Experimental polling methodologies being used by the USC Dornsife Daybreak Poll suggest the possibility of a presidential-election replay from 2016, with Democrat Joe Biden winning the popular vote, but Republican President Donald Trump emerging victorious in the Electoral College.

The main Dornsife Daybreak Poll still shows Biden leading by a wide margin — 11.24 points as of Monday — in the popular vote.

But a pair of experimental methodologies point to the possibility of a different outcome, with a much closer-than-expected popular vote total, and Trump emerging on top in the Electoral College.

The poll’s standard methodology is to ask a panel of participants what the chance is that they will vote for each of the candidates running for president. The inquiry is known as the “voter intention question” — the question asked by most polls to predict the share of the popular vote that each candidate will receive.

But as part of this year’s Daybreak Poll, researchers are also asking participants two questions that are intended to “harvest the wisdom of crowds.” The “social-circle question” asks respondents to report the percentage of their social contacts they expect to vote for each of the candidates; and the “state-winner question,” which asks participants who they think will win the election in their state.

The method has been used in five previous elections, and researchers found that the social-circle question predicted election outcomes better than traditional questions about voters’ own intentions.

Researchers studying the data related to the “wisdom-of-the-crowd” questions said the results “suggest that optimism among Trump supporters stems from their expectation of a `silent majority’ of Trump voters and of an unexpected — `magic’ — last-minute Trump lead. Biden supporters’ pessimism stems from their expectation of lower voter turnout and the possibility that Trump will challenge election results. Taken together, these shy voter and magic candidate beliefs might be one reason why wisdom-of-crowds methods predict such a close race,” according to USC.

The 2020 USC Dornsife Presidential Election Poll tracks changes in Americans’ opinions throughout the campaign for the White House. Around 6,000 respondents who are in the representative panel are asked questions every other week on what they care about most in the election, and on their attitudes toward their preferred candidates.

The poll is updated just after midnight every day of the week. Each day’s data point represents the estimate among voters over the previous 14 days, representing the poll’s full sample. It also offers a seven-day graph which shows more variation due to it relying on a half sample.

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