Marine Le Pen Is in a Much Deeper Hole Than Trump Ever Was
Given what happened in November, there is no such thing as a slam dunk. However, of all the pollsters and pundits and polling, Nate Silver left the widest window for a Trump victory, while most of the others dismissed him. So I take some comfort in this. Still I won’t rest easy until all the votes are counted.
But in my view, the conventional wisdom espoused by analysts such as Bremmer is more likely to be way more out to lunch. Before the U.S. election, Trump trailed Hillary Clinton by only about 2 percentage points in the average swing state.1 In the Brexit vote, the “Remain” campaign’s lead was at least as narrow: about 2 points according to a simple average of polls, or just 0.5 percentage points according to a more complex averaging method. So while Trump’s victory and Brexit were historic events in world history, they were utterly routine occurrences from a polling standpoint; 2- or 3-point polling errors are extremely common.
But while there were plenty of precedents for a polling error large enough to elect Trump, there aren’t all that many examples of a 26-point polling error, which is what Le Pen would need. Pundits and other political observers often have poor intuition when it comes to translating polls into probabilities, leading them to treat narrow, fragile leads the same as double-digit ones. Ironically, the same type of sloppy thinking that led people to underestimate the chances for the Trump and Brexit victories may lead them to overestimate Le Pen’s odds.
Of course, there are still two weeks to go until the runoff and it’s possible that Le Pen could narrow her deficit. But by the same token, Macron could expand his lead in the final weeks. Fillon, whose voters agree with Le Pen on some issues, has already endorsed Macron. So did Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon. And Le Pen faded down the stretch run of the first-round campaign, having regularly polled in the mid-to-high 20s in February and March before seeing her numbers decline to about 22 percent in the final polls and in the actual vote.