The votes are in, but Election 2020 is still underway — and could be for a while yet. The race is tightly contested despite some national polls before the election that showed former Vice President Joe Biden with a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump. GBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with the Director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, Andy Smith, about how we can interpret these polls as election results remain up in the air and too close to call. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: What we know now is that everything's up in the air and that we have potentially millions of votes to still be counted, so could pollsters still have gotten this right?
Andy Smith: Well, actually, I was going through and looking at a lot of the polls. The late polls ended up being pretty accurate even in a lot of the battleground states, which had some problems with polling in 2016. So I think the polls are going to be pretty accurate going in. The problem that I think that we've got with polling is that now we've got these polling aggregation sites and these modelers that are coming up with percentages of who's going to win, and that's what people are basing their expectations on. Rather than waiting for the votes to be counted, we're just looking at the individual polls.
Mathieu: Are you surprised with how many state races have been called so far? We had a pretty good sense waking up this morning of where we stood; we're only waiting for a half dozen states here.
Smith: I think so. I didn't really think there would be many states that would be left out to be counted. For the most part, the later votes don't change things that much. Obviously in some of the very close states it will, but usually they get these things done fairly quickly. The states that had to wait in order to open ballots and process the absentee ballots are the ones that it could be late. We always thought they would be, especially the ones that were close.
Mathieu: Well, we're waiting for Pennsylvania, Michigan [and] Wisconsin, the three big ones at the moment. Andy Smith, we're seeing a lead in Wisconsin. It appears that a number of votes — tens of thousands — just turned Joe Biden's favor. He's leading by about one point now. If we get a state like Wisconsin or even Pennsylvania called today, does that end the race?
Smith: Not really. I think that you have two of those calls today, really, for this race to be decided. I think Pennsylvania is going to take a while, Michigan is going to take a while, and they may not be decided or counted for another day or two.
Mathieu: So we take North Carolina and Nevada off the table, then. Do we have a better sense, Andy?
Smith: I still think it's going to be really close. Looking at the numbers that are out there right now, both candidates have the possibility to win. And that, I think, is going to be something that's going to be in the mind of the campaigns... for quite some time.
Mathieu: We're having a little trouble with your line, Andy, but I want to stay with you to the best of our ability here because I'd like to ask you about New Hampshire as well as the microcosm. How did Joe Biden do versus Donald Trump in your state?
Smith: Biden won fairly easily here. He won by about eight percentage points. But the interesting thing was that Governor Chris Sununu won big by almost 30 percentage points. So it's a state where it shows that governors are independent actors in their own right and not necessarily going to be swayed.
Mathieu: It's interesting because [Sununu] was very pro-Trump. He may not have been at the rally, as many people pointed out recently in Manchester, but Governor Sununu was pro-Trump all the way through this campaign.
Smith: I would disagree with that. I'd push back a bit saying that he really wasn't pro-Trump, he was trying to do that dance that a lot of Republican governors in Democrat-leaning states are doing. They're not wanting to alienate their base, but they don't want to be tied too closely to Trump. So if you're in the party, you kind of have to go with your party guy, but it looks like that he was able to negotiate that pretty well.
Mathieu: Well, I heard him call himself a pro-Trump Republican on CNBC last week, and it just sticks out to me because our governor in Massachusetts didn't vote for anybody, Andy.
Smith: I think your governor of Massachusetts didn't have to worry. First off he's not up for election this year, and he didn't have to worry about a big Trump backlash should he come out against Trump in Massachusetts.
Mathieu: Did the suburbs [and] the border towns vote for Joe Biden?
Smith: It looks like they did not, and that's not surprising. Those towns on the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border are some of the most Republican parts of the state. In fact, it looks as if over the last 20 years, the last of the Republicans in Massachusetts moved across the border and now live right in those towns. The parts of the state that Democrats do really well in are the Portsmouth-Dover area here on the seacoast, Concord and then Keene. So the college towns they do really well in, Manchester they do pretty well and that's still kind of a blue collar Democratic stronghold, and I think Biden outperformed there more than Clinton did in 2016. That really made up the difference in the magnitude of Biden's win here.
Mathieu: It's interesting, people are driving farther and farther to go to work in Boston. You know the whole story here, Andy. It's one of the reasons why Governor Sununu is suing the state of Massachusetts. I know some people who come from Maine. People are driving in from the Portsmouth area. Are these demographics becoming more jammed up with the exodus over the border?
Smith: It has, but New Hampshire has been a state in which we've had tremendous population churn for decades, actually. Over the eight years from 2008 to 2016, 30 percent of our potential voters were different people. Either they moved into the state or they turned 18. And we had that same sort of turn between 2016 and 2004 — obviously not up to 30 percent, [but] probably 15 to 20 percent of the vote are different people. So it's really hard to predict New Hampshire by looking at what happened in the past because, frankly, it's a different state every four years.