Fool us once, shame on you, presidential polls. Fool us twice, what the heck is wrong with you, pollsters? Americans can’t take fault in being fooled by inaccurate presidential election polls again when the pollsters had 2016’s methodology mistakes to base change.
The pre-election polls still got it wildly wrong for something that is their supposed expertise. RealClearPolitics, a compilation of major national polls, showed that Joe Biden was predicted to defeat Donald Trump by an average of 7.2 percentage points. Biden’s popular vote lead was 2.4% as of Thursday morning.
Polls have not been this wrong in a presidential election since, oh, yeah, the last one when polls pegged Hillary Clinton for a comfortable win against Trump. Actually, underestimating Trump was worse this time.
“It matches the pattern of the 2016 error really well, so there really does seem to be something wrong here,” Economist election forecaster G. Elliott Morris said on the “Science of Politics” podcast on Wednesday. “It’s not just two random polling errors.”
Polling averages with FiveThirtyEight were off by five to eight points in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. The Quinnipiac poll predicted five- and four-point losses in Florida and Ohio, where Trump won by three and eight points, respectively. “That’s polling mispractice,” pollster Frank Luntz told The New York Post. “And you have to go to tremendous lengths to be able to get something wrong so close to the election.”
It’s not just a liberal lean, either. Polls have been wrong for three consecutive elections, underestimating how Barack Obama would fare in swing states in 2012 by similar amounts.
In 2016, the poll inaccuracies were blamed on white voters without college degrees not being reached but those errors repeated and added other poorly measured segments, such as Cuban-Americans in Florida. Once again, the polls did not account for the swell of Election Day support Trump receives.
But, hey, take another four years to work on it and we’ll check back with how your profession of expertise is going then.