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Don’t Listen to the Polls

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 13:27
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Many news sites rely on a
 “poll of polls,” where they take the average of ten or so
different polls and run with that figure. It sounds accurate in
theory. But there are reasons why that might not be an accurate
indicator of this election.

The first reason is that the
“poll of polls” is only as accurate as the underlying polls it’s
comprised of. Every poll has a little bit of error, or noise. The
theory is that if you aggregate 10 or so polls, the noise tends to
get cancelled out.

So a poll biased towards Hillary
will be cancelled by another poll favoring Trump, so you arrive at
an accurate number. But if the underlying polls are skewed towards
Hillary, which they are, the poll of polls is going to reflect that

The other reason not to trust
many of these polls is because they contain a built-in lag. A poll
of polls, particularly the popular Real Clear Politics tracking
poll, relies on, as the term implies, tracking.

Tracking means they drag along
three days of data, from today and the previous two days. But by
definition, some of that data is two days old and may therefore be
inaccurate by the time you see them. If nothing changes over that
time frame, it might be accurate. But if one candidate is trending,
the poll won’t necessarily reflect that. You’re going to be a day
or two behind at election time.

And that’s happening now. The
polls have been trending strongly in favor of Trump for the past
four or five days, so a snapshot poll of polls is not going to
reflect that trend or its full impact.

Are there any good polls you can
trust? The best poll over the last three election cycles is one
most people have never heard of. It’s the Investor’s Business Daily
(IBD) poll. IBD is like
"font-weight: 400;">The Wall Street Journal "font-weight: 400;">, only more boring if that’s possible. But they
do highly accurate polls. Again, it’s been the most accurate poll
for the past three elections.

The IBD poll comes out daily.
And today it’s showing Trump by two points. As I said, this poll
has a record of being extremely accurate, in contrast to some of
the other leading polls like ABC or CBS, that show a solid Hillary

The other problem with polls in
general is that polls are only as good as the sample they’re based
on. You can’t go out and ask 100 million people how they’re going
to vote. But you can ask 1,000. So the question becomes, are those
1,000 people an accurate reflection of the overall

If it is, then you can get a
reasonably accurate impression from those 1,000 people, plus or
minus 3%. If it isn’t, the poll’s going to be distorted by whatever
deficiencies are represented in the sample.

And the polls are telling us
that they’re oversampling Democrats. That’s not a guess or
conspiracy theory. If you read the footnotes on the methodology of
these major polls, they tell you that.

Now, it is true that there are
slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans nationwide. But
it’s only a small gap. So if you’re sampling 1,000 people, you
might get 530 Democrats and 470 Republicans. And that would be an
accurate reflection of the fact that there are more registered
Democrats than Republicans.

But these polls are not using
samples that represent that breakdown. They’re using samples that
look more like 590-410 in favor of Democrats. In other words,
they’re heavily tilting the sample in favor of Democrats. That
might lead you to take a point or two away from Hillary in the

Something else they also don’t
tell you is what kind of Democrats they’re sampling. If polls skew
towards African-American voters in the sample, you know they’re
going to vote up to 95% for the Democratic candidate. That’s been a
reliable voting pattern.

But if you include whites in the
sample, there are going to be a number of whites who will vote for
Trump. So including more African-Americans in the poll will skew
the results more towards Hillary.

These are just some of the games
pollsters play. And once you take such a poll and place it in the
Real Clear Politics poll of polls, for example, it’s going to skew
the outcome in favor of Hillary.

That’s why, with most of these
polls, I take a point or two from Hillary and add a point or two
for Trump. Which, incidentally, is what the IBD poll does. They’re
not using the games I just described. It’s a more honest poll, so
that’s why I think most polls are wrong.

There’s one other factor to
consider today: exit polls. Exit polls sample voters as they’re
leaving the voting booth who they pulled the lever for.

Organizations take that exit
polling data over the course of the day. By about five o’clock in
the afternoon they know who’s going to win the election, unless
it’s too close to call. Then the polls close, starting around seven
p.m. Eastern time, and then eight p.m. and nine p.m.

Then they look at actual results
from the individual states and compare them to the exit polls. But
they don’t wait for all the results to come in. They wait just long
enough to give a statistically valid sample. Then they look at the
exit polls and make projections based on them.

If the polls close at 7 p.m. and
some commentator says at exactly 7:01, “CBS News calls
Massachusetts for Hillary Clinton,” they’re not doing that because
all the Massachusetts votes are counted. They’re doing it because
they have the exit polling data. They actually know who’s going to
win. They don’t tell the rest of us, but they know.

Those exit polls have almost
never leaked. It’s a consortium. All the networks share the data,
and they’re sealed in a secure room. The only leaks I saw were in
2004 with Kerry, and they were wrong by the way. Of course, Bush
won in 2004.

The exit polls were saying Kerry
won. Then by eight o’clock they announced George Bush won. I
happened to be at a dinner with the CEO of IBM at that time and he
had pretty good access to voting results. He knew it was going to
be close, and I agreed, so we didn’t get too spun up about the exit

What’s happening now is that two
news organizations, Vice, which is an online, alternative media
network, and Slate, which is another online magazine, have hired
their own people to do their own exit polls. They are both very
liberal outlets. They are not pledged to this consortium I just
described. They’re going to release those polls throughout the
course of the day. I’ve no doubt that this is being done to, in
effect, discourage Trump votes or suppress the vote.

If you start hearing throughout
the day that Hillary won, don’t be deceived. If you’re a Trump
voter don’t stay home. This is the subversion of democracy. For the
first time, you have news organizations doing professional exit
polls, which actually are accurate, who are going to be revealing
the data over the course of the day.

There’s another reason not to
trust exit polls…

The answer is the exit polls are
skewed based on the time of the day. They tend to be extremely
accurate over the course of the entire day. But voting patterns are
not linear. That is, you have a lot more women voting early in the
day and a lot more men voting later in the day. This is not a
gender-based comment. It’s just a fact.

Men are lazy. They wake up. They
go to work. They get home from work at six o’clock and have to go
vote. But that’s too late for exit polling because it’s too close
to the actual deadline. That means voting patterns are skewed based
on the time of day. You absolutely get more women in the morning
and more men in the afternoon. And more women will vote for

So you’re going to hear very
biased, so-called scientific exit polls that are not that objective
because the results are skewed because they want them to be skewed,
or because they will be skewed based on the time of day, for the
reason I just mentioned.

Either way, you cannot trust


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