Polls Are Often More Accurate Than Those Reporting

About the polls...They're still often more accurate than those reporting on them  

Bottom Line: I’ve heard from a number of listeners in addition to a bunch of questionable reporting about how wrong the polls really were in Florida after the wins by DeSantis and Scott. Ironically enough I addressed this topic just last week. Here’s an excerpt from my story: 

Of all topics in political cycles, especially in the wake of the 2016 election, none is more commonly misunderstood or misexplained than this one. I’ve said this on many occasions since Election Day 2016. Let me start with this the 2016 election cycle for a moment. When people suggest “the polls” were wrong in the 2016 Presidential Election they’re wrong. The national polls showed Hillary Clinton winning and she did. For what those polls were sampling, national averages.

An average of national polling showed Hillary Clinton winning by 3 points. She won by just over 2 points on the national popular vote. The problem was when media and politicos took that information to suggest she’d win the election. On that very day I laid out the case as to why she’d win the popular vote and Donald Trump would win the election. The approach I’ve used and always use regardless of the specific election is this.   

  • What type of election cycle is it?   
  • Are there any historical trends in the cycle?  
  • If there are any breaks in the trend what were they and why?   
  • How do undecided voters typically break in a given election in a given cycle?  

And then know how to use the polls. 

  • Accredited polling of likely voters averaged from sampling derived only from the most recent week 
  • Project out undecided voters and 3rd party voters along historical lines   

In other words, it’s not easy. But good polling is highly useful if you know how to use it. I’ll give you an example of useless polling from yesterday cited by most news sources. Yesterday, Ipsos produced polling showing Nelson with a 5-point lead among likely voters and Gillum with a 6-point lead with likely voters. But, the polling was utter crap and useless the moment it came out. Why? The polling was conducted from the 17th through the 25th. Meaning the most recent information is already a week old and the earliest information is over two weeks old. 

There were literally 7 polls on those races with more current data than that poll, yet because it was the most recently released the media reported it as if it was the latest. And here we go again. On Tuesday, I had Democrats with an 80% chance of gaining House Control with a gain of 23-28. I had Republicans gaining between 1-4 seats in the Senate and mentioned there wasn’t enough good/credible polling to drill down accurately in our state races and local races. 

I also had Democrats with a 6.85% advantage in the national popular vote, the final number was 6.9%. All of my analysis incorporated accredited polling. Once again, the polling isn’t the problem. Taking all of them at face value without context or checking the sampling is.

Photo by: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

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