WASHINGTON: Predictions about the 2020 US presidential election became less certain this week as recent opinion surveys showed President Donald Trump remains a formidable opponent.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden still has a lead in most polls, but surveys are also highlighting other factors that could influence the voters.

A USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll shows — released on Sunday — predicted that Trump was more likely to win the presidential debates than Biden, adding that the debates could do for Trump what last month’s Republican convention did not — win over more voters.

The presidential debates are scheduled on Sept 29, Oct 15, and Oct 22. The vice-presidential debate is scheduled on Oct 7.

The survey also found that President Trump’s supporters remained committed to him despite predictions that he would lose the Nov 3 election.

Voters responding to USA Today surveyors said they believed Trump would “run all over Biden” in the debates. Even professed Biden voters acknowledged that Trump would effectively use the debates to win over independent voters.

In the US, party supporters usually remain faithful to their candidates, giving independent voters — particularly in swing states — a decisive influence over the results.

The respondents, however, also said that Vice President Mike Pence was no match for Democratic candidate Kamala Harris who would “be all over him” in the debate.

A greater share — 47 percent — predicted Trump will win the debates than the 41 percent who said Biden will.

Independents picked Trump over Biden as the likely winner of the debates by 10 percentage points: 47 percent-37 percent.

But most respondents also said that last month’s Republican and Democratic conventions made them less likely to vote for Trump. The majority also said that they believe the election would be a close contest.

In a survey conducted soon after the conventions, 50 percent said Biden will win the election while 43 percent said Trump will.

Helmut Norpoth, Professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University, New York, predicted that Trump will win the election.

Norpoth told VOA broadcasting service that he believes Trump will gain 363 of the 538 electoral votes while Biden will gain 175.

Norpoth has correctly predicted all presidential election results since 1992 except for Gore-Bush 2000.

Allan Lichtman, Professor of History at American University, Washington, told VOA that he believes Biden will win. Lichhtman also predicted Trump’s victory in 2016.

Lichtman said his prediction has changed after the Covid-19 pandemic and the widespread social unrest following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in May. “In just a matter of a few months, Trump and the Republicans went from … a sure win … to a predicted loss,” he said.

Some political pundits, however, argue that the riots that followed the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, would benefit Trump. They believe that the riots would encourage suburban white voters to re-elect the president.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2020

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