Should the Electoral Map Make Bigger Headlines Than National Polls?
With Donald Trump gaining ground on Hillary Clinton in some national polls, the race seemed headed to a tossup.
However, that’s not what the electoral map showed.
On Nov. 2, ABC and NBC explained the electoral map and Trump’s possible path to the presidency.
ABC led with a national poll showing Trump and Clinton in a “dead heat.”
Later in the broadcast, Jonathan Karl joined David Muir to show how Trump could get the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
“The map still favors Hillary Clinton, but Donald Trump has momentum,” Karl said.
Although Utah and Ohio have switched from tossups to red states, Karl explained Trump would have to win all the other battleground states and a blue state to win.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin polls showed Trump within four and six points of Clinton, respectively. If Trump won Pennsylvania, he would win the presidency with 279 electoral votes. However, Karl pointed out that if Trump won Wisconsin, the race would be tied at 269, leaving Congress to decide.
NBC’s interpretation of the electoral map was different.
Chuck Todd layed out the uphill battle for Trump.
“While things have gotten better for Trump, he can win all the battleground states, sweep out West, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and he still would come up short,” Todd said.
Trump has to break through what Todd calls, “the big blue wall,” and win Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin.
Todd said Wisconsin could be the pivot state; but, in light of new polls, he did not seem optimistic.
Poynter’s Jim Warren thinks leaving out the possibility of a tie wasn’t a major error, but said it would have been better if NBC had mentioned it.
ABC emphasized that Trump still had a path to 270 where NBC stressed how difficult that path was. Warren said neither network was right or wrong: “[The networks gave] two different perspectives, really, on the same reality.”
He also said that while the networks gave the electoral map a fair amount of attention, they spent too much time on the day-to-day national polls.
“For sure, horse race national polling has dominated,” Warren said. “But I have seen a lot of cautionary notes on the reality of the Electoral College.”
Election day showed the electoral map was as inaccurate a predictor as the polls. Either way, giving more airtime to the map would not have have prepared many for the election results.