US Election: Five takeaways from Betfair's poll of Brits on their Presidential preferences

Donald and Melania Trump outsider 10 Downing Street
'The UK is not Trump country'

US election expert Paul Krishnamurty analyses our YouGov survey which asked British voters how they'd vote in next week's US Election...

"Despite his massive lead, this poll isn’t a ringing endorsement of Biden. Of those who expressed a preference, a paltry 37% believe he is ‘fit to be the next leader of the free world’."

1. The UK clearly leans Democrat

The poll's results are crystal clear. The UK is not Trump country. Among those who expressed a preference to our questions, he would lose a hypothetical election by an enormous 80/20 margin.

Geographical differences are minor - he would lose big in every region. Donald Trump's support in Scotland is just 12%. Related, perhaps, to their experience of his ownership of golf resorts. In liberal London, Trump scores 19%. In relatively conservative Yorkshire and the Humber, 26%.

Overall, 73% of respondents who expressed a preference believe Trump is 'dangerous'. Terrible numbers for a man whose overseas celebrity dwarfs any other US politician. However, this may be more about the politics than the person. Democrat president Barack Obama was overwhelmingly the choice of UK voters, whereas Republican George W Bush was extremely unpopular. An impressive 67% of respondents who selected a preference believe Michelle Obama would make a good president.

2. UK voters understand and partly reflect America's partisan divide

It is important to remember the fundamental differences between UK and US politics. Guns are illegal and politically irrelevant here. Religion plays very little part and abortion rarely features in debate. The NHS is the most popular UK institution. In the States, public healthcare is a central dividing line between the parties - with many Republicans labelling it 'communism'.

Betfair 1920x1080 US Elec UK Vote - Party Affiliation.jpg

Perhaps that explains Britain's preference for US candidates of the liberal left. There is a clear correlation with party support. Of those who expressed a preference, 99% of Labour or Lib Dem voters at the 2019 General Election want Joe Biden to win. Of Conservative voters 39% who selected a preference prefer Trump - nearly twice the average. The gender divide also applies here. Whereas 25% of men who selected a preference are pro-Trump, that applies to only 14% of women who expressed a preference.

3. Trump's claim to be "Mr Brexit" barely stacks up

Given that Trump and Brexit have shared a nationalist narrative since 2016, it is no surprise to see a significant correlation and backlash. Of those who expressed a preference, and who voted for Remain, 96% back Biden.

Betfair 1920x1080 US Elec UK Vote - EU Vote.jpg

Before becoming president, Trump even declared himself to be 'Mr Brexit' but he didn't win a majority of 2016 Leave voters. Of those who expressed a preference, 38% of that group support him, closely mirroring the 39% of 2019 Conservative voters.

4. Brits aren't convinced by Biden

Despite his massive lead, this poll isn't a ringing endorsement of Biden. Of those who expressed a preference, a paltry 37% believe he is 'fit to be the next leader of the free world'. Rather it seems responses are based on opinions of his much more famous opponent.

This may partly explain this year's odd betting trends. Biden's chance has been consistently much lower on Betfair than with polling models. One popular theory is that 'MAGA money' is driving Trump's odds down.

That may well be a factor around specific moments, such as the Republican convention, but it can hardly explain the entire market, when Trump has such little support within the UK or overseas generally, and Betfair aren't operating in the USA.

Joe Biden US flag behind 1280.jpg

Perhaps, given these numbers, the market reflects scepticism about Biden. One particularly notable figure is 53% of those who expressed a preference saying personalities are more important than policies when it comes to attracting votes in US presidential elections. The challenger hasn't cut through here or truly convinced Brits he is up to the job or capable of sealing the deal.

5. There are big implications for Johnson's government

US politics rarely has a direct influence on UK politics but this particular election has all sorts of ramifications. Boris Johnson is reportedly delaying his decision on the final Brexit deal, or lack of it, until after the election.

Trump is on board with a 'no deal' or 'WTO terms' and has signalled his readiness for a trade deal. Biden and Democrats in Congress much less so, firmly committing to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and openly criticising Johnson.

More widely, the split among Conservative voters - as opposed to near unanimity among Lab/Lib/SNP - could point to trouble ahead. In many respects, Johnson and Dominic Cummings have styled their government around Trump, and their Brexit plans around a Republican administration. Their tactics are unashamedly 'populist'.

What these numbers suggest is that there is limited appeal for Trumpism even among Conservative voters. It is reminiscent of Nigel Farage's various projects.

His UKIP insurgency forced the Tories into a referendum. His Brexit Party vehicle helped drive Theresa May from office and put 'no deal' firmly on the table. Why? Because his agenda resonated with a substantial, active and vocal core of Tory members and Brexit voters.

Yet Farage is an electoral loser, failing repeatedly to win a Westminster seat. UKIP and Brexit Party polled up to a ceiling around 30%. Enough to win lower turnout European elections under PR, or even the occasional by-election amid favourable conditions, but their toxicity to a majority made it impossible to win under first-past the post.

Divisive, 'Marmite' candidates tend to have enthusiastic, yet limited appeal. Moderate voters unite around the alternative. That is precisely what the polls suggest is happening in the States with Biden.

The Trump effect turned elections into a referendum on him. A Tory government whose approval ratings are in worrying decline should avoid a repeat at all costs. If the polls are correct, that lesson will become crystal clear next Tuesday.

***

Paul is writing a daily blog on all things US Election for Betting.Betfair and watch out for the final Politics...Only Bettor podcast, which will be out on Friday (October 30).

2020 US Presidential Election: USA - Presidential Election 2020 (Next President)

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Tuesday 3 November, 10.00am

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