Face It: The Polls Were Right

U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore's campaign signs are seen during a campaign rally, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fairhope Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The big myth is that The Polls Got It Wrong in 2016. But the elections in 2017 have made it clear that the polls are actually getting it right.

U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore’s campaign signs are seen during a campaign rally, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fairhope Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


It’s true that in the 2016 election, the national polling didn’t predict the electoral college. This is because Donald Trump defied the odds. On average, we expect the close states to split evenly, with each candidate winning about half of them. Usually results like that follow a sort of bell curve.

However the 2016 map did not go that way at all. Donald Trump was very lucky. Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida to Clinton’s New Hampshire and Minnesota, for states under 2%. That’s a 75-14 advantage to Trump in the closest states. Flip that around and Clinton wins 288-243.

But in the elections so far in 2017, there’s been no electoral college to give freak results the other way. The polls have been correct. First they projected the Luther Strange vs Roy Moore runoff in Alabama. Then they projected the Roy Moore victory. Next they saw the big Democrat victory in Virginia. And finally they saw Doug Jones having a good chance to win in Alabama.

It’s not just the polls that are being vindicated this year. It’s math in general. In particular, we saw last night a host of people seeking to discredit the New York Times needle, predicting the winner from the early vote counts, was taking a lot of hits. While others such as Decision Desk and 538 were hedging on the race, the Times came out in front saying Jones was ahead, and Jones was going to win.


With Moore leading the count for hours, this was causing a lot of jokes to go the way of the Times. But in the end, once Birmingham votes started coming in, Jones caught up, took the lead, and the Times was vindicated. Just as the polls were vindicated.

You can scream ‘fake polls’ all you want, Trumpers, but whether you want to admit it or not, Trump got lucky. He’s going to need more than good luck and a very weak opponent, if he’s going to try to win re-election. And with no Electoral College to prop them up, Trump’s Congressional allies are in deep trouble next year.


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