US election update: the current state of play

Vox

So where are we at this point in the race?

Before I start, lets discuss polls.

During the 20th century, American political polling was driven by the Gallop Organisation (Gallop) who were considered the gold standard of pollsters.

However, once mobiles and the internet went mainstream, from the 90’s onwards, polling got more complicated and the voters harder to find. The days when most voters were contactable by a landline were over. As landline polling became less reliable with younger folks, the polling, even for experienced professionals like Gallop, got harder.

In 2012, in their final forecast, Gallop projected that the Republican Mitt Romney would win the 2012 election. That was wrong. Obama won comfortably. Shortly after that, Gallop gave up on election forecasting polling.

Since 2014, polling has become increasingly useless as a guide to predicting who will win elections.

We all remember how the polling overwhelmingly indicated that Hilary Clinton would win the presidency. All those state polling which showed her miles ahead of Trump in the Rust Belt days and weeks before the election melted upon impact with electoral reality. Things barely improved in 2018, with polling totally wrong with the Florida election, to give just one example, where the Republican candidate Ron DeSantis won. Ignoring the outlier Trafalgar Group, the average polling lead for his opponent was 5%. DeSantis won the election by 0.4%.

There are many reasons for the decline in polling over the last decade, but a key reason is its extremely difficult to reach voters these days. Many people refuse to answer pollsters, especially Republicans and those living in the countryside. Also, folks who work during the week simply don’t have time to answer pollsters. So those pollsters that don’t do their work through the weekend, will not get a proportionate sample and capture those voters (often Republican leaning types) who are too busy to waste time answering polling questions (which can run to 72!).

Getting polling right is expensive, takes time (longer than most pollsters allow) and should use multiple ways to get to those hard-to-find voters who are key to an accurate polling sample. Most pollsters simply fail to do that these days which is why they have been unreliable during the previous election cycles. Even those pollsters, Big Data/People’s Pundit (PP) and Trafalgar Group (TG), who do a better job than most, aren’t perfect.

So, when trying to work out who is going to win an election, I don’t rely on public polling. Registration data is a very useful metric. It proved to be more reliable in 2016 then the polling, which overwhelmingly suggested that Clinton would win the election. Only certain states provide party-based registration data, but of the data available its looking good for the Republicans, in particular the battlefield states of Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina.  

Primary election data/models are also useful because they are a powerful proxy for turnout and enthusiasm for each side. A few different political analysts use primary data. One is Professor Helmut Norpoth, whose Primary model has forecast the majority of US elections. His forecast, based entirely on the primary election data, is a Trump landslide in November. There are those who critique his model but despite that he has a better track record then most pollsters so I take their criticisms with a pinch of salt.

On a common-sense level, his model makes intuitive sense. If millions of people are prepared to vote for Donald Trump in a primary election with no real opposition (unlike 2016) in historic numbers, its likely that those same Republican voters will come out in big numbers on election day.

A variation of that primary based model is the Washington State primary results.

Henry Colson of the Washington Post reviewed the data and wrote “…the party that led in the primary also won the seat in the general every time. That track record is why the state’s recent primary results are so important. With more than 99 percent of the votes counted, Republicans have a higher share of the total vote than they did in 2018 in eight of the state’s 10 congressional districts.” The conclusions from the Washington State data are;

  1. Republicans are doing 5% better in rural and small metro places compared to their 2018 mid-term performance.
  2. On a national scale Trump will be much more competitive in swing states such as Wisconsin and North Carolina than the polls currently show.
  3. Trump and GOP House and Senate candidates across the country could out-perform expectations once again. Indeed, nine of the House GOP’s top Democratic target seats have at least substantial portions of voters who live in rural and small-town areas. Key Senate targets in Maine, Montana, North Carolina and Georgia have similar profiles.
  4. The Republicans are struggling in metropolitan suburbia and haven’t improved since the 2018 mid-terms results.

The above data matches what I am reading in terms of registration (GOP are doing much better than the Dems in registering new voters, particularly voters who have never voted before) and the more reliable pollsters out there. Other non-polling metrics also indicate an enthusiasm gap, whether they are Trump/Pence signs which vastly outnumber Biden’s or the huge numbers turning up for Trump rallies across America in comparison to the Democrats.

We are still three weeks away from election day but overall, I am still reasonably confident (with a 60% probability) that President Trump will get re-elected.

So, what about the electoral college map? Well, everything I am reading and watching seems to suggest that despite what the mainstream polls are suggesting (remember all those media articles suggesting Texas was going blue in 2016!) The GOP are looking pretty good in Florida, Ohio, Utah, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona (which despite a small shift away in registration numbers should remain red).

Trump’s polling among African-Americans and Hispanics are better than 2016 and he is doing particularly well among Cuban and Venezuelans in Florida. In 2016, according to exit polls, Trump got 8% of the African-American vote. Even the mainstream polls suggest that he will do better than that this time around on the back of rising support among working class Black men (between 11 to 15%).

Among Hispanics, Trump polling is now consistently in the 30’s, a significant improvement on his 28% share of the Latino vote received in 2016. Rich Baris, has commented that 2020 will be a class/income-based election, with blue-collar voters of different backgrounds and races starting to coalesce around the Republicans whilst the Democrats consolidate among the upper-middle class. This is very much John Greer’s thinking – who accurately forecast the 2016 election – that class is the major factor driving an electoral realignment within American politics. The Democrats are increasingly the party of the high-income elites and the upper middle classes whilst the Republican Party under Trump is increasingly a blue-collar and middle-income mass party across the flyover states.

Of course, alignments are a decades long process and don’t happen in one election cycle. But the trends you saw in 2016, with working class non-college educated whites shifting to the Republicans whilst college educated white females increasingly moving to the Democrats is likely to accelerate. What is more interesting, and far less picked up by the mainstream media, is the growing support for the GOP among blue-collar minorities, in particular men, from Hispanic and African-American backgrounds. Greer has written for a while that it is this shift that will prove key to Trump’s re-election in 2020 which he thinks will be a landslide with approximately 350 electoral college votes.

The other key consideration is turnout. Students are usually a powerful card for the Democrats in getting their vote out. This year, thanks to Covid, colleges are locked down and student registration and turnout will be significantly reduced from 2016. The data from Washington State suggests – and this tallies with what other analysts are saying – that pollsters are under-estimating the turnout among rural non-college educated Republican voters who will come out in droves for Trump.

My forecast, and this is currently interim and not final, is the following:

  • The Republicans will keep their majority in the Senate.
  • The Republicans will do better than expected in the House but I’m not in a position, right now, to predict who will definitely win a majority in the House.
  • Trump is likely to win the southern states of Arizona, North Carolina and Florida. I’m also confident he will win Utah and Ohio again.
  • Among the Rust Belt states, the election looks very tight at the moment, with both TG and PP in their latest polls showing Trump 2 to 3% behind Biden in the key Rust Belt state of Pennsylvania. The Rust Belt looks competitive but Trump needs to win over the independent and remaining undecided voters to get those key states over the line.
  • Nevada, with its large Hispanic population, could also be in play. A recent Politico article warned that the Democrats could lose the state and recent chatter online suggests that the Trump campaign are increasingly bullish about flipping the state. I’m going to tentatively predict a narrow Trump win in Nevada.
  • Outlier states, primarily Colorado and New Mexico, both with large Hispanic populations, may prove closer than the mainstream polls suggest.
  • New Hampshire is likely to remain Democrat.

So, to summarise, I think the Trump team have around 250 to 260 EC votes that are reasonably secure and a cluster of battlefield states, primarily in the Rust Belt, in play over the next few weeks. If, and it is a big if, the Democrats manage to win the Rust Belt – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, Joe Biden will win the election.

However, if my hard predictions prove correct, and in addition Trump wins over say 2 out of the 4 Rust Belt states, he wins the election. And that excludes any further wins in the south-west, like Nevada. Despite what the mainstream media and polls suggest, the pathway to a Trump win is wider than they think but this election is not over yet and the winner will likely be decided in the Rust Belt.

I will proceed to make a final forecast shortly before the election.

US election update: the current state of play

First Debate: reaction

CNN

Let’s say you had to choose between “decency” versus the “obnoxious arsehole” as your tribal leader? Most of us would choose the decency candidate every time over the arsehole.

But how about a “decent but weak” candidate versus the “strong but an arsehole” leader?

Well, that’s a bit more complicated. Strong is good. We want a strong leader, ruthless when required, to defend us in a tough and scary world. We can live with then being an arsehole if they protect us and our families.

A decent but weak leader might be the nicer one, maybe the one you would rather have a drink with, but are they going to be able to defend your tribe? If they are weak, probably not. And that is important in a tough world filled with dangerous competitors.

And finally, how about the strong versus weak candidate? Well, that’s a no-brainer, you will always go for the strong leader.

Within the context of the US elections, the Democratic Party and their allies in the corporate media are promoting the first narrative. Trump is the obnoxious arsehole and Biden is the nice, decent candidate who can restore honour to the United States.

The Republicans are promoting the “strong versus weak” narrative, with Biden the weak, liberal leader who isn’t up to the job of being Commander in Chief.

My sense is that the voters, by the end of these round of debates, in particular the undecided voters, will see the middle narrative; a weak but decent Biden versus a strong President Trump who is also an obnoxious arsehole.

The question then becomes who will the American electorate vote for on election day and which factor wins, decency over strength in the privacy of the ballot box.

I agree with the verdict of two contrarian voices, Scott Adams and Tom Luongo, that Trump’s performance was very poor.

Indeed, Tom wrote that Trump couldn’t have performed worse last night and Scott Adams has withdrawn his support (temporarily at least) for Trump as a consequence of that debate.

Having said that, both also agree that Biden probably performed the best he can, given his clear cognitive decline over the last year.

Assuming that the two further debates happen, the likely trajectory is that, with expectations reshuffled, Trump will perform better, or be seen to have been versus the 1st debate and Biden will perform worse. That’s not a certainty but it is certainly likely.

After all, historians note that incumbent presidents normally screw-up their first debate. Obama famously performed badly against Mitt Romney in 2012 but went on to win that election comfortably. A poor 1st debate is not necessarily the end of the world for a sitting president. It’s true that Trump is behind in the polls and needed a better performance last night, which is why I call it a narrow Biden win.

However, I also agree with those who say that Trump came across as the more dominant candidate in the debate in comparison to Biden. If President Trump is to win this election, he needs to improve his game, tone down the aggression and ruthlessly expose Joe Biden as a weak candidate who isn’t up for the job.

If he can do that, he will most likely win the election.

Whilst the debate was definitely a setback for the president, I don’t think its necessarily game over. I know some will disagree with me on that one. If you do, check out the comments from the CNN focus group of undecided voters after that debate. The majority who spoke were pro-Trump*. Even I was surprised by that.

In 2016, I remember when the “grab them by a pussy” video came out shortly before the election (and just before the 2nd debate). It caused an uproar. Trump polling dived, the media overwhelmingly concluded his campaign was finished and most political experts agreed. Only a few of us oddballs still thought he could win, myself on this blog, John Greer and Scott Adams among others.

The lesson from that is be careful to write-off the Donald. He might be down but it is foolhardy to assume he is also out.

*Note that the majority of polls suggest that Biden was seen by the electorate as the winner of the debate in case you assume, I am saying that Trump won that debate among undecided voters. My point being that the Democratic/media narrative isn’t necessarily what undecided voters are seeing.

First Debate: reaction

Herd immunity and the politics of recovery

Coronavirus: What is herd immunity? And how will it help prevent spread of  COVID-19? | UK News | Sky News

Sky News

 

“For many, the epitome of incompetence would be the president of the United States. The US has experienced exceptional death rates in relation to population. But its economy has got off relatively lightly: the US is expected to outperform Germany in minimising the damage with an expected fall of around 5 per cent in GDP, very painful but hardly in the territory of the Great Depression when GDP fell 30 per cent from peak to trough. The United States has benefited from the enormous monetary stimulus provided by the Federal Reserve as well as the big, bipartisan, fiscal stimulus from Congress (at least until the impasse of the last few weeks). But we also have to ask: did Trump help or hinder? Continue reading “Herd immunity and the politics of recovery”

Herd immunity and the politics of recovery

After the Conventions

Wisconsin 3

Financial Times

 

“The Democratic party seems to have miscalculated fatally in encouraging the riots — it’s been a truism of American politics for many decades that when voters are frightened for their physical safety, they back conservative candidates.” 

John Michael Greer, August 2020 Open Post

 

Future historians may judge the past week as the key point when the Democrats lost the 2020 presidential election.

The failure of the former-Vice-President Joe Biden at the Democratic Party Convention to condemn the riots, looting and unrest spawned by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement contrasted strongly with the powerful law-and-order message promoted by the Republicans.

The scenes from Kenosha, Wisconsin (a key battlefield state), appalled most Americans and proved a powerful backdrop to the GOP Convention last week. As John Greer wrote on his blog recently, voters tend to go for conservative candidates when they feel insecure and frightened.

According to this pollster, Lee Carter, who ran focus group polling throughout the two conventions, independent/swing voters connected with the Republicans in a way they didn’t with the Democrats. See here and here.

In particular, the Republican attempt to soften Trump’s image worked well with independent voters, along with GOP messaging on the economy and crime. I expect the Republicans to continue to hammer the Democrats on the perception that they are weak on law and order, lack patriotism and are a risk to a post-Covid recovery in the economy.

In my last post, I predicted that the Covid situation would start improving in the States and that was over four weeks ago.

Covid cases

Whitney Tilson

 

This graph shows the continued decline in US and Canadian daily cases since July. The dotted line shows what the likely trend will be if it continues.

Here is a different graph, tracking the Covid cases in America and the betting market’s probability of a Democrat win.

Covid cases 2

Bloomberg

 

There is a pattern.

If the number of new infections continues to fall going into Autumn, we should expect to see the Democratic lead in the betting markets (which reflects the wider polling) to continue to narrow.

The current polling continues to show a Biden advantage but in the key battlefield states, that lead has now shrunk to 2.7%, within the margin of error.

Battlefield state polling

Realclearpolitics

 

Long-time readers of this blog know that I remain skeptical of some of the polls out there showing huge leads for Biden in battlefield states. If the overall Biden lead is 2.7%, my instinct would be to suggest that the election in these key states is now virtually  a tie.

Interestingly, Bloomberg recently published an article suggesting that the “shy Trump” voter may not be a myth (as some have suggested) and there well may be “hidden” Trump voters out there.

My opinion is that it does exist, it is real, although I cannot say with any confidence whether there are less or more shy voters this year compared to 2016. My American readers would be in a better position to judge on this than me.

My expectation is that the Covid pandemic will continue to abate, as more parts of America hit de facto herd immunity – when roughly 15 to 20% of the population have been infected – and the issue will fade as a public concern going into November.

The polling will likely, for a while at least, show a sustained Biden advantage but in the battlefield states, the race will become more competitive as swing voters focus on the economy and law and order issues which will politically benefit President Trump.

Many undecided/swing voters will tune into the debates to make their final mind up on who to vote for. Who performs best during these upcoming debates will have the momentum going into the final weeks of the presidential election.

I would be interested in what my readers think about who is likely to win the election and why. Please feel free to add your comments at the bottom of this blog.

The two conventions, and the positive response of those independent voters who watched the GOP convention, reinforces my view that President Trump remains the most likely to win this election.

 

 

 

After the Conventions

A pregnant pause

Covid

Paris MOU

 

“Enrique argues that, contrary to the current headlines, we’re in the 7th or 8th inning of defeating the coronavirus. He expects cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. to plunge in the next six weeks, which, when combined with unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus, could lead to a 1999-style “melt up” in the markets going into the end of the year.”

Whitney Tilson, “We’re pitied & mocked; We may be through the worst of it”, daily newsletter

 

My approach when it comes to writing my monthly posts is to wait for that creative spark, after which a wall of words pours out. This month that process has been disrupted and instead of a single overarching narrative I have a jumble of thoughts bumbling around in my mind.

So, given that I will be away on holiday for the next two weeks, I thought I will give you a concise summary of my thinking on a range of subjects that I have covered before on my blog.

Let’s start with the big macro picture. I strongly recommend that you read the latest blog post by John Greer called “The Arc of Our Future” which explains why we are tracking the Limits to Growth BAU model and what is likely to occur in the coming decades. The short version is that the world is now facing a protracted and long-term economic and population contraction and the Covid pandemic appears to have been the trigger for that lurch down what Greer calls the Long Descent.

I have covered this extensively on the blog, see here, here and here, and don’t have a huge amount to add to the issue for now. The key will be whether the economic data over the next few years continues to track the peak and early decline as predicted in the LTG BAU computer model.

Limits to Growth 2020

Forecasting Intelligence

 

In regard to Covid there is much discussion about a looming Second Wave of infections. My earlier prediction, based on Farr’s Law, was overly optimistic, even if actual death rates from Covid has broadly reflected the curve of the Law (particularly if you factor in the possibility of hidden deaths from Covid prior to February/March which was not picked up by the official data).

Either way, folks are still picking up the virus and that is shown by the active cases being reported around the world. Having read extensively on the subject I am reasonably certain that effective herd immunity kicks in when approximately 20% of the population has been infected by the virus. The massive surge of cases we have recently seen in the United States hasn’t been in New York region but in the South and West of the country which was comparatively unaffected by Covid earlier in the year.

I agree with the recent analysis by Goldman Sachs and the analyst quoted by the hedge funder Whitney Tilson above that cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. will plunge in the next six weeks. 

GS 1

Zero Hedge

 

If, and it is a big if, this assessment is correct it will be a clear positive for President Trump’s re-election prospects.

Some readers have reacted with understandable skepticism to my last post where I outlined why I still thought Trump was more likely than not to win the election. Whilst I do think there is a logical pathway to a Biden win; a grim Covid and economic picture going into the Autumn, continued dysfunctional comments and tweets from the president and a gaffe-free performance by Joe Biden, I don’t think that’s the end of the story.

The Covid public health picture is likely to improve over the next few months, and with that the economy which is a key issue for the president. In the UK, the Tories under Boris Johnson had a horrendous Covid healthcare crisis yet are still comfortably ahead in the polls.The truth is that the majority of voter’s care more about jobs than predominately older folks dying of Covid. Harsh but true.

Tories polling

Wikipedia

 

The Tories were seen to have a relatively good economic Covid crisis even if they badly mishandled the public health side of Covid. I think something similar will happen in the United States should the virus abate over the next 6 weeks and the jobs situation start to recover into the Fall.

Joe Biden has lurched significantly to the Left, something that has barely been discussed so far, and his tax and spend policies are going to attract more attention once the election battle truly commences. Trump may be down but I still think he is not out.

And yes, for those who are interested, I have placed my own real money betting on such an outcome. Given the recent odds, even a relatively small deposit will yield a nice profit should I prove right and Trump does get re-elected. Odds on Trump getting re-elected have gone as low as 3 to 1 on betfair exchange. Still, I’m not betting the house on it given I still think there is a 40% chance that Biden will win.

As for the polling, one of the most accurate battlefield state pollsters in 2016, Trafalgar Group (TG), who factor in the possibility of “shy Trump voters” in their methodology, have released a very interesting set of polling recently showing that Trump is still competitive in battlefield states. What is most interesting about their polling is that they were virtually the only pollsters who accurately forecast Trump’s shock victory in Michigan (see below and note that excluding TG pushed Clinton’s average lead to around 5%).

Michigan

Realclearpolitics

 

Also note that “Cahaly’s polls in 2016 also showed Donald Trump winning Pennsylvania – again, he was nearly alone in projecting Trump’s narrow victory there – and thus taking the White House.”

Virtually all the other polling data was forecasting a comfortable Clinton victory in both states, many with Hilary 5% ahead of Trump. Mr Cahaly, who runs the TG, was one of the few pollsters who came close to the actual result on the night.

Some may say I’m cherry picking polls and maybe so, but his record is good in 2016 so I will take the TG polling seriously. They are currently showing that Trump is tied in Florida, behind Biden in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Michigan but ahead in Georgia and Wisconsin.  That sounds fairly reasonable to me at this stage of the race (e.g. Biden would narrowly win if the election was held now).

Those who are interested in reading more should follow Mr Cahaly at his twitter feed here.

In regard to the markets, I’m expecting a healthy correction soon in the stock markets as the perfect V shaped recovery priced in doesn’t match with economic reality. However, a surge in equity markets later on this year, assuming the Covid outbreak fades in the United States, the economy continues recovering and continued money printing looks likely.

Crypto markets also look bullish, with bitcoin breaking out of a key resistance level at $10.5k along with other quality altcoins being adopted in the real world.

In regard to Brexit, all the signs that a goods-based “skinny” trade deal will be agreed by October 2020, in line with my forecast at the beginning of the year.

So, overall, it will be fascinating to see whether I am right in regard to the US elections or not!

Take care everybody. I will return next month for my next monthly post.

Anybody who wishes to subscribe to my blog can add their email to the bottom of this page.

A pregnant pause

Why the Donald is still likely to win

Trump focus group

Lord Ashcroft polling

 

“Trump hasn’t yet begun his reelection campaign in earnest; he has an absurdly large campaign fund, an organization that’s already trained upwards of a million grassroots organizers, and a whipsmart online presence. (The Trump campaign had t-shirts saying #YouAin’tBlack for sale within a couple of hours of Biden’s latest gaffe, for example.) I expect him to steamroller Biden.”

 John Michael Greer

 

At the beginning of the year, I outlined the reasons why President Trump was likely to be re-elected in November 2020. Much has changed since then and this post will go on to explain why, on the balance of probabilities, I continue to think the Donald will win again on election night.

I would like to add that this FI blog tries, as far as humanly possible, to avoid taking party political sides. From a forecasting perspective, avoiding bias, remaining calm, objective and data-driven are key attributes to successfully forecasting future events.

A risk for me, having successfully forecasted Trump’s victory in 2016, is that I subconsciously double down again on the same bet when the political facts have changed. With that in mind, let’s review the data.

So, what does the polling data say? Well, currently Biden is clearly out-polling Trump in the majority of polls being conducted.

Trump vs Biden poll

Statista

 

It is probably not surprising that Trump has taken a hit in the polling. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed over a 100,000 Americans, unemployment has soared and the economy is only just starting to recover since the lockdown measures were imposed.

Compared to other countries, the Trump Administration has performed poorly in the Covid-19 benchmark stakes. Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore have been far more successful in avoiding the casualties and economic damage seen in the United States. Of course, other countries have also handled it badly, but that does not change the facts that America has had a poor pandemic crisis.

Swing voters and independents are frustrated and are currently telling pollsters they plan to vote for Joe Biden in November. Nevertheless, what do voters actually think of Joe Biden?

At the top of this post are the findings from a recent American focus group exercise, conducted by Lord Ashcroft, into what voters thought on the two leaders. Words associated with Biden were overwhelmingly “elderly”, followed by “likeable”. The clear risk is that voters may like Uncle Joe but may not trust him to being Commander-In-Chief if they think he is too old for the job.

For President Trump, arrogant, dangerous, fake and racist were the top names coming up, with ruthless and smug following close behind. Voters consider Trump a strong leader but also deeply divisive and unlikeable.

It is probably fair to say that neither candidates inspire those voters in the broad middle of the US political spectrum.

John Greer, who successfully forecast Trump’s apparently unlikely bid for power in 2016, recently wrote that he expected Trump to defeat Biden once the election campaign is in full swing.

Polls suggest that a slim margin of voters think Trump is a better choice than Biden is to get the economy back and this is likely to be a major issue on the campaign trail. Moreover, the recent protests and, at times, violent unrest across America is also likely to play to Trump’s hand given his hard-line law and order message.

The writer Patrick Basham has written an excellent summary of a recent Democracy Institute polling, a section of it, I have republished below.

“Trump’s tough, politically incorrect “law and order” stance on the riots, vilified by the mainstream media, is actually playing rather well with ordinary Americans. The overwhelming majority were sickened by the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They respect the right to peaceful protest.

But, as protest begat rioting, looting, and the loss of life, Trump sensed the rapidly shifting public mood and called out big city mayors and governors for failing to protect their citizens. Most Americans agree, including a good many Democrats. We find Black men, a cornerstone of the Democratic coalition, taking a serious look at Trump’s candidacy. Should one-in-five vote for Trump, his reelection is guaranteed.”

The specific poll suggests that one in four Black voters plan to vote for President Trump.

That is just one poll. It is also true that other polling indicates that far more Black voters plan to stick with the Democrats.

Still, from the polling I have seen, the numbers of confirmed Trump voters among the African-American community is significantly higher than the 8% he received in 2016. Some are as high as 15% and I’ve seen one poll where Trump’s approval ratings among African-Americans are over 40%.

The key fact is worth repeating: should Trump get a fifth of the African-American vote, his re-election will be guaranteed.

Interestingly, I have not seen any mainstream media coverage of these interesting polling findings on the rising Black support for President Trump since the 2016 election. It is probably because the media, overwhelmingly anti-Trump, cannot get their collective heads around why any minority voter would support a president widely considered a racist.

On specific policy issues, the average African American (and indeed Latino) is far more conservative than many commentators assume.

A recent poll showed that overall, 58% of voters supported Trump’s call for the military to help police control protests. Ah, some of you might say, that would be overwhelmingly white voters. True, but not the full picture.

The same poll also shows that 37% of African-Americans supported the policy. A similar to number, interestingly, to those polls suggesting that around 40% of African-Americans approve or may even consider voting for Trump in November. Coincidence or an underlying electoral pattern? I let you decide.

Police poll

Vox

 

A separate poll shows that among African-Americans, 58% have a favourable opinion of their local police force.Defunding the police movement will find little traction with the majority of African-American voters, let alone Latinos and whites.

Whilst Joe Biden has come out against defunding the police, he risks being tarnished by association if he does not take a stronger line on what many voters would consider crazy ideas from the radical Left of American politics.

Therefore, to summarise, my forecast is that once the virus (slowly) burns out and recovering the economy takes centre stage in the presidential campaign, President Trump will rediscover his mojo once politics moves to the issues of jobs and law and order.

Voters will take a closer look at Joe Biden and the more they see him in their living rooms the less they will like him. Gaffe prone, mumbling and at times apparently senile, enough independent and swing voters will decide, reluctantly for some, that it will have to be the Donald again.

Many of those voters will not share their decision with family or friends. We know that because a recent poll confirmed that only 37% of Trump supporters want their family or friends to know about their decision. Shy Trump voters almost certainly had an impact in the 2016 election and I think closet Trump supporters will have a potentially bigger impact this election, particularly in those communities where social pressure is to be against Trump (e.g. African American and liberal white America).

It is possible that Trump may even win the popular vote, crazy as that idea might sound right now. It is certainly something that John Greer thinks is a very plausible outcome.

Should the GOP surprise on the upside with the African-American vote and claw back the white elderly voters that deserted him during the Covid-19 pandemic, a landslide victory could be the outcome.

Of course, there remains a scenario in which Joe Biden avoids any disastrous gaffes and takes advantage of the poor economy and Covid-19 handling to defeat President Trump in November. It is not impossible but, in my opinion, despite what the current polls are suggesting, it is the less likely outcome of this election.

Whether or not Trump narrowly wins in the Electoral College or pulls of a bigger win in the popular vote, I continue to stick with my forecast that the most likely outcome of the 2020 presidential election will be the re-election of President Donald Trump.

 

Why the Donald is still likely to win

Covid-19 special: After the Lockdown

Taj Mahal lockdown

Al Jezeera

 

“…Where this could all lead is almost too grim to contemplate: debt defaults, soaring unemployment, mass impoverishment, famines and “existential” (as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has put it) damage to economies. Divides between the Global South and North, and indeed within individual societies in the Global South, could worsen as those who can afford to pay their way out of lockdowns – with testing, contract tracing, bio-surveillance and so on – pull ahead of those still deeply affected by the virus and its economic fallout.”

 Coronavirus hits global south”, New Statesman, Jeremy Cliffe

 

“We have been modelling both COVID-19 deaths and cases according to Farr’s Law ever since and the results have been fascinating. Thus far, both COVID-19 new confirmed cases and deaths have followed Farr’s Law curve perfectly, each with an R2 of 0.995.”

 Goehring & Rozencwaig market commentary

 

In my last post I warned of the risk of social unrest as a social and economic consequence of the lockdown measures imposed by governments around the world.

The violent clashes with police in France’s suburbs and the less reported but widespread social unrest across the developing world during the month of April reflects the perilous economic state that many were plunged into by the lockdown.

For this post, I wish to discuss my thoughts on the likely endgame of this virus. My forecast, and it may surprise some of you, is that this virus has already peaked in the majority of countries and is now fading away.

Indeed, my specific forecast is that by June this year there will be very few confirmed new cases in the majority of the world. The pandemic will disappear as fast as it appeared on our planet.

The virus, so far at least, is tracking the models originally developed by Dr William Farr. G&R, an investment research firm, have been tracking the Covid-19 cases on Farr’s Law curve and have found that so far it fits perfectly (see above quote).

COvid 1

Covid 2Goehring & Rozencwaig

 

As you can see from the above graphs, it is looks likely that by the end of May the virus should have largely disappeared from the world.

A big question remains whether a second wave or secondary peak will come later on this year. The example widely credited is the Spanish Flu outbreak, where a far nastier second wave occurred later on which killed many more than the first wave. We have also seen second waves during the global flu pandemics during the 20th century.

It is important to note that many epidemics follow the bell-shaped curve of Farr’s Law with no second wave arriving later on. Certainly G&R, in their commentary, are sceptical of the notion that a terrifying second wave is inevitable in relation to our current pandemic. What I am reasonably confident in saying is if, and it remains an if, a second wave occurs later on this year, our governments and public health systems will be in a far stronger position to test, isolate and contain any renewed local outbreaks of Covid-19. Apps will be installed, armies of human trackers will be trained and the world, in general, should be much closer to the successful South Korean model of “test and isolate”.

A second wave of the virus, should it actually happen, will be most likely milder and far more successfully contained in comparison to the 1st wave. Indeed, I suspect the global response, when we wait in trepidation in Autumn for the dreaded second wave of cases to appear, will be a global “is that it?”.

For those who remain sceptical of the notion that we can avoid a second wave, the Danish chief epidemiologist has publicly stated that Denmark, which reopened society in mid-April and continues to see its infection rate plummet, will unlikely be hit by a second wave of Covid-19.

If the above is true, and we can speculate as much as we can on why this has occurred, it indicates a much stronger economic recovery in the second half of 2020 than some are forecasting. I anticipate that social distancing rules, maintained in some form of another for the majority of countries during the summer, will be progressively lifted during Q3/Q4 2020. Risk assets, including stock markets, will see an end of year rally driven by investor euphoria over the return to our post-Covid normal.

There will be economic aftershocks, severe in some countries and economic sectors, particularly in the developing world, global tourism and hospitality industries. The Global South will be badly hit by the economic hit and lockdown measures imposed and we will likely see further political and social turmoil in the months to come as hundreds of millions face severe food insecurity and shortages.

Even in the developed world, the pandemic has acted as an accelerator to existing trends already in the making. The movement to cloud based computing, collapse of well-known retail names, the neo Cold War between a rising China and declining America, rise oF online learning, working and shopping and the rejection of hyper-globalisation.

John Greer, in his recent post on the impact of Covid-19, wrote about how the lockdown has forced families to cook at home and re-learn traditional household economy skills that have withered away over the previous generation. The return of the household economy (where goods and services are made at home or bartered/gifted outside the intermediate economy) is a massive long-term trend which has barely started. I have written previously on why it is likely, given the pressures of the Limits to Growth megatrend, that we will see a long-term collapse of free market economies.

Longer term, I think historians and economists will treat the 2020 Great Lockdown as the trigger point for the longer-term reversal of decades of economic growth as forecast in the 1972 Limits to Growth business-as-usual modelling.

futurism-got-corn-graph

Forecasting Intelligence

 

As I explained, rather prophetically at the beginning of the year in my blog post here, the beginning of 2020 was the peak of industrial civilisation and we have now embarked on the Long Descent, for better or for worse.

Covid-19 special: After the Lockdown

Covid-19 update

Guns

The Guardian

 

The pandemic is spreading around the world as outlined in my previous post.

Given that the majority of the world’s population is either in shutdown or in the process of getting locked down, what will be the likely social consequences?

Clearly the risk of social unrest and civil disorder in our major cities is high.

Three data points I have come across this week highlight how civil unrest could emerge in the coming weeks and months.

Reuters have reported, from France, that the price of cannabis has soared since President Macron ordered the closure of the borders. The writer notes that “some police sources have privately expressed concerns that a prolonged scarcity of cannabis could fan trouble in France’s restless city suburbs and prisons.” The article ends with a warning that France could be on the cusp of real problems.

This is not just an issue for France. It is going to be an issue across our developed world.

A bigger concern and a likely flash point for major social unrest, isn’t drugs but the huge numbers of people who are losing jobs. Mass unemployment looms as blue-collar workers sign up for the dole.

The head of the Red Cross has warned that“’We have a lot of people who are living very marginalised, in the so-called black hole of society… In the most difficult neighbourhoods of the biggest cities I am afraid that in a few weeks we will have social problems.” Reports are coming through of poor families struggling to get enough money to feed their kids in places like Liverpool and Manchester.

It is therefore likely that in the coming weeks, driven by the above factors, we could easily see significant civil unrest across the West.

If developed nations like Great Britain, France and America struggle to maintain social order with their welfare provisions, how will developing countries like India cope? This article notes the growing terror among India’s vast poor that their incomes are drying up now that the country has been locked down.

The social unrest in the rougher parts of Paris, London and Berlin would be nothing compared to the spectre of starvation which is now the reality for millions of impoverished Africans and Indians.

Social unrest as a consequence of the lockdown measures imposed by governments across the world to prevent the spread of covid-19 is the likely next step in this grim saga. This will likely be a major trigger for a further massive fall in stock markets, along with Depression era economic data coming through on jobless figures and economic activity in the month of April.

Stay safe folks.

Covid-19 update

The arc of the Long Descent

20d8e859-trucksfi2-1024x534

VT.com – Army trucks filled with bodies drive through Italian streets

 

“…the Coronavirus is more a window or a marker that separates what will be seen as the end of an era and the beginning of another.”

Econimica, “End of Growth: Does Covif-19 Herald An Era of Decline?”, Chris Hamilton

 

 “At some point, major pandemics will become inevitable, leading to huge disruption of global and regional supply chains, international tensions and the closure of borders to refugees.”

 Forecasting Intelligence, “How to prepare for a dying future”, 10 March 2019.

 

It now feels like a lifetime ago that I posted my predictions for 2020 within the wider picture of an industrial civilisation peaking.

The day after I posted that on the blog, I jetted off to Asia for a three-week holiday, just as the coronavirus was starting to spread beyond China. It was a great trip travelling across south-east Asia and at some point, I will write a post on it.

However, there is only thing to write about today and that is the developing global crisis of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. Apologies for the delay in writing a post, it’s been hectic since I came back from holiday and to a certain extent, I’ve, like millions of others, has been trying to get my head around this developing situation.

The coronavirus marks the end of the long era of growth and the new era of deglobalisation, supply disruption, international balkanisation and state interventionism. We are now entering that era.

Last year, in my post “How to prepare for a dying future”, I wrote that “at some point, major pandemics will become inevitable, leading to huge disruption of global and regional supply chains, international tensions and the closure of borders to refugees.” I should have added everybody else as well!

The situation is developing fast, and as I write, the Financial Times is leading on the story that London will be shut down soon to prevent the spread of the virus. So, what do I see coming?

  • The confirmed (and unconfirmed) number of the infected will continue to exponentially rise throughout the developed world for the foreseeable future. The death rates will continue to soar, despite the shutdowns being imposed throughout most of the Continent.

 

  • Financial markets will continue to have a volatile journey with relief rallies being punctured by ever deepening slumps as the crisis worsens. My tentative forecast for the bottom in the markets is when the FTSE 100 hits the low 4000’s and the S&P 500 around 1750 which could happen within weeks.

 

  • Governments around the world are already stepping up monetary and fiscal measures to avoid a deflationary depression and a re-run of the 1930’s Great Depression. This will involve nationalising of essential bankrupt companies (airlines, railway companies etc), massive support to small-to-medium businesses via tax breaks, grants etc as well as helicopter money to citizens. All this will not be cheap. Government debts will soar and central banks will monetise on a scale never seen since the 2008/9 financial crash.

 

  • The medium-longer term consequences of a global bailout of the private sector negatively effected by the shutdown measures will be a permanent shift in power from the private to the state. The inflationary impact of People’s QE by the central banks will, in time, result in a wave of global inflation. I would recommend gold as a good hedge when this happens.

 

  • It is likely that the combination of stringent shutdown measures on a scale of China, the warmer weather from May onward and the fast-track work on reaching a vaccine will ensure that the worst of the pandemic crisis – at least for the cooler regions of the world, will be over by the beginning of June. I am also cautiously optimistic that a vaccine will be ready by the Autumn for mass production.

 

  • The economic impact, at least in the short term, will be severe and whilst there will be a recovery later on, it will be jagged one given the fact that millions of people will have lost their jobs and stared (or fallen into) the financial Abyss. After such an experience discretionary spending will remain weak and consumers will prioritise getting cash reserves and stable employment over spending on non-essential items.

 

  • The pandemic virus will trigger a wider reorganisation of life – a further shift to remote forms of working and a greater focus on reliance at a personal, family, corporate and national level.  Governments around the world will prioritise the re-localisation of the production of goods: China and the south-east Asian region will be the main casualty of this trend.

 

  • The virus will have negative consequences for the European Union (EU) as it has acted as a brutal reminder that when the chips are down you are only rely on the nation-state to act in the interests of the people. The failure of the rest of the EU member-states to provide medical provisions to the Italians in their darkest hour (China intervened) will not be forgotten by Rome for a long time.

 

  • Civil disorder is likely to occur in our major cities. Criminal gangs will exploit the partial withdrawal of the police to target the wealthy, food supply chains will be severely stretched given the increased demand for food and this, in itself, could trigger violent clashes in our major urban centres. Declarations of martial law, army on the streets, rationing, curfews and in the worst-case scenario, shoot-to-kill orders could occur.

Insurge Intelligence recently posted a good article on the potential ramifications of the outbreak. They argued that “the prospect of business closures due to the outbreak could perhaps be the biggest wildcard, leading to unpredictable societal disruptions in public services— food supply chains might become strained if companies are forced to close on a large scale, or operate on reduced staffing, for a prolonged period due to the virus becoming endemic.

However, much of the real risk here comes not from supply chains, but the self-fulfilling prophecy of panic-buying, leading to empty-shelves and disruptions in availability of key food items. At worst, managing that sort of disruption could see national security agencies step in to maintain public order and keep the show on the road until things settle down.”

So, to summarise, we are entering uncharted territory but this isn’t the end of the world but rather the end of an old world.

The globalisation dream has ended. Even if, as I’m sure we will, partially bring back the tourist industry, global travel in the years to come and relax border controls, it won’t be on the scale before.

The emergency measures being introduced, massive state interventionism, rationing of goods, border controls, nationalisation of industries and the suspension of the free market itself (mortgage relief, landlords banned from removing tenants etc) are a hallmark on what is coming longer term. The end of the money economy.

As I explored in an earlier FI post here, what will eventually happen in the decades to come is the partial or complete collapse of market based economic arrangements around the world.

Big picture, the macro trends, whether on escalating climate change disruption, resource scarcity, the shrinking of working-age workers in the developed world from 2020 onwards are here to stay and will accelerate.

Welcome to the new era folks.

The arc of the Long Descent

At the top of the peak

How-to-Prevent-Altitude-Sickness-on-Everest-Base-Camp-Trek-1920x595

Mosaic Adventure

 

 

“The fact that conventional non-OPEC oil production has rolled over is a huge problem that has received little attention by oil analysts. To put this in perspective, conventional non-OPEC oil production still represents 45% of global oil production and now appears to be in sustained decline.

Furthermore, if you include other sources of non-OPEC production, such as Canadian Oil Sands (which is not considered “conventional”), biofuels, refinery gains, and OPEC NGLs (which are not part of the OPEC quota systems), the US shales still represent an enormous 75% of the total non-OPEC liquids growth over the last decade. Now that the Bakken and Eagle Ford are facing exhaustion issues that are readily becoming apparent, nearly all of non-OPEC’s production growth will have to come from just one play in West Texas–the Permian.

Never before has the global oil industry been so dependent on one field in such a concentrated geographic area for all of its future growth.”

Goehring & Rozencwajg, “Shale Oil: A Startling Prediction Using The Latest Statistical Techniques”

 

“A spate of new scientific research released through 2019 has thrown light on nearer-term risks of a global food crisis in coming decades, such as a multi-breadbasket failure — due not just to climate change, but a combination of factors including population growth, industrial soil degradation, rising energy costs, groundwater depletion, among other trends.

Taken in context with a number of climate change models produced over the last decade, the heightened risk of droughts in the 2020s means that a global food crisis could be imminent.”

Insurge Intelligence, “West’s ‘dust bowl’ future now ‘locked in’, as world risks imminent food crisis”

 

 

If our global industrial civilisation was a mountain, we are likely to be at or very close to the peak.

If this is correct, our collective future will be a story of the decline and eventual collapse of our industrial civilisation.

A core purpose of this blog is to circulate to a wider audience my view that the limits to Growth business-as-usual (BAU) modelling is the most likely future fate of our industrial civilisation. And that modelling, which has proved broadly accurate over the past 40 years, suggests that we are hitting global per capita peaks in food and services as at now.

Limits to Growth 2020

Dirk Bruere Limits to Growth 

 

As you can see from the above chart, the 2020’s are, if the modelling continues to prove broadly accurate, a tipping point when industrial production slumps, global population peaks and death rates start to soar.

Interestingly, Bloomberg today noted that top market strategists are referring to the 2020’s as the “Peak Decade” for demographics, globalisation and oil demand. The reality of our global predicament is starting to permutate among the financial elites of the Western world.

The idea that, as we enter the 2020’s, global key metrics are peaking and will rollover may still be a shocking idea for many. We are likely to have to get used to this new paradigm soon. At the top I included a quote from the Insurge Intelligence website which is one of the few online sources that takes resource scarcity seriously. They argue, based on the latest scientific evidence, that various factors, which I have previously referred to as the Limits to Growth mega-trend, are colliding to make a global food crisis a rising probability in the coming years.

I’m not convinced that a global food crisis is imminent – far too much food is wasted across the developed world – however the prospects of future shortages, price hikes and climate triggered droughts is likely in the coming decades.

Peak oil concerns have faded since the surge in US shale production over the last decade. A recent report by Goehring & Rozencwajg suggests that the bulk of non-OPEC production growth this decade will come from “…one just play in West Texas- the Permian”.

Given that conventional oil fields are declining on an annual basis, global oil demand is still rising (for now) and the US shale miracle is slowing, the prospects of another oil supply shock this decade are high. That will likely prove to have major repercussions on a global economy still recovering from the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

So that’s the big picture on where we are and where we are heading as we enter this potentially momentous decade. Now it is time to review how my predictions for the year 2019 fared.

I predicted that Britain would leave the EU in 2019 and that there would be an 11th hour amendment to May’s deal, possibly relating to concessions on the Irish backstop. In fact, Britain is not leaving the EU until 31st January 2020 but Boris Johnson did manage to secure changes to the Irish backstop which enabled a revised deal to be agreed between the UK Government and the EU in October 2019. It wasn’t in the direction of a softer Brexit either as I thought at the beginning of last year.

Overall, I will probably give myself more of a fail than a pass on that prediction but I was not wholly wrong. The timing of our leaving the EU was technically wrong but de facto correct in the sense that the Tories victory in the December general election insured Brexit was happening as a political fact prior to the New Year. Similarly, the key to unlocking a revised Brexit deal was eventually done by concessions on both sides on the issue of the Irish border.

My second forecast, which I only placed a 30% probabilistic chance of happening, was an Arab style insurrection in France. This didn’t happen in the end and was my wildcard scenario for the year.

My final forecast was a bulls eye. I predicted that Trump, as part of a wider attempt to withdraw from the US empire business, would order the withdrawal of the majority of US troops from Syria. That occurred amid chaotic scenes in northern Syria, in November 2019.

So overall, a reasonably decent performance but not the best compared to my now vintage inaugural forecasting attempt back in 2016 when I successfully predicted both Trump and Brexit.

In terms of my predictions for 2020, here is what expect is likely to happen, with a probabilistic rating attached.

UK will agree to a shallow goods-based trade deal by 31st December 2020 (70% probability)

Britain, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will achieve a shallow trade deal with the EU facilitating the free flow of goods by the end of 2020. Other areas will be concluded in 2021 and 2022 but the overall thrust of the final settlement with the EU will be a hard Brexit e.g. low alignment with EU standards which allows the UK to diverge on regulation and laws.

Despite much commentary in the European media I don’t think there will be an extension to the trade talks although it is possible that a very short-term technical extension to approve the new deal might occur in January or February 2021.

Sir Keir Starmer will win the Labour leadership contest (75% probability)

The crushing defeat of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in the 13th December British general election triggered a new leadership race. There are currently 5 candidates still in the running although that is likely to be reduced given the need for trade union endorsements. The three candidates who are most likely to go to the wider membership are Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long Bailey (RLB) and Lisa Nandy.

The Yougov polling of Labour members and the political betting markets suggest that Sir Keir Starmer is the overwhelming favourite to win the race. RLB is the preferred candidate of Corbyn’s circle but has lacked any spark so far. Anecdotally the membership, still shaken by the defeat, seem to be prioritising Starmer who is seen as the most prime ministerial of all the candidates.

Whilst I have placed a small wager on Lisa Nandy, who has impressed me so far and could surge now that the hustings have started (allowing me to exit with a profit), my forecast is that Sir Keir Starmer is the most likely candidate to win the Labour leadership contest.

The result will be announced on 4th April 2020.

Donald Trump will win the US presidential election (60% probability)

This has proved a difficult one to call. Whilst Trump’s rating vs v vs Joe Biden, who remains the most likely Democratic candidate to win the primaries, remains poor, he has significantly narrowed a once big lead.

Compared to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are on the left of the Democratic spectrum, Trump is leading in key battlefield states. Should either Warren or Sanders win the Democratic primaries Trump is likely to win the US presidential election, possibly by a landslide.

Joe Biden, who appeals to soft Republicans and conservative Democrats worried about the tax-and-spend socialism of Sanders and Warrens, has a better chance of defeating Trump.

One figure to watch for is Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who would be my wildcard candidate to win the Democratic primaries. Conservative, ex-military veteran and homosexual; he reminds me of the relatively unknown Emmanuel Macron who ended up winning the French presidential elections in 2017. Buttigieg has horrendous ratings among the key African-American demographic who form Biden’s Southern firewall and therefore has a difficult, if not impossible, path to victory.

Should Biden become the Democratic Party candidate the prospects of a Democratic victory in November increases (at least compared to his rivals), however, on the balance of probabilities I would predict that President Trump is more likely than not to get re-elected for a second term in office.

The reason for my call is that Trump has managed to erase much of the once mighty Biden lead in battlefield states and we are still in the early days of this presidential campaign. The booming economy in the “flyover states” and the wider cultural weaknesses of the Democratic Party suggest that enough voters will hold their noses and vote for the Donald again.

Please note that prediction is predicated on the assumption that President Trump is not impeached in the Senate.

Well, that’s it for my set of forecasts for 2020. We will see how I perform at the beginning of 2021!

As always, I appreciate any feedback and comments you have to my blog posts.

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At the top of the peak