In 2016, nearly every poll showed Hillary Clinton defeating Donald Trump. In 2020, pollsters made the same mistakes they made in 2016. Ahead of the general election in 2020, many political analysts predicted House Democrats would pick up seats that year based on polling data. Pollsters concluded Republicans were in deep trouble. Yet, the GOP held every incumbent seat and flipped 16 Democratic seats to give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) the smallest margin in the House in nearly a century.
In early 2022, polls showed Republicans would win in a landslide election. In January, NBC News said Democrats would get a shellacking. Then June happened. The polls started showing a tightening race, and by August, Democrats suddenly had newfound hope. The media claimed abortion was the central issue and could put them back on top in the House and Senate. Yet, was that really accurate?
Are Pollsters Misleading Americans, Again?
If you ever took statistics in high school or college, you know it’s’ not hard to achieve an answer based on two things:
- The questions asked
- Who is asked
In 2016 and 2020, pollsters oversampled Democrats. I love to look at the internals of polls. They tell you much the media doesn’t. For example, what questions didn’t they ask? How did they phrase a question to achieve a result fairly or unfairly? Who did they ask?
In most polls, both Republicans and independents are undersampled. So, if you ask a disproportionate amount of Democrats a question, what would the likely result be? A poll that favors Democrats.
Don’t take my word for it.
On Monday, August 12, The New York Times said the same polls that overestimated Democratic elections in 2020 are doing the same thing in 2022. The Times said the polls showing Democrats ahead or even with Republican candidates are “too good to be true.”
The article stated,
“The more the polls overestimated Mr. Biden last time, the better Democrats seem to be doing relative to expectations. And conversely, Democrats are posting less impressive numbers in some of the states where the polls were fairly accurate two years ago, like Georgia.”
The Times noted the polling errors of 2020 are repeating. The article said it wouldn’t be difficult to explain if the same happens again. It also demonstrates why the GOP picked up so many unexpected House seats in 2020 even though Biden sits in the White House.
Oh, regarding abortion. The Times noted pollsters are seeing non-response bias – meaning people who aren’t responding to a poll would answer very differently from those that do. So, it appears Democrats are answering the survey questions about abortion and Republicans and independents are not.
The Times noted the advantage for Democrats collapses in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Ohio when factoring in polling errors from 2020.
So, is the red wave still there, or did it disappear?
Franklin & Marshall’s director of the Center for Opinion Research and the Floyd Institute for Public Policy, Berwood Yost, told the Washington Examiner that polls are meant to expose attitudes, trends, and shifts in a broad context. Yet, if they can’t sample the entire political spectrum proportionately, they can mislead the public.
I’m banking on a lot of surprises in November based on the internals of the polls.