2016 US election and polls

One thing that went totally awry in the 2016 US election was the polling. For a campaign like Clinton’,s which was entirely data oriented, this was a death knell. In this campaign it wasn’t just the earlier polls that were wrong, but exit polls as well. Was it media malpractice or something else?

An article in Esquire shares some untold behind-the-scenes stories from the campaign including these about the exit polls.

Bret Baier, Fox News chief political anchor: We got the exit polls at 5 p.m. in a big office on the executive floor. Rupert Murdoch and all the staff were there. It looked like we were going to call the race for Hillary Clinton at 10:30 or 11 p.m.

Steve Bannon: The exit polls were horrific. It was brutal. I think we were close in Iowa and Ohio and everything else was just brutal. Losing everywhere. Florida, Pennsylvania. I mean, it looked like a landslide.

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, Trump’s religious adviser: I called Sean Hannity and said, “I really think he’s going to win tonight.” Sean said, “Well, I’m glad you do, because the exit polls don’t look good.” I found out later that Trump was very pessimistic, too.

Steve Bannon: Jared [Kushner] and I were out on this balcony in Trump Tower. We looked at it on Jared’s iPhone. And the numbers were so bad that we regrouped inside. We look at each other and we go, “This can’t be right. It just can’t.” And Jared goes, “I got an idea, let’s call Drudge.” And Drudge says, “The corporate media—they’ve always been wrong the entire time—these numbers are wrong.” Drudge snapped us out of it, saying, “You guys are a couple of jamokes. Wait until the second exit polls come out, or later.” We called the candidate and told him what the numbers were and what Drudge had said. And then we said, “Hey, ya know, we left it all on the field. Did everything we can do. Let’s just see how it turns out.”

Media malpractice might account for some of the problems, but this survey by CATO Institute highlights how people with center-right political orientation are less willing to share their political opinion and more likely to self-censor. It probably explains why Brexit polling was also wrong.


Bookmark and Share
old white guy

push polls have been a problem for a long time. I don’t know why any conservative would be afraid to show that they are a conservative.

Miles Lunn

Actually polls at a national level weren’t too far off. RCP average was Clinton +3.3 while she won the popular vote by +2.2. In 2012, RCP average was Obama +1.4 when he won by +4.1 so actually further off just got the winner right. The problem was more with some of the state polls particularly in the Midwest by the average of the final week polls was well within the margin of error. On Brexit polls showed it tied, many wrongly assumed the undecided would break heavily in favour of remain which they didn’t. Interestingly enough in the UK in 2015 polls underestimated Conservative support but in 2017 underestimated Labour. Yes you do get some big misses like BC in 2013, but the real problem is many don’t understand how polls work or in the case of the US the electoral college which determines the president.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *