Other Group

Trafalgar Group

Website:

www.thetrafalgargroup.org/%20

Location:

Atlanta, GA

Founder:

Robert Cahaly

Type:

Polling group

The Trafalgar Group is a group of “allied companies” that provide political and corporate surveys for market research. [1] Trafalgar is best known for predicting Republican election upsets, particularly Donald Trump’s presidential election. In 2020, Trafalgar predicted that President Trump will win his election while the vast majority of pollsters are predicting a win for former Vice Presdient Joe Biden (D-DE).

As of May 2020, according to FiveThirtyEight, Trafalgar has correctly predicted races 75% of the time. [2]

Track Record

2016 Election

On November 8, 2016, Trafalgar Group announced its prediction that Donald Trump would win the presidential race with 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) 223. [3] At the time, the vast majority of other polls and aggregators were predicting a Clinton win by a large margin, with FiveThirtyEight predicting a 71.4% chance of Clinton winning with an expected 302 votes,[4] the New York Times predicting an 85% chance of Clinton winning with an expected 322 votes,[5] and the Huffington Post predicting a 98% chance of Clinton winning with an expected 323 votes. [6] Investor’s Business Daily and the University of Southern California Dornsife were the only other public polling groups to predict a Trump victory (though USC-Dornsife projected Trump would win more ballots aggregated nationally, which he did not). [7]

Trump won the presidential election with 304 electoral votes. According to the Washington Examiner, Trafalgar had the most accurate polls of any organization for Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. [8] Of 62 polls conducted in Pennsylvania, Trafalgar conducted one of three which predicted a Trump victory. Of 45 polls conducted in Michigan, Trafalgar conducted one of two which predicted a Trump victory. [9]

2017 Special Election

In the 2017 special election for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in suburbs outside Atlanta, Trafalgar was one of the few pollsters to correctly predict the upset of Karen Handel (D-GA) over Jon Ossoff (D-GA), the latter of whom raised $36 million for his campaign. [10]

2018 Elections

In the 2018 election, Trafalgar was the only one of six polls in the three days before election day to predict the narrow victory of former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) over former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D-FL) for Governor of Florida. [11] Trafalgar was also one of two pollsters that correctly projected the narrow victory of then-Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) over incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) six days before the election in the Florida Senate race. [12]

2020 Election

On October 12, Trafalgar released a poll putting Biden two points ahead of President Trump, while most other forecasters were putting Biden seven points ahead. [13]

On October 21, Trafalgar head Robert Cahaly publicly predicted a narrow victory for President Trump, with an expected electoral count in the 270s. However, Cahaly stressed that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and unusually high rate of mail-in voting, the 2020 election would be more difficult to predict than the 2016 election. Trafalgar has not yet released a formal prediction model for 2020. [14] Most polling agencies predicted a Trump defeat, with Investor’s Business Daily and the University of Southern California Dornsife, two pollsters who predicted a Trump victory in 2016, predicting a win for Biden. [15]

Polling Strategy

Trafalgar is best known for its polling strategy which adjusts raw survey data for alleged “social-desirability bias.” According to Cahaly, many Trump voters will refuse to admit their preference for Trump and even lie on polls due to the stigma against support for President Trump in the media and on social media. Therefore, most pollsters underestimate the actual support for Trump. Trafalgar attempted to factor in this “shy” voter factor by also asking voters who their neighbors were voting for. If a voter claimed to support the Democratic presidential candidate but also said that his neighbors were voting for Trump, Trafalgar would factor in a chance that the voter was actually a Trump supporter. [16]

Criticism

In May 2020, FiveThirtyEight gave Trafalgar a “C-” rating as a pollster based on its average sampling error and rate of correctly predicting races. [17] Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has accused Trafalgar of being a pro-Republican pollster while pretending to be nonpartisan. [18]

Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine has criticized Trafalgar’s unique “shy Trump voter” theory. According to Kilgore, there is a “shy Trump voter” effect, but it was too minor to bridge the gap between mainstream polls and the 2016 election results. Rather, he believes Trump won the election because a significant number of undecided voters decided to vote for Trump during the last few days before the election. [19]

Leadership

Robert Cahaly is the founder, senior strategist, and pollster of the Trafalgar Group. Cahaly began working on political campaigns at age ten, and over the last thirty years he has worked in 22 states for Republican candidates including former South Carolina Govs. Carroll Campbell (R), David Beasley (R), and Nikki Haley (R); former Governors Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Chris Christie (R-NJ); South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R); former U.S. Senators Strom Thurmond (R-SC) and Bob Dole (R-KS); Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ben Sasse (R-NE); and Presidents George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump. [20]

Cahaly has also worked with controversial Republican strategists Roger Stone, Dick Morris, and Lee Atwater. [21]

References

  1. “Robert Cahaly.” Trafalgar Group. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.thetrafalgargroup.org/robert-cahaly/. ^
  2. “FiveThiryEight’s Pollster Ratings.” FiveThirtyEight.com. May 19, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/pollster-ratings/. ^
  3. “The Trafalgar Group.” Twitter. November 8, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://twitter.com/trafalgar_group/status/796118715309899776. ^
  4. “Who Will Win the Presidency?” 538. November 8, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/. ^
  5. “Who Will be President?” New York Times. November 8, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/presidential-polls-forecast.html. ^
  6. “Forecast President.” Huffington Post. November 8, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2016/forecast/president. ^
  7. Perry, Todd. “Only two major polls predicted Trump’s 2016 win. This time, they’re both seeing a landslide.” Good. October 12, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.good.is/the-only-two-major-polls-to-predict-a-trump-victory-in-16-have-biden-up-by-major-margins. ^
  8. Hemingway, Mark. “Things Poll Apart.” Washington Examiner. November 11, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/weekly-standard/things-poll-apart. ^
  9. “Ellis: The Trafalgar Effect.” Texas Scorecard. October 14, 2014. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://texasscorecard.com/commentary/ellis-the-trafalgar-effect/. ^
  10. “Ellis: The Trafalgar Effect.” Texas Scorecard. October 14, 2014. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://texasscorecard.com/commentary/ellis-the-trafalgar-effect/. ^
  11. “Florida Governor – DeSantis vs. Gillum.” RealClear Politics. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2018/governor/fl/florida_governor_desantis_vs_gillum-6518.html#polls. ^
  12. “Ellis: The Trafalgar Effect.” Texas Scorecard. October 14, 2014. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://texasscorecard.com/commentary/ellis-the-trafalgar-effect/. ^
  13. “Ellis: The Trafalgar Effect.” Texas Scorecard. October 14, 2014. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://texasscorecard.com/commentary/ellis-the-trafalgar-effect/. ^
  14. Stabile, Angelica. “Pollster who predicted 2016 result says Trump on track to win again with help of ‘hidden’ support.” Fox News. October 21. 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/robert-cahaly-trafalgar-group-2020-election-polls. ^
  15. Perry, Todd. “Only two major polls predicted Trump’s 2016 win. This time, they’re both seeing a landslide.” Good. October 12, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.good.is/the-only-two-major-polls-to-predict-a-trump-victory-in-16-have-biden-up-by-major-margins. ^
  16. “Trade Secrets From the Predictors Who Called a Trump Victory.” Politico. November 16, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/11/donald-trump-2016-polls-upset-214461. ^
  17. “FiveThiryEight’s Pollster Ratings.” FiveThirtyEight.com. May 19, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/pollster-ratings/. ^
  18. “Nate Silver.” Twitter. October 25, 2018. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://twitter.com/NateSilver538/status/1320377695692296192. ^
  19. Kilgore, Ed. “There’s Still No Evidence Trump Voters Are Particularly Shy.” New York Magazine. July 29, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/07/theres-still-no-evidence-trump-voters-are-particularly-shy.html. ^
  20. “Robert Cahaly.” Trafalgar Group. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.thetrafalgargroup.org/robert-cahaly/. ^
  21. “Robert Cahaly.” Trafalgar Group. Accessed October 27, 2020. https://www.thetrafalgargroup.org/robert-cahaly/. ^
  See an error? Let us know!

Trafalgar Group


Atlanta, GA