After their disastrous performance in the 2016 presidential election, a lot of people vowed to never trust pollsters and polling analysts again, considering how badly many of them botched polls showing Hillary Clinton would convincingly defeat Donald Trump in a landslide.
But they seemed to get on track in 2018 during the midterm elections, allegedly putting in “safeguards” to prevent a repeat performance.
Because of that, some well-meaning people on the left and the right got lured back in to tentatively giving them a second chance. After all, going back decades, polls were one of the few seemingly reliable indicators of where the American people stood on the issues and candidates running for public office. Plus, reliance on them has been like a drug for political junkies who can’t wait for Election Day, and who want to prognosticate until the cows come home about what the results of polls will mean for the future of society and all that.
And yet here we are again. Four years after their last debacle, and most pollsters just flat out blew it – again. The reckoning has been swift:
— MediaResearchCenter (@theMRC) November 6, 2020
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) November 6, 2020
What is the statistical likelihood that every "glitch" and "accident" and "misunderstanding" in every crucial polling place and vote-counting center would just coincidentally favor Biden and the Democrats?
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) November 6, 2020
If the election polls systematically undercount Republicans by a significant margin, shouldn't that also call into question polling on politician approval ratings, as well as public support for liberal policies? This isn't just an every-four-years issue.
— Brian Riedl 🧀 (@Brian_Riedl) November 6, 2020
Some have even turned on each other:
@ABC’s own poll in battleground WI showed Biden up an unimaginable 17 points, can’t wait to see what polling “grade” the now disgraced Silver gives to the TV station that made him a media darling..what say you, Silver?? https://t.co/GQ6KMYh2yo
— SP&R (@SusquehannaPR) November 5, 2020
Defensive pollsters and polling data experts are pushing back, however, and their petulance and excuse-making just goes to show that many of them haven’t learned danged thing:
The achilles heel of the polling industry: a lack of humility, a smartest-guy-in-the-room attitude.
This "expert" spent a day mocking my reporting (and Elissa Slotkin's belief) that Trump voters were being undercounted in polls of MI and her district.
Which—surprise!—they were. pic.twitter.com/mvApshAs55
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) November 4, 2020
This pollster (Patrick Murray at Monmouth) actually had the nerve to claim “voter suppression” was the reason why so many polls were off – this even as we saw record turnout in cities across the country!
This is absolutely nuts. The director of a major polling organization says his surveys could have been off because of voter suppression that cost biden a even bigger victory pic.twitter.com/2UfrqNhhEn
— Joe Gabriel Simonson (@SaysSimonson) November 5, 2020
That’s beyond pathetic. I mean convincing arguments can actually be made in the other direction to suggest that bad polling can actually have a “suppressing” effect on some voters if they think their candidate doesn’t have a chance.
And then there was 538’s Nate Silver, widely regarded by the media and the polling world as the gold standard for polling analysts to emulate. As reported by my RedState colleague Bonchie, here was what he had to say when asked about whether he felt pollsters had let readers down again:
“If they’re coming after FiveThirtyEight, then the answer is f*ck you, we did a good job!” Silver replied…
Trafalgar, which is often ridiculed and mocked by so-called “respectable” polling outfits and analysts in the media, was likely closer to the mark in their polling information than anyone else based on what we know so far about the results (we won’t know for sure until all races have been called). Going forward, other polling companies should look to Trafalgar’s “shy voter” method of finding out voters’ views on the issues and the candidates so as to start the process of restoring trust in their industry again.
They should but they won’t. Because, like the MSM, so many of them are left-leaning and have anti-Republican narratives to push. And push them they do, regardless of how much it further damages what minuscule amount of credibility they have left.