Political polling organizations have been taking their lumps over the past several years from those who mistakenly — I believe — contend they are wrong far more than they are right.
Pollsters need some respect and I am about to give them some.
The major incident polling critics cite is the result of the 2016 presidential election. I truly beg to differ.
Let’s remember that polling outfits tracked the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hourly right to the end. Most of them placed Hillary Clinton marginally ahead of Trump in the final results released just before Election Day.
Clinton won the popular vote in 2016. Her margin of “victory”? 2.09% That matches just about what all the pollsters said would occur. They were right!
Except that the popular vote doesn’t elect presidents. That is done through the Electoral College and Trump managed to peel off at least three states that everyone thought would fall into Clinton’s vote ledger: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Did those states’ results negate what the national polling said would occur? No. It meant only that Clinton’s team misjudged the level of support she and Trump had; they overplayed their own hand and low-balled Trump’s support.
The 2020 election also produced a result that pollsters said would occur. Joe Biden carried the day with a 4.46% popular vote margin over Trump. He also took back the three states I mentioned earlier to seal the victory.
Polling at times can be an inexact exercise. Respondents have been known to tell pollsters untruths when they are asked, “For whom will you vote for president?”
However, in the past two presidential election cycles, pollsters have gotten a bum rap. I want to stand with them.