Donald Trump has won, so we have another round of stories about polling shortcomings, though thankfully it’s someone else’s country this time round (this is very much a personal take from across an ocean – the Yougov American and British teams are quite separate, so I have no insider angle on the YouGov American polls to offer).

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about whether there was potential for the US polls to suffer the same sort of polling mishap as Britain had experienced in 2015. It now looks as if they have. The US polling industry actually has a very good record of accuracy – they obviously have a lot more contests to poll, a lot more information to hand (and probably a lot more money!), but nevertheless – if you put aside the 2000 exit poll, you have to go back to 1948 to find a complete polling catastrophe in the US. That expectation of accuracy means they’ll probably face a lot of flak in the days ahead.

We in Britain have, shall I say, more recent experience of the art of being wrong, so here’s what insight I can offer. First the Brexit comparison. I fear this will be almost universal over the next few weeks, but when it comes to polling it is questionable:

  • In the case of Brexit, the polling picture was mixed. Put crudely, telephone polls showed a clear lead for Remain, online polls showed a tight race, with leave often ahead. Our media expected Remain to win and wrongly focused only on those polls that agreed with them, leading to a false narrative of a clear Remain lead, rather than a close run thing. Some polls were wrong, but the perception that they were all off is wrong – it was a failure of interpretation.
  • In the case of the USA, the polling picture was not really mixed. With the exception of the outlying USC Dornslife/LA Times poll all the polls tended to show a picture of Clinton leading, backed up by state polls also showing Clinton leads consistent with the national polls. People were quite right to interpret the polls as showing Clinton heading towards victory… it was the polls themselves that were wrong.

How wrong were they? As I write, it looks as if Hillary Clinton will actually get the most votes, but lose in the Electoral College. In that sense, the national polls were not wrong when they showed Clinton ahead, she really was. It’s one of the most fustrating situations to be in as a pollster, those times when statistically you are correct… but your figures have told the wrong narrative, so everyone thinks you are wrong. That doesn’t get the American pollsters off the hook though: the final polls were clustered around a 4 point lead for Clinton, when in reality it looks about 1 point. More importantly, the state polls were often way out, polls had Ohio as a tight race when Trump stomped it by 8 points. All the polls in Wisconsin had Clinton clearly ahead; Trump won. Polls in Minnesota were showing Clinton leads of 5-10 points, it ended up on a knife edge. Clearly something went deeply wrong here.

Putting aside exactly how comparable the Brexit polls and the Trump polls are, there are some potential lessons in terms of polling methodology. I am no expert in US polling, so I’ll leave it to others more knowledgable than I to dig through the entrails of the election polls. However, based on my experiences of recent mishaps in British polling, there are a couple of places I would certainly start looking.

One is turnout modelling – US pollsters often approach turnout in a very different way how British pollsters traditionally did it. We’ve always relied on weighting to the profile of the whole population and asking people if they are likely to vote. US pollsters have access to far more information on which people actually do vote, allowing they to weight their samples to the profile of actual voters in a state. This has helped the normally good record of US pollsters… but carries a potential risk if the type of people who vote changes, if there is an unexpected increase in turnout among demographics who don’t usually vote. This was one of the ways British pollsters did get burnt over Brexit. After getting the 2015 election wrong lots of British companies experimented with a more US-style approach, modelling turnout on the basis of people’s demographics. Those companies then faced problems when there was unexpectedly high turnout from more working-class, less well-educated voters at the referendum. Luckily for US pollsters, the relatively easy availability of data on who voted means they should be able to rule this in or out quite easily.

The second is sampling. The inquiry into our general election polling error in 2015 found that unrepresentative samples were the core of the problem, and I can well imagine that this is a problem that risks affecting pollsters anywhere. Across the world landline penetration is falling, response rates are falling and it seems likely that the dwindling number of people still willing to take part in polls are ever more unrepresentative. In this country our samples seemed to be skewed towards people who were too educated, who paid too much attention to politics, followed the news agenda and the political media too closely. We under-represented those with little interest in politics, and several UK pollsters have since started sampling and weighting by that to try and address the issue. Were the US pollsters to suffer a similar problem one can easily imagine how it could result in polls under-representing Donald Trump’s support. If that does end up being the case, the question will be what US pollsters do to address the issue.


1,352 Responses to “Why were the US polls wrong?”

1 2 3 28
  1. ASSIDUOSITY

    Really nice to see you post again, welcome back. I guess you know it has been a little unpleasant here since you last posted, so you were probably wise to have a break.

    Thanks for that detailed piece on the upcoming French election. I have saved it in a file to refer to as that election drawers near.

    Thanks again.

  2. Is this the end of polling? In the digital age of disposable mobiles, and unengaged electorate, surely the second issue you point out is chronic, and pollsters are left guessing how many of the unrepresented in their polls will vote one way or other, and how many there really are?

    Polls will therefore always be taken with a massive pinch of salt, and commissioned less and less as they are trusted less and less.

  3. AW

    Many thanks for some interesting thoughts. I will be looking out for polling analysis by the American polling componies as time goes on. I fully understand your comment as a pollster that it’s very interesting the national vote is one way and the detailed result (electoral college in this case) goes the other way.

  4. @TOH

    It’s good to be back.

    I was undertaking a contract which carried a clause prohibiting use of certain social media.

    I did observe the site from afar, though I couldn’t comment. I was sorry to see that it had developed many of the bad habits that afflict social media more generally. I can’t help thinking that this inability to debate points without recourse to personal insult is tipping over into the public sphere more and more as both the US election and recent referendum ‘campaigns’ showed.

    I was sorry to read about the return of your illness. I do hope your oncologist is able to bring things back under control. It was so good to see that you are still able to make it up to the Wallace Collection and V&A – two of my most favourite museums.

    On the Wallace Collection, I’m not sure if on your many and varied travels you’ve been to either the Muse Jacquemart Andre in Paris or Frick Collection in New York, but both were inspired by the Wallace.

  5. It seems as if the new challenge for pollsters is predicting the increasingly variable – perhaps even volatile – section of the electorate that will participate in any given election and contacting the correct sample group to ascertain their preferences.

    I’ve always been slightly doubtful about the ‘shy Tory’ theory that posits people actually lie blatantly to pollsters en masse (some may). Having worked as a market research interviewer many years ago when a student, I was constantly surprised by how much – personal, often embarrassing, sometimes incriminating – information people quite merrily volunteered.

  6. Its worth noting that some of the states where the polls we’re a long way out in the general also threw up shock results in the primaries. I think michigan is a good example, in the democratic primaries the pollsters got it wrong by about 20 points! But there were lots of bad polling stats in the democratic primaries which should have alerted the polling companies to defects in their models.

    Im going to be contentious, but might some of the problem be that the pollsters being sensible people might have got a little invested in a Clinton win? Might it be that they were reluctant to examine the flaws in their models because Clinton not winning was inconceivable?

  7. So we now have a leader who actively campaigned against his own party, was abandoned by its established grandees, who promotes a radical policy platform that is written off by the media as illogical and unworkable; a man who is laughed at by the mainstream media but relies heavily on something verging on a personality cult; who eschews the normal rule of campaigning, having a shambolic organisation, no effective ground game but instead relies on social media and mass rallies to talk direct to his supporters.

    Is this the moment for Jeremy Corbyn to seize the crown?

  8. @Alec

    “Is this the moment for Jeremy Corbyn to seize the crown?”

    We can now officially say that stranger things have happened.

  9. A thought about Trump’s agenda going forward.

    There’s a commonly held view that politicians ‘promise one thing in elections and do another in office’. There’s quite a lot of academic research over decades that actually shows this isn’t necessarily as much the case as we might imagine.

    This link has a summary with links on to more comprehensive papers:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trust-us-politicians-keep-most-of-their-promises/

    The upshot is that around two thirds of the promises made by successful candidates for the US presidency are actually enacted or actively pursued when they are in office (apparently our politicians do best with over 80% of manifesto commitments passing into legislation).

    Now, Trump is no conventional President-elect, so may well buck this trend, but its worth considering that if he follows history he’s likely to at least attempt to put in place (in one form or another) 6 or 7 of the following 10 key pledges he’s made to date:

    + ‘Build a wall’ across the US southern border with Mexico and get the Mexicans to pay for it

    + Start large scale enforced deportation of between 2 and 11 million illegal immigrants in the USA (at a cost estimated up to $150bn)

    + Re-negotiate or scrap NAFTA

    + Re-negotiate trade terms with China or apply punitive trade tariffs to Chinese manufactured goods, contrary to WTO rules

    + Institute a series of major personal tax cuts that would take a number of US citizens out of income tax and significantly reduce the tax burden for the highest earners (substantially reducing income tax revenue)

    + Cut corporation tax rate significantly (it’s claimed to bring it into line with international averages, but in fact would reduce the effective tax rate paid by business to well below OECD median and again leave a whole in the budget)

    + Cut all US funding for UN and international climate change programmes, revoke commitments to CO2 emission control, withdraw from the Paris agreement and flex the US economy back to coal and natural gas extraction and use

    + Repeal Obamacare

    + Use money ‘saved’ to institute a massive national infrastructure programme encompassing road, rail, airports, water and electricity supply, kick start the economy ‘putting millions to work’ and double economic growth

    + ‘Forge a closer working relationship with Russia’, re-set the relationship with other NATO members with possibility of withdrawing commitments to mutual defence, ‘tear up’ the Iran nuclear deal

    The thing about these pledges is that – without ever giving policy detail – they appear quite specific to the voters. These are a whole set of ‘read my lips no new taxes’ that Trump has been repeating ad infinitum.

  10. @CambridgeRachel

    “Im going to be contentious, but might some of the problem be that the pollsters being sensible people might have got a little invested in a Clinton win? Might it be that they were reluctant to examine the flaws in their models because Clinton not winning was inconceivable?”

    One way to test this would be to find out what the numbers were for Trump’s in house and private polling and whether there was any gap between that and the public numbers for the media.

    Last time round, if I remember correctly, the Republicans got stung by believing their own numbers which had a positive Romney bias, so such a systemic problem is not entirely impossible.

  11. ASSIDUOSITY

    It’s kind of you to ask. Yes, my cancer continues to return slowly and I am having another CT/RET (F-18 Choline) scan, next week to and pinpoint where it’s developing. If he can zap with radiotherapy or possivbly surgery He will do so. Thus I am in the position of still having the possibility of a cure 14 years after diagnosis, followed by surgery and later radiotherapy. Cancer treatment has moved on a lot in the last few years.

    I remain basically quite fit, have no symptoms and yes i still enjoy taking my grand children out. I’ve always liked the Wallace Collection, nice mix to view which can be done in a couple of hours of slow walking round. Thanks for the tips for the Muse Jacquemart Andre in Paris or Frick Collection in New York.

    TOH

  12. It’s of course too early to assess how much of Trump’s pre-election programme will be attempted. Either he meant what he said, and will have a go at implementing much of it – which would in my view have disastrous consequences – or he didn’t and won’t, in which case there will be an awful lot of disillusioned American voters. I suppose a third possibility is he will try to implement it, but be mostly blocked by Congress, in which case he can continue to pose as champion of the people.

    However, I think those on here who have seen this as hastening their hoped-for disintegration of the EU may be disappointed. I suspect that this further evidence of ‘the world gone mad’ (or at least a large chunk of the Anglosphere gone mad) will lead to a circling of the wagons by EU countries, taking comfort in their mutual values, trade and support.

    I wonder if, in several decades’ time, historians will identify 2016 as the start of the UK’s shift from being part of a nascent United States of Europe to the 51st state of an actual USA. I suspect that, sooner or later, that is a choice we will have to make – or will be seen to have unwittingly made.

  13. @Sommerjohn

    “It’s of course too early to assess how much of Trump’s pre-election programme will be attempted.”

    Agreed.

    However, it is notable that US presidents have in the 20th century never slipped below attempting to bring at least 50% of their pledges into reality.

    In listing Trump’s principle promises I was simply seeking to highlight just how contentious and difficult it will be to enact 50% or 66% of his platform without opposition, even from a Republican congress let alone civil society and the international community.

    Not that the amount of a president’s programme brought to fruition is a predictor of their electoral success. Whilst the FDR was both the most electorally successful president and the one who fulfilled the largest proportion of his pledges. Ronald Reagan, who was also an extremely popular figure at the ballot box was the president who legislatively accomplished least.

    “I wonder if, in several decades’ time, historians will identify 2016 as the start of the UK’s shift from being part of a nascent United States of Europe to the 51st state of an actual USA. I suspect that, sooner or later, that is a choice we will have to make – or will be seen to have unwittingly made.”

    This is of course what de Gaulle predicted would happen – that the UK would never embrace the ‘European project’ and ultimately leave to join the USA in an alliance – hence his famous ‘Non’ veto of British membership of the European Communities.

  14. Good evening all from Melbourne Australia. Past my bedtime so I will keep this short.

    The reason the polls got it wrong as with Brexit is because people were afraid to say they were voting for Trump because of the hostility towards him from the media and the establishment.

    So…we had shy Brexit voters and now shy Trumpex voters.

  15. @ALLAN CHRISTIE

    Greetings from 40,000 feet on my way to the US. Agree with you. There was clearly a large shy Trump vote in the Rust Belt that the polls missed.

    @ASSIDUOSITY “This is of course what de Gaulle predicted would happen – that the UK would never embrace the ‘European project’ and ultimately leave to join the USA in an alliance – hence his famous ‘Non’ veto of British membership of the European Communities.”

    Yes indeed. Enoch Powell also predicted that the British would never assent to the European Project when they realised what it meant.

  16. Assiduosity: I think we’re in agreement. I wasn’t disputing your useful list of Trump’s proposals. We’ll have to wait to see whether history is any guide to future performance when it comes to his fulfilment of pledges, but given your extremes, I suspect he’s more of a Reagan than an FDR.

    Your de Gaulle point is apposite. As someone who has always been passionately in favour of the European project, I have equally been equivocal about UK participation in that project. I just don’t think we’re capable of playing a positive role in the creation of a federal Europe, which is what most Euroeans are happy to accept as their ultimate destiny. So while a hard Brexit will have devastating consequences for the UK, I think it will be a blessing in disguise for Europe. Again, only time will tell (as TOH keeps reminding us)

  17. Allan Christie:

    An alternative way of phrasing that is that plenty of people are willing to vote for anything that is not the establishment, such is their desire for change.

    But many of those are not willing to admit the extent to which they are prepared to put up with negative attributes in order to vote for it.

    There’s a lot going for Trump, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has said things which are unambiguously sexist, that his race relations leave much to be desired to put it mildly. And his play on words about the second amendment, whether said with intent or not and regardless of one’s view on gun rights in the USA, was almost certainly the most chilling thing any serious US Presidential candidate has ever said on the campaign trail. In that context, the poll inaccuracy is not surprising.

  18. @Allan Christie

    “The reason the polls got it wrong as with Brexit is because people were afraid to say they were voting for Trump because of the hostility towards him from the media and the establishment.”

    I’m sorry, I just don’t buy this.

    There may be a small number of people who are too ‘afraid’ to tell a telephone interviewer, or an auto-recorded message that they are voting Trump, but very, very few. The numbers unprepared to express a preference online even smaller.

    I think it’s much more likely that pollsters simply aren’t reaching a properly representative sample of the electorate for all the reasons rehearsed above, and are then weighting their samples incorrectly because they don’t have a clear picture of who will make up the electorate as a whole for any given vote because it keeps changing between elections.

    So if you can’t reach certain sections of the community because they don’t have landlines or are infrequent internet users, or have become suspicious of market research because of ‘data harvesting’ then you multiply this by the fact that the electorate you predict is different to the one that turns up because suddenly a whole cohort of older white men without college degrees in rural areas vote in numbers then you have a problem.

    I think this is more credible than shrinking violet Donald Trump supporters.

  19. @Sommerjohn

    ” I suspect he’s more of a Reagan than an FDR”

    Well, you say that…. I was struck how, in his acceptance speech Trump placed so much emphasis on the renewal of the national infrastructure. This central passage could (were the language rather more elegant, the cadences more poetic) have – almost – been lifted straight from New Deal Era FDR:

    “Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream. I’ve spent my entire life in business, looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world.
    That is now what I want to do for our country. Tremendous potential. I’ve gotten to know our country so well. Tremendous potential. It is going to be a beautiful thing. Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential.
    The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
    We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

    Perhaps Trump will find the ultimate expression of his ego in a new massive building programme to kick start America out of the Great Recession. He is a construction man, of sorts, after all. Anyone who has experienced the truly tawdry state of much of the US’s public realm in recent years couldn’t but welcome that.

    Stranger things have happened. Well…

  20. “Perhaps Trump will find the ultimate expression of his ego in a new massive building programme to kick start America out of the Great Recession. He is a construction man, of sorts, after all.”

    ——————

    Well being as he’s in business, and indeed construction, there’s a chance he appreciates the value of investment a bit more than your average neolib. It might of course also support his businesses…

  21. I should add, there’s a difference between businesses who actually build stuff in the US like Trump, who hence need local investment, and businesses who can increase profits by relocating elsewhere, who don’t need much investment in the US and can hence take a more neolib stance…

    They may of course be a bit less neolib in their approach to the country where they relocate the factories, requiring rather more investment there…

  22. There are plenty of historical examples of far-right politicians investing in infrastructure.

  23. Have spent the day nursing a cold in front of the tv coverage-particularly US channels.

    One or two themes emerge for me:-

    Whilst UK social media is awash with the horror & revulsion of the Liberal Intelligentsia at the victory of a Populist, Mercantilist , Corporatist President as Leader of The Free World ; Small Town America has elected someone to fix their roads & get their jobs back-not to Lead The World.

    The Business channels are focused on his pledges on economic growth & jobs. Tax cuts & massive Infrastructure spending seem favourites for priority action. ( I wonder if Corbyn sees the irony ?) Trump shares May’s reservations at the outcomes for ordinary people of Loose Monetary Policy ,so change at The Fed is signalled. What I have not heard addressed is how a big Fiscal Stimulus can be funded, given US’s Public Debt .
    But Trump has been elected because of the belief that he can fix the economy BECAUSE he is a business man & NOT a Washington DC insider.

    So I think the silly cries about World War 3 that one reads over here miss the point of Trump entirely. US military involvement overseas will need to justify the cost under Trump. If there is to be a WW3 it is more likely to be started by Putin as he steps into the vacuum created by US stepping back a little. I Fact Checked Trump on NATO membership. He has never advocated withdrawing from it-but he has stated, time & time again, that US is paying too much of the financial burden. I just heard Tusk invoking shared values between USA & EU. I think he may find that with Trump, sharing values with Mr Tusk doesn’t mean that USA pays to defend them .

  24. I guess the Democrats are going to have a civil war now. After losing the election with the ‘electable’ candidate which many of the grassroots didn’t want and all the controversy about collusion between the Clinton campaign and the party machinery, the recriminations will be bitter.

    With the Republicans, who knows? If the party in Congress won’t back trumps plans will he run his own people against them? A lot of Republicans really don’t like trump, its going to be a strain

  25. Somerjohn

    I don’t take great issue with either of those posts although as you know I don’t see a great future for the EU, anymore than you do for the UK post Brexit. Indeed If World developments eventually make us join a power block again then I would certainly be much happier joining the USA, i suspect I have more in common with most American’s, than i do with most Europeans i have met.

    By the way I think that Merkel has not helped either Germany’s or the EU’s cause by the way she has welcomed Trump’s win. She might feel good about attempting to take the high moral ground but i suspect it will not go down well in Washington. May’s response was much better IMO

  26. TOH

    Agree with your last para absolutely.
    Merkel misjudged that entirely.

    And Hollande was too inclined to let personal politics show in his speech too.

    These EU leaders are going to learn the hard way , I think, that TRump will be thinking a little less about the rest of the world and a lot more about Main Street USA.

  27. I noticed that Gary Johnson only got 3 % of the national vote, which is about half of what the pre-election polls predicted. Was there maybe a “shy voter” effect with some Trump supporters claiming to vote for Johnson instead ?

  28. I don’t buy the ‘shy’ Trumper or Brexiter factor for distorting the polls. It may be that ‘shy’ voters are a factor in shaping our perceptions of how votes are going to fall; in other words it’s perfectly possibly that people may be unwilling to tell their friends/family/neighbours if they feel their voting intention is contentious (I don’t know if this is true or not I’m just saying I think it’s possible) but I doubt they’d be unwilling to respond on the ‘phone or online.

    I also don’t see the idea that the pollsters job is more difficult in the age of the internet/mobile ‘phones – the people who surprised the pollsters in both Brexit and the US election were older voters turning out in greater numbers and voting in blocks. These folks were the least likely to be hard to reach for polling purposes. Was it ‘sampling’? Or was it that actually polling is not as accurate or useful as we imagine and was always just a little bit better than random guessing but the fact that we THOUGHT it worked made us ignore other factors?

    I was in Michigan a few weeks ago and all the evidence of my senses told me that anyone promising a big infrastructure programme would win but I continued to read the polls and ignore the evidence around me – and so did most of the people there. The polls have become, in recent years, something which, despite the weak science behind them, we’ve come to believe unquestioningly.

  29. I’m sure that posters here will not agree with this, however they will eventually be forced to if they want liberal left wing parties to see power again.

    This is not some kind of personal statement, it has been confirmed by talking directly to people in the USA and this lunchtimes guests on Radio 4 World at One.

    One of the big reasons Clinton lost the US election was the scapegoating and name calling of what her camp referred to as “The Patriarchy”.

    Some people claim that this is a conspiracy theory, and that the patriarchy doesn’t exist, some also claim it is a racist concept seeking to blame all of lifes ills on one social group.

    Paul Mason on WAtO stated it again, that Trump is backed by middle class middle aged white supremacists! It went down like a lead balloon in US states.
    People were being blamed and scapegoated in a way that wasn’t correct and they bucked against it.
    Not only them but their families too. One professional woman I spoke too was VERY angry about what she saw as a slur, she voted Trump purely because she believed the Democrats were attacking her husband on a personal level.

    From my own brief research into this, it is exactly the same as Brexit in so far as one camp was so out of touch with the electorate that it made what could have been a winning campaign into a losing one.

    If you want an insight into this, take a look at the young female snowflake Hilary supporters in tears, and then imagine how their politics fit with a rural bible belt American.

  30. @Somerjohn: I was actually thinking abiut your point his morning. On one hand, you may be right that the emergence of a more isolationist and hostile USA, together with the perception of an adversarial United Kingdom, may push the EU to accelerate the path towards a federal European state. On the other hand, rightr-wing nationalist/populist movements within the EU will be boosted by the recent events in the UK and the US. Right now, I can’t tell what the net result will be. I guess we will have to wait the upcoming round of national elections in the EU to have a clearer picture.

  31. Interesting take on polling….
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2016/jun/01/political-polls-bad-for-democracy-heres-why-video

    I know it wouldn’t be very good for this blog but ….I am actually beginning to think that political polling should be banned a year from any potential election/referendum, so people can concentrate on the issues. When the wrong result comes in (be it 2015 GE or Brexit or US Election), all these polls do is highlight one sides bewilderment and false sense of security.

    And for those who still think that Corbyn is not electable …..the truth is he is very electable. More now than ever. All the ingredients for this to happen are already there. The only shock will be to those who stick their fingers in their ears and go la la la.

  32. @ Colin

    Donald Trump has been rather more equivocal on NATO and the USA’s role in it than you suggest in your post of 3.06pm.

    This is from his interview with Bloomberg of March this year:

    “Halperin, March 23: Should America be the leader of NATO or not necessarily?

    Trump: I think NATO may be obsolete. NATO was set up a long time ago — many, many years ago when things were different. Things are different now. We were a rich nation then. We had nothing but money. We had nothing but power. And you know, far more than we have today, in a true sense. And I think NATO — you have to really examine NATO. And it doesn’t really help us, it’s helping other countries. And I don’t think those other countries appreciate what we’re doing.

    Heilemann: So, just to be clear, you made two slightly different arguments there and I just want to clarify. One of them is that you might want to see the U.S. pay less money into NATO because …

    Trump: That one definitely. That one definitely.

    Heilemann: But it’s possible that NATO is obsolete and should be gotten rid of?

    Trump: It’s possible. It’s possible. I would certainly look at it. And I’d want more help from other people. The one thing definitely — we’re paying too much. As to whether or not it’s obsolete, I’ll make that determination.”

    The key answer there is the last one, when asked whether NATO is ‘obsolete and should be gotten rid of’ his response is… ‘It’s possible’.

    The source is factcheck.org

    http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/whats-trumps-position-on-nato/

    Putting aside the rights and wrongs of whether the USA makes a disproportionate contribution to NATO, and if the institution is obsolete or not, I think this highlights how difficult it is to get a handle on Trump’s thinking on any issue, as – within broad parameters – his positions are remarkably inconsistent.

    Whilst it is only my opinion – and I am fully aware others disagree – in my view NATO and the EU have been two of the principle pillars of European economic and defence security and cooperation in the post war period. There is as least the possibility as a result of Brexit and the Trump presidency that these institutions are now in for a period of uncertainty, which in turn has the potential for destabilising effects on the continent as a whole.

    These are of course possibilities, and we must await Trump’s appointments and initial policy announcements before we get a clearer picture.

  33. @Cambridgerachel: the way I see it, the left wing will now take over the Democratic party with Elizabeth Warren emerging as an early favourite for the 2020 nomination. That might actually signify a long cycle of Republican dominance in US politics as we had not seen since the 1980s.

  34. THOUGHFUL

    What an interesting post.

    If that is “our” Paul Mason you refer to , then I am not at all surprised.

  35. ” statistically you are correct… but your figures have told the wrong narrative, so everyone thinks you are wrong”
    But you were. To be right, you have to get the narrative right.

  36. Huge tension seems to be coming between a Republican party caucus that is strongly committed to small government, reduced government spending and balancing the budget and a candidate that has committed to significant expenditure on infrastructure alongside huge tax cuts.

    Something has got to give…

  37. ASSIDUOSITY

    I read the same Fact Check stuff as you -which was how I came to my conclusion that he has not said USA would pull out of NATO-but that others must contribute more to it.

    Nor has he said it should be closed down. He clearly thinks its objectives need updating & reviewing.

    There will be uncertainty , & is in many many areas , until his team is appointed & we start to see direction of policy.

    But everything I have heard to date makes me believe that the people who elected him ( see Thoughful’s interesting post) will be front & centre of it.

    If you get elected by The Left Behind………..and then leave them behind, you’re not going to last long.

  38. @Carfrew

    “Well being as he’s in business, and indeed construction, there’s a chance he appreciates the value of investment a bit more than your average neolib.”

    Point taken, much of Trump’s wealth is held as physical, tangible assets: properties.

    However, the reason that I used the term ‘construction man, of sorts’, is that my understanding of his business model is he essentially speculates on the land and property market. Assembling sites, purchasing surplus stock when markets are low, re-branding existing properties into the ‘Trump’ portfolio to add value. I believe the amount of actual development from land assembly to build out that Trump’s companies undertake is minimal and that the physical construction is generally outsourced on a design and build basis, except for the very highest profile ventures.

    All of this is pretty standard practice in the industry, but it does mean he’s much more of a developer than a constructor. Also, a surprising amount of his portfolio has been diversified overseas from the US.

    This taken together with some of his other business practices, the outsourcing of IT to India and merchandising to China, would suggest that his group of companies follow a fairly classical ‘neo-liberal’ and globalised model.

    None of this is a criticism per se, merely to point out that he is a part of the system he has sought to critique during his campaign, perhaps that makes him uniquely qualified to adjust the system in the future. Who knows.

  39. “…..re-branding existing properties into the ‘Trump’ portfolio to add value.”

    I had wondered how this branding thing is going to fit with the wall.

    ‘The Great Wall of Trump’ might be a starting candidate?

  40. THOUGHTFUL

    Your post made me go look at stuff on “Patriarchy” in the Election Campaign..

    Found this-you might be interested:-

    http://dailycaller.com/2016/09/08/hillary-clintons-patriarchal-villain-is-a-guy-terrified-of-dying-in-vietnam/

  41. @Colin

    If you read the same factcheck as I did you will have read these lines:

    “Heilemann: But it’s possible that NATO is obsolete and should be gotten rid of

    Trump: It’s possible. It’s possible…..”

    They indicate that Trump at least countenances the notion that NATO be wound up and goes further than your summary of his view as ‘He clearly thinks its objectives need updating & reviewing.’

    I’m certainly not saying he advocates immediate US withdrawal, but for (a then) presidential candidate to indicate he would give consideration to the winding up of NATO in the context of a thoughtful interview, rather than a stump speech, I think is a matter for serious reflection.

    It is I suppose a matter of perspective, you seem fairly sanguine about these matters, I tend to share the concerns set out by @NeilA in his post on the previous thread. There are a number of existential threats to international peace and security that are probably increased, or at the very least not lessened, by the possibility of a US concerned with fixing the potholes on main street rather than international affairs.

  42. @Alec

    ‘The Great Wall of Trump’ might be a starting candidate?

    Sadly, the US Mexican border is a mere 1,989 miles long, the Great Wall of China is 5,500 miles in length.

    We couldn’t have that…. where could it be extended to?

  43. It’s interesting Colin, and thanks for taking the trouble to look it up.

    It’s not necessarily been Clinton who has directly been name calling, but the entire camp behind her.

    This afternoon the BBC has been presenting a breakdown of Trump voters in a highly biased manner that 70% of non college educated white males voted Trump, the implication being that they are too thick and racist to vote Clinton. What they didn’t report was the percentage of college educated black women who voted Trump – because that obviously didn’t interest them, or fit the narrative.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-king/trump-the-worst-of-patria_b_12433442.html

    Tells you a little of what US citizens have been having to suffer during this election.

    Wheras the name calling might have been successful in Europe it’s spectacularly backfired in the US and I wonder now how long it will be tolerated in the UK before people begin to push back against it.

  44. @Thoughtful – it’srelatively rare, but I agree in general with your 3.29pm post. I have been saying something broadly similar with regards UKIP and UK politics for many years now, with the Brexit vote leading me to believe I was correct.

    One possible reason for our shock at the result over here (apart from the polls!) is that our media fell victim to the same tunnel vision. The unspoken assumption that Trump was a misogynist racist supported by stupid white men clouded everything that was reported.

    Having seen elements of Trump’s public and private behaviour, I have no real doubts that I would personally find him an odious and highly narcisistic individual, but then, had I known JFK, I would probably have been greatly troubled by his personal morality also.

    What happened seems to be that the liberal wing of America saw this behaviour and simply wrote off everything else Trump said and did, content in the belief that he was a neaderthal and could not possibly command majority support.

    Out in the real world there are millions of people who don’t ‘like’ Trump the man, but hear Trump the message, and they liked what they heard. Liberals fell back on their insular insistence that they were good and moral people, while Trump went around the forgotton areas of the electorate promising jobs and steps to tackle perceived problems. The two sides never actually met along the campaign as they now speak in completely different languages.

    This is very similar to Brexit, where the inability of many remainers to understand the perceptions of leavers, and instead brand them as uneducated racists, didn’t swing any votes – it just meant they were unable to respond to peoples anxieties, and in doing so, they lost the vote.

    I have no doubts at all that liberals need to wake up and realise that the moral superiority that they exude is false and damaging to their cause. There’s nothing decent or moral about leaving communities to the whims of the market place, or failing to challenge pro business immigration policies if they are creating suffering.

    The left has been largely incapable of developing a coherent response to events as they remain stuck in the rut of blaming their opponents for the way they think, rather than offering constructive ways out of the problems. Paul Mason, who is someone I generally admire, is terrible at this, and won’t help win anyone over with some of his pronouncements.

  45. Not on this topic but I suspect the UK hasn’t done itself any favours with New Zealand over Lowell Goddard.

  46. @Assiduosity

    Yes I wasn’t really challenging your view, just adding to it, pointing out when it suits peeps to be in favour of the neolib thing and when not.

    Accept Trump may be more developer than constructor but investment can assist here: better transport links can improve the value of a portfolio, but also he may care to get more involved in construction if opportunities increase.

    Meanwhile, sure, he may also have overseas interests, in which case he may behave like others with overseas interests: keen on govt. investment where production and services are sited.

    With business that largely relocates abroad, interests may be served by neoliberal at home, hence less investment, lower taxes, more globalism… but more interventionist abroad. In Trump’s case interventionism may suit at home and abroad.

  47. @Assiduoisity,

    Whilst I am concerned about all sort of things Trump has said, including his attitude to NATO and the mutual defence arrangements, I suspect that he has no intention of scrapping the western military alliance.

    Firstly I think he speaks off the cuff and answers questions even when he doesn’t have a properly thought-through response to give. I believe this has actually won him votes, overall, because people are more trusting of people who blurt out whatever they’re thinking (even if it’s nonsense) than people who are constantly cagey and on-message.

    Secondly, I think his remarks could be construed as referring to “NATO” as a shorthand for ‘the current arrangements’ and what he envisages is a continuation of the military alliance but with a new structure in which there is an absolute obligation on the European end to provide for their own defences (after all we outnumber Russia and her allies more than 2 to 1 in population and far more than that in GDP).

    I think it’s pretty unlikely that Russia would be permitted to make a military incursion, overt or covert, into the Baltics. But I could see Putin annexing Eastern Ukraine, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, or subjugating Georgia completely.

    However, this is The Donald, so who the f**k knows..

  48. Trump might be able to pull the USA out of NATO, but I doubt he’d be able to wind it up. Of the 28 members, all but two are European. Whether Canada and the UK would remain in NATO if the USA left, I don’t know. But the remaining 25 would form a fairly convincing European Defence Group, with French nuclear teeth.

  49. This election shows that Trump lost votes compared to Romney, but Clinton lost more compared to Obama.

    In 2012, the Democrats won by enthusing their base rather than triangulating. In 2016 they failed to do that, leading to Trump winning.

    Likewise, the Brexit leave campaign enthused their base, when the remain triangulated and went negative.

    Yet more evidence that triangulation and holding the centre is an outdated political tactic.

    Assuming the American Constitution makes it to 2020, the potential for increased Democrat turnout should leave the Democrats as possible winners if things go wrong for Trump. They should just actually put up someone with some vision and charisma rather than a robotic apparatchik.

    One last thought; people used to credit Hillary for being the guiding hand behind Bill Clinton’s success. Perhaps not after all.

  50. @Alec

    I was going to write something quite similar about the personal mores of polticians and the extent to which they are actually relevant.

    You chose JFK as your comparator but I was also thinking of Bill Clinton, who wasn’t exactly a stand-up guy despite the pass the liberal left appears to have afforded him in relation to his behavior.

    I suspect if we drilled down into history and looked at the attitudes and personal behavior of some of our most treasured figures we’d find them severely wanting as human beings. It doesn’t necessarily mean we would want them not to have occupied the role they had.

    As an example, the Evangelicals may well have been sickened by Trump’s behavior towards women and the poor. But they believe he will appoint Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe vs Wade. Or at least, they are absolutely certain that Clinton would have appointed justices that would never dream of such a thing. For them, putting up with the sins of one man would be a small thing compared to what they (sincerely, whether you agree with them or not) see as the mass execution of hundreds of thousands of children.

    I also think there is a bit of “there but for the grace of God” going on. We can all agree that sexism, racism, homophobia, insensitivity to people with disabilities and looking down on the underclass are horrible things, but we also know that almost everybody displays some of these behaviours at one time or another.

1 2 3 28