- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a staff writer for Foreign Policy, where he oversees FP's breaking news blog, The Cable. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump likes to call himself “Mr. Brexit,” a nod to Britain’s unexpected vote this summer to leave the European Union. He keeps saying that polls don’t capture the view of the people — just as “Leave” campaigners said of pre-vote predictions in the U.K. Many of his supporters gleefully predict a Brexit-style surprise is in store for Democrats.
According to Goldman Sachs, Trump’s wrong. In a research note circulated Wednesday, the investment banking giant belittled his chances of defying a bevy of opinion polls that show him well behind his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
“First, and most importantly,” wrote Goldman economist Alec Phillips, “while both situations represented an opportunity for voters to endorse a change in the status quo, voters in the UK were asked to decide on an idea whereas in the U.S. they are being asked to decide on a person. Second, the polls are simply not as close in the current presidential contest as they were ahead of the UK referendum.”
Phillips notes that it was betting houses that overwhelmingly showed that Britons would choose to stay in Europe, leading to a sense of complacency in the “Remain” campaign, depressed turnout in key districts of London, and a sense of shock even for “Leave” campaigners when they won. However, opinion polls actually showed it a dead heat: the Economist magazine published an average of polls that showed the referendum virtually tied.
According to the Real Clear Politics average of all major U.S. polls in the presidential election, Clinton is up on Trump nationally by about 4.5 percent. Individual polls show a more commanding lead at the national level: the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Clinton up 11; the most recent ABC tracking poll had her up nine among likely voters; and a CNN tally gives Clinton a five point national advantage.
Polls that show Trump ahead, like the Los Angeles Times and Rasmussen polls, use different methodology than their more mainstream brethren. Phillips said these should be trusted less because they give small groups of people enormous weight.
However, Goldman is not prepared to anoint Clinton just yet. If undecided voters went in their entirety for Trump, it could swing the election. But Phillips said data shows this is unlikely, citing a Washington Post poll showing that 46 percent of undecideds had a “strongly unfavorable” view of Clinton; 71 percent view Trump unfavorably.
Wall Street is desperate for a Clinton victory — and not necessarily for the reasons Vermont senator Bernie Sanders raised during the primaries — but rather because bankers hate uncertainty, and uncertainty is the one thing a Trump presidency would bring. (She’s also winning plenty of support from the U.S. oil patch, which also craves certainty.) According to the Center for Responsive Politics, financial services firms have donated $65 million to the Clinton campaign. Trump has received about $716,000 from the same cohort.
Photo credit: JONATHAN BACHMAN/Getty Images