they're going to vote for.
Trump? I just can't. I'm a republican, but I'm voting for Joe!
And we wanted to believe them.
We wanted to believe our neighbors and our countrymen really WEREN'T a bunch of fucking Nazis.
But when no one can see, when they're all alone in the voting booth, then they cast their ballot for hate, fear, bigotry, and more Trump, because secretly, that's who they ARE.
That's who they really are.

Larimar Level 7 Nov 5, 2020

I think neither Trump nor Biden are as popular as the media would have you believe. Anyone who votes for either or those two probably thinks he's voting for the lesser evil.

This ⬆

think your onto something there


Pollsters are polling the wrong people or not polling the right people. In this era without landlines or print media, people blocking all anonymous calls, they may not be able to gauge the vote accurately. I think some of the vote isn't out yet and some of it may have been suppressed. The polls were off. We will see just how far off when the final tally is in. They may have gotten the winning POTUS right, we shall see. They got the actual numbers wrong, there is no doubt about that.

barjoe Level 9 Nov 5, 2020

I live in Indiana and have had my cell number for nearly four years. My name is David. For the last month my phone has been bombarded by pollsters from Wisconsin who think my name is Jorge. I'm assuming I'm not the only one that has this problem.

@Diagoras I have an app that blocks any number that's not a contact. It goes to voicemail so if it's a real person I'll add them. It's the only way.


You reveal your bias and its underlying White Privilege by not listing Voter Suppression as a choice when that has been repeatedly documented.

Krish55 Level 7 Nov 5, 2020

The category of "something else" is added as I know there are dozens of possible reasons. Why do you assume I'm white? 😉

@Admin "Something Else" is not adequate for such a major, demonstrated cause.

  1. USPS Deliberately Sabotaged: resulting in 7% of mail-in votes (overwhelmingly Democratic) not delivered.
  2. Polling Stations Closed in Minority Areas: resulting in resulting in prohibitively long lines for working-class folks with tiring jobs that don't offer time off.
  3. Florida GOP Legislators Preventing Ex-Felons from Voting: in violation of the recent state constitutional amendment permitting that. The history of the underlying Southern laws dating from the post-Civil war era disenfranchising felons show a racist intent to prevent blacks from voting by arbitrary arrests and sentencing in racist courts. A practice that continues...

You assume way too much from the omission.

@Admin How do I know you are white? You forgot about your clueless astonishment that black folks were protesting?

@Krish55 Trump has gotten one hell of a lot of Hispanic and black votes though. Based on what Biden said on national TV; that would make them not black.


Because sheep have to follow no matter the shepherd. It's all they know.

Leelu Level 7 Nov 5, 2020

Real true!!


IMO, The U.S. population, as in the Trumppets, has dumbed down so far and deeply that it supports stupidity, racism, misogyny, tyranny, nepotism, etc, etc completely.

Triphid Level 8 Nov 5, 2020

Yes, I have progressed beyond all the socio economic political psychological analytical babble about why Trump supporters fervently support a would be dictator, and Ive left it behind. Bottom line: half of America wants an Autocratic America, because it appeals to them -- until it affects them personally, of course. American capitalism and their news and entertainment industry have dumbed down half the country (to use your term) and this is what we see.


Popular vote as of now stands at 72.8 million for Biden and 69.2 million for Trump, Biden has received more votes than any candidate in history, even more than Obama and is almost 1 million more popular votes than Trump vs Hillary which was basically 3 million. This said, the electoral college is planned to make elections close and that is why we have to wait. The split is basically 52 to 48. Trump voters are mostly made of people who are highly suceptible of being influenced by disinformation and fear of things they don't really know or understand, a large majority of them are either racist or xenophobic or both, many are mysoginists, ignorant and irrational. Your choices are improperly phrased, reread them, for example, if you are a Trump supporter wouldn't this also mean that you are convinced he is the better choice? Why support him if not? What narrative in the Biden platform mentions that America "is fundamentally flawed"? None. There is systemic racism that must change, there are many policies that must be improved or actualized, like the electoral college or the lifetime appointments, quite a stretch from this to implying that Biden espoused a platform of saying that we live in a "fundamentally flawed America." Quite the opposite. Biden's message was always that united we can achieve anything we want. Oh, and while there are many "closeted" bigots as you describe them, there are many more openly racist bigots. The count is not over and the analysis of the demographics hasn't even started.

Mofo1953 Level 8 Nov 5, 2020

I picked the third option since an argument can be made that it is a reason that includes all of your other choices.
I think trump achieved high voter turnout as an answer to the news that Democrats were getting record turnout. They have several networks in their political machine that require little effort or money from the Republican party itself. My example would be pro life churches. Trump wins rural counties nationwide with a consistent ly huge margin.
Trump does benefit from racism, sexism and bigotry in general. He is very reluctant to reject these people because he shares some of their flaws but more importantly he does not throw away their votes. I would agree that republican voters overall may not hold the hateful views of their extreme peers but like trump himself they are more than willing to overlook and apologize for them to retain trump votes.
Democrats need to quit assuming that they will automatically do well with every ethnic group besides whites. Miami-Dade County in Florida is a prime example. The trump doom messaging calling Democrats communists may have worked better here than anywhere else.
Republican governments have no problem suppressing the vote. The Supreme Court helped them with this in 2013.

Diagoras Level 7 Nov 5, 2020

Me too, third option.


Because the average IQ of the American Citizen is 100. This means that all the Trump supporters can have double digit IQ's, which goes a long way toward answering your question.


I'm sure most of them think he's the better choice, I doubt they are introspective enough to know why they think that.


The most important issue to most people is a strong economy, and before COVID it was perceived by many that Trump deserved credit for it. Now we need a rebound and they aren't convinced Biden could lead it. IMO.

KevinMR Level 7 Nov 5, 2020

OMG so true, Obama and Biden set up the economy so well that Trump could claim ownership until he screwed it all up by lying about the dangers of the pandemic. It was NEVER Trumps economy, it was and remains Obamas.

Borrowing money to give tax breaks is going to give a boost to the economy as that money is spent but it is detrimental in the long term. Unemployment had reduced slightly under Trump until Covid struck but they would probably be mostly zero hour contracts in retail and the service industries.

@Moravian Yep. But many on the right didn't dig that deep as they arrived at their conclusions about the economy.


Think that says neither of them are popular regardless of what their respective parties would have you believe...


Polls don't accurately reflect rural voters.

The majority of trump supporters that I know are extremely religious, under educated and anti-science / facts, or they're more interested in their personal well-being and don't care what happens to anyone else.

Paracosm Level 8 Nov 5, 2020

'tis the "me" generation.


Trump loves em stupid....and they haven't disappointed.....he speaks and hates at their level.


I feel its the religious factor. We have too many Americans who are supporting Trump only because he is pushing their religious agenda forward. They don't care about anything else, negative or whatever, about Trump other than his willingness to push a religious agenda into policy.

linxminx Level 8 Nov 5, 2020

Part of the problem is that the US operates on a 2 party system for practical purposes, almost all other Western Democracies have more than 2 parties but the US has never really managed more than 2 serious parties. People were left with 3 choices, vote for a fascist, vote for another old, white dude who is long past his prime or vote for a fringe party like the Libertarians or the Greens. Given the available options, combined with the pandemic and the economic uncertainty, it's not so surprising that it is a close race.
People want equality and decency for the most part but when it comes to opening their wallet and paying for it then it's not so straightforward for a lot of people.


As this is an atheist site, I think I should point out that religion teaches people to only pay attention to the facts that fit the narrative of what they want to believe. I think this is a primary influence as to why so many peopel voted for Trump.

Add in the closet racists and bigots, and also "celebrity worship", and between all three you have covered almost everybody who voted for him.

snytiger6 Level 9 Nov 6, 2020

All democracies become split down the middle. Because each side coming from one direction, tries to grab as much of the demographic as it can, by appealing to the centre but starts to loose support from its loud outer fringe as it moves into the centre. Forcing a state of balanced halves, with no room for third opinions.

That means that it is almost inevitable that in all democracies, the majority in the centre of the political bell curve, are forced into choosing the lesser of two evils all the time. Perhaps that is a good thing, since it helps to stop apathy. But it can also lead to dangerous swing politics, where any movement towards the extreme by one side is seen as an invitation and compulsion, to become more extreme by the other, the swings often becoming deeper and more reactive over time, until constant changes of policy from one extreme to the other begin to damage the states institutions.

I remember reading many years ago, the naturalist Konrad Lorenz. Who lived through the nineteen thirties in Germany. Proposing that this was observable in German politics before the collapse of the main parties, admitting the then tiny Nazi party in, to make a grab for power.

Some people hold that well designed electoral systems, based on things like proportional representation could prevent political division and swing politics, but of course that is at the cost of apathy and possible corruption, by entrenched political castes.

Fernapple Level 8 Nov 6, 2020

Swing politics also leads to inefficiencies. Each new administration winds up undoing things from the last or creating new measures to counter what the previous admin has put into place.

@itsmedammit Yes, that is mainly what I meant by "damages institutions". Though trying to keep it short, I had to use that difficult phrase and could not put it so well as you do.


Everybody is racist.
That's why we need a government.

Storm1752 Level 8 Nov 5, 2020

That’s what Trump revealed.


Strangely we had time today at my workplace to discuss some of this in a civil way. I found it amusing that when I said Trump wanted the counting stopped when he saw he was losing, a couple of co-workers said with a straight face that he wanted counting stopped as he was winning. As if that would make any difference at all. I was quick to point out to those who claimed Trump won that he only had 214 electoral votes. That isn't winning. Then one man wanted to know why there was so much counting and no answers would satisfy him. He claimed that Mexicans and other illegals would be voting before it's over just to get the numbers up.

Now read that again and even try reading between the lines and you will find out what is wrong with Trump supporters. In short, they simply believe what they want to believe. I get it that everyone is angry and both parties need to fix this. It was all of this anger that got Trump elected. What his supporters got was false hope. I think they were tired of lies out of DC.

DenoPenno Level 9 Nov 5, 2020

There is about a 4,000,000 difference between Biden and Trump at the moment. I don't think that is "so close".

Those were double digit PERCENT difference predictions. There is currently only a 2.8% difference...


We are still fighting the Civil War. Just not with some folks favorite tool, armaments. The "right" won this election just not the Executive Branch. Republicans keep the Senate, increase the House, not one Republican Assembly overturned, & we are as divided as ever. But it looks like rural vs urban. I am not happy. But then I rarely am. Pay some taxes Amazon!!! =0{

Mooolah Level 8 Nov 6, 2020

Throughout history polls, or Poles as Trump called them in a tweet, although I don't see what central Europeans have to do with it, have often been wrong. Why ?. Possibly because some people deliberately try to give a false impression or are embarrassed at revealing their choice of candidate, as may be the case with some Trump supporters.

Moravian Level 8 Nov 6, 2020
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