In 2020, the polls were wrong. Again.
Following the 2016 election, pollsters were shocked when Donald Trump won. All of the professional pundit and elite media class had no doubt Hillary Clinton would win. She didn’t.
“Well, what can we say – we blew it,” wrote the team at Sabato’s Crystal Ball shortly after Election Day in 2016. The organization had called the election for Hillary Clinton throughout the entire year.
“The Crystal Ball is shattered. We’ll pick up the pieces starting next week as we try to unpack what happened in this election… we must make sure the Crystal Ball never has another year like this.”
But when the pollsters should have learned a small bit of humility, all they have gained is hubris. And the 2020 election has proven that their promises to learn from their mistakes have fallen far short.
Though Joe Biden is likely to be sworn in next year as the 46th President of the United States, the Biden blowout that was forecast by so many polls did not occur.
In the national popular vote, numerous polls projected Biden to win by double digits. The Economist/YouGov poll showed Biden up 10 points the day before Election Day. CNBC/Change Research likewise found Biden up 10% two days before the election. Quinnipiac found Biden up 11%, while the NBC News/Wall Street Journal showed Biden up 10%.
The final CNN poll showed Biden winning by 12% just one week before the election.
Though votes are still being counted, as of publishing time, Biden is winning nationwide by just 3.1%. Joe Biden currently has 75,603,512 votes compared to 71,044,620 votes for President Trump.
In Florida, the final Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls had Biden up by 0.9%. The last Quinnipiac poll had Biden up by 5.0%. President Trump won the state handily by 3.4%.
In Wisconsin, the final RCP polling average had Biden leading by 6.7%. The last Reuters/Ipsos poll projected Biden to win by 10%, while the New York Times/Siena Poll found Biden up by 11%. And in what may be one of the worst polls of the entire election cycle, the last ABC News/Washington Post poll said that Biden was leading by a whopping 17 points at the end of October.
The final result ended up with Biden winning by just 0.7%.
Over in Michigan, the final RCP average showed Biden up by 4.2%. Three of the last five polls had Biden up by 7%. The final CNN poll showed Biden up by 12 points while the last Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Biden up 10%.
The final result has Biden winning by just 2.7%.
But the polling errors did not just permeate the presidential race.
For the Senate, in what may be the worst average poll performance in years, every single poll projected Democrat Sara Gideon to win the Maine Senate race over incumbent Republican Susan Collins. The final three polls of the race showed Gideon up by 6%, 4% and 7% respectively.
Republican Susan Collins easily won the race by 8.8%. This means the last thee polls were off by anywhere between 12.8% and 15.8%.
The last Quinnipiac poll of the race showed Gideon up by 12 points, meaning that the pollster missed it by 20.8%. The average American could have guessed something more realistic.
Source: Real Clear Politics
According to the Portland Press Herald, over $130 million dollars was spent either by or on behalf of Gideon – only for her to lose by almost 9%.
In the North Carolina Senate race, every single one of the last 10 polls had Democrat Cal Cunningham winning by anywhere between 1% to 10% over incumbent Republican Thom Tillis.
As of publishing time, Tillis leads Cunningham by nearly 2% with 98% of the results in.
On October 23, prior to Election Day, pollster Frank Luntz said that if President Trump were to win reelection, “my profession is done.”
Following the election, despite Trump’s likely narrow loss, Luntz then said that the polling industry has “never been as wrong as it was” in the 2020 election. “They should’ve known better because they got it wrong four years ago.”
Pervasive throughout the country is a lack of trust in some of the institutions most vital to the health of a Republic. Once again, the media and professional pollsters have given Americans no reason to trust them. The problem is, once trust is lost, regaining it is extremely difficult.
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