Visitors Now:
Total Visits:
Total Stories:
Profile image
By Reason Magazine (Reporter)
Contributor profile | More stories
Story Views

Now:
Last Hour:
Last 24 Hours:
Total:

Yep: The Polls Still Don’t Work

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 21:33
% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.

(Before It's News)

CthulhuAs the poll forecasters, the news websites, and the election betting markets all increasingly point to a win for Donald Trump tonight (Sweet Meteor of Death, help us), more than a few people are likely asking themselves, “How could this possibly be happening?”

Indeed, as recently as this morning FiveThirtyEight had Hillary Clinton with more than a 70 percent chance of winning; HuffPollster for their part had her above 98 percent. Of the last 10 polls in the RealClearPolitics four-way average, nine had the former secretary of state up by between two and six percentage points.

So what went wrong with the polls? It’s too early to know, of course. Perhaps there really were “shy” Trump voters who were too embarrassed to admit as much to pollsters.

It seems more likely, however, that the problem is methodological. As I explained in a feature from the February issue of Reason (“Why Polls Don’t Work“), modern pollsters face a variety of challenges, from the difficulty of identifying likely voters to the reliance on guesstimations about how the final electorate will break down demographically. Plus, it’s harder to get people on the phone than ever before, and you can’t keep them talking to you for nearly as long as you once could.

The polls have understated conservative vote share repeatedly over the last four years. They underestimated the chances of a GOP landslide in the 2014 midterms. They underestimated both the Conservative Party’s support in the last U.K. election and the level of support for Brexit. And those are just three of the highest-profile examples.

But the solution is not as simple as assuming the GOP will do better than the polls suggest. Recall that in 2012, many pollsters overestimated the vote share Romney would receive.

So yes, the polls are broken. That isn’t a new development this year, though tonight’s outcome—if indeed Trump holds on to win—will surely go down as one of the most stunning rebukes the public opinion industry has ever suffered. And what will it take to fix those issues? Cthulhu only knows.

Report abuse

Comments

Your Comments
Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

Top Stories
Recent Stories

Register

Newsletter

Email this story
Email this story

If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.