One of the things that bothered us the most about last November’s election was the biased polling. Polling was terrible in a number of locations around the country and no one can deny this. According to two different pieces from the New York Times, 2020 polling was considered to be nearly as bad or even worse than the 2016 polling.
David Leonhardt of the Times expanded on this idea: “For the second straight presidential election, the polling industry missed the mark. The miss was not as blatant as in 2016, when polls suggested Mr. Trump would lose, nor was the miss as large as it appeared it might be on election night. Once all the votes are counted, the polls will have correctly pointed to the winner of the presidential campaign in 48 states — all but Florida and North Carolina — and correctly signaled that Mr. Biden would win.
But this year’s problems are still alarming, both to people inside the industry and to the millions of Americans who follow presidential polls with a passion once reserved for stock prices, sports scores and lottery number,” Leonhardt says. A chart was also included that showcased the ineffectiveness of the poll. It is jarring to look at.
The presidential polling was not the only poll that was off. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine did not have any polls working in her favor during the lead up to the elections. Somehow, she ended up winning by more than 7 points. Kentucky polls showed a more closer Senate race than the true reality, where McConnell ended up winning by a landslide.
The situation deteriorated to the point where The Atlantic’s David Graham referred to the situation as a “catastrophe for American democracy.” Now, Politico is reporting on the 2020 results and the Democrats’ autopsy has revealed some rather serious errors that should have been addressed a long time ago.
“A group of top Democratic Party pollsters is set to release a public statement Tuesday acknowledging “major errors” in their 2020 polling — errors that left party officials stunned by election results that failed to come close to expectations in November…
“Twenty-twenty was an ‘Oh, s—‘ moment for all of us,” said one pollster involved in the effort, who was granted anonymity to discuss the process candidly. “And I think that we all kinda quickly came to the point that we need to set our egos aside. We need to get this right,” Politico shares.
So what are these errors and what effect did they have? Politico went on to provide further background: “Now that we have had time to review the voter files from 2020, we found our models consistently overestimated Democratic turnout relative to Republican turnout in a specific way.
Among low propensity voters—people who we expect to vote rarely—the Republican share of the electorate exceeded expectations at four times the rate of the Democratic share. This turnout error meant, at least in some places, we again underestimated relative turnout among rural and white non-college voters, who are overrepresented among low propensity Republicans,” says their report.
The final statement that we are about to provide is not cause for optimism. In fact, it seems like the general thesis is a simple one: we have no idea what happened. “While there is evidence some of these theories played a part, no consensus on a solution has emerged. What we have settled on is the idea there is something systematically different about the people we reached, and the people we did not. This problem appears to have been amplified when Trump was on the ballot, and it is these particular voters who Trump activated that did not participate in polls,” Politico concludes.
There’s not much reassurance to offer at this point. Democrat pollsters are basically trying their best to pin it all on Trump. The myth of the shy Trump voter seems to be persisting. As for us, we need far more data before we would be willing to buy into that.