NewsMobile Explainer: All you need to know about US Presidential Polls

Come November 3 and United States will elect its new President. Will it be Donald Trump once again or will Joe Biden make the cut?

With campaigning reaching a feverish pitch in the last lap and a no-holds-barred political fight taking centre stage in the race to White House, we break down the complicated US Presidential Poll process for you.

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What then are the big issues on which the US is voting this year?

From COVID-19 to jobs, unemployment to racism, immigration to foreign policy have emerged as the key determining factors of the upcoming polls.

Trump and Biden have diverging viewpoints on these critical issues which would determine the outcome of the polls.


Americans traditionally elect their new President on the first Tuesday of the month of November every four years and this time the poll is scheduled to be held on November 3.


Unlike many other nations, generally, there are only two parties in the fray in the US. These are Democrats (liberal, left-of-centre party) and Republicans (conservative, right-of-centre party).

Sometimes, other “third party” candidates participate in the polls with the Libertarian, Green and Independent parties occasionally putting forth a nominee.


Any Presidential post aspirant must fulfil the following criteria:

Should be a natural-born US citizen

Must be 35 years of age or above

Must be a US resident for the past 14 years

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The Democratic National Convention has nominated Joe Biden as its nominee for President post and Kamala Harris as its Vice President nominee.

They are taking on incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence who are likely to be named during the Republican National Convention.

Following that, there would be four debates where the Republican and Democratic nominees take stage along with their respective challengers.


Presidential hopefuls battle for their party’s nomination in Caucuses and Primaries (primary elections) across the country.

State governments conduct Primaries as per their state laws which determine if the elections are closed allowing only those registered with that party to vote or open where non-affiliated voters can also cast their vote.

If a candidate wins a primary election, they win either all or a proportion of the state’s delegates, depending on party rules. Those delegates then vote for them at the party convention, where the presidential nominee is officially named.

It’s a system that became widespread for the presidential election in the 1970s. Before that, a nominee was selected by party members at conventions.

A handful of states, like Iowa, have Caucuses instead of Primaries. During Caucuses, voters divide themselves into groups according to who they support in the party. This is done among the parties and people are not directly involved.

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At the end of every Primary or Caucus, candidates of different parties pick up ‘delegates’. Each candidate of a party has to pick up a pre-determined number of delegates to win the nomination.

If one wants to become a Democratic Party candidate one has to be pick up 2,383 of 4,765 delegates. Whereas, to become a Republican Party candidate, one has to pick up 1,237 of 2,472 delegates. The numbers vary from Party-to-Party.


Parties hold national conventions to announce their Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees for elections.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have already been picked up as official nominees of their party through this process.


The popular vote or the number of votes received by the candidate concerned will have no bearing on deciding the winner of the November 3 polls.

It all boils down to the ‘Electoral College’ vote. A simple majority of 270 out of 538 votes which are available ensure victory which is why some states become extremely crucial for candidates. More populous states incidentally have a bigger number of electoral votes.

As it happened with Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Al Gore in 2000, it is possible to win the popular vote but lose the electoral vote.


The Electoral College is the term for officials ‘electors’ who vote on behalf of the states in the poll process.

Each state is worth a number of electors in sync with its representation in Congress: the sum of its senators every state has two) and representatives in the House (determined by population).

The six biggest states are California (55), Texas (38), New York (29), Florida (29), Illinois (20) and Pennsylvania (20).


Republican strongholds like Idaho, Alaska and many other southern states are considered ‘Red States’ while Democrat-dominated states such as California, Illinois and much of the New England region of the northeast coast are called ‘Blue States’.

Swing States are crucial as they can change hands depending on the candidate.

For 2020 elections, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are being considered swing states.


Most states offer the option of early voting, which allows registered voters to cast their ballots ahead of Election Day. .

For those voting on Election Day, they are required to go in-person to an official polling place. There is no online voting.

Each state handles its own vote counting and a winner is usually determined on the same night.


Post declaration of results, the new President is given time to select his Cabinet members and make necessary plans.

The new President, or the returning incumbent as the case may be, is sworn in at an event called the Inauguration in January. The 20th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1933, mandates Inauguration take place on January 20.

After a ceremony at Congress, President makes his way back to the White House to begin his four-year term.

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