On Election eve, most polling institutions showed Donald Trump trailing behind Hillary Clinton by a narrow edge. And of 20 national polls, a single one correctly assessed that the Republican was on the path to victory. So, what happened with the U.S. polling industry on Nov. 8?
On Tuesday night, an army of pollsters and forecasters failed to give Trump an edge. Of 20 major pollsters, just Los Angeles Times consistently showed the businessman was leading. On Tuesday morning, RealClearPolitics said Clinton was leading Trump by 3.3 percentage points nationwide just to retract those polls a few hours later.
Pollsters and countless news outlets predicted that Trump would lose in four key swing states: North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. But in the end, he won all of them and secured 276 electoral votes.
In addition, The New York Times via its forecasters at Upshot had said that the Democratic nominee would win comfortably. According to The Times, Clinton’s chances to win the White House were at 85 percent. Plus, her odds to secure a Wisconsin victory were 93 percent. In the end, she lost to Trump 47% to 48 % in the Badger State.
Nevertheless, experts believe that they may have an explanation.
The AFP news agency wanted to learn why did the polls get it so wrong. So, it contacted a senior forecaster and political professor at the University of Virginia, Larry Sabato. The professor said the “crystal ball” must have been cracked.
He added that “something happened” as there have been at least 80 polls in the last two months. Sabato believes many polling agencies based their forecasts on samples from the prior election contests. Moreover, the expert talked about a widespread phenomenon: the silent Trump supporter.
The silent Trump supporter didn’t publicly endorse the candidate, but he secretly stood by him. This poll-averse supporter hid his political views until Election Day for fear that he might be mocked by his peers.
“White turnout in rural America was through the ever-loving roof,”
Sabato also said.
Plus, many Millennials and blacks, two groups of voters Hillary heavily relied on, did not cast a vote. However, pollsters had expected black and young turnout to be lower than it was four years ago, but not that low.
Sabato thinks polling institutions failed to predict white rural turnout to be so high. What’s more, Clinton camp miscalculated the impact of the white working-class voters.
Another expert noted Clinton’s internal polls were dead wrong and cost a fortune. Plus, there were the voters who simply voted Trump just to get rid of Hillary, which is another widespread phenomenon that disrupted national polls.
A CNN pollster acknowledged she had no idea how strong the anti-Clinton sentiment among voters really was. Many Americans cast a negative vote for the former Secretary of State in the wake of several corruption scandals.
Sabato thinks the flagrant misreadings may erode the public’s trust in polling and willingness to participate in telephone polls. He believes that in the future pollsters will conduct their surveys mainly online.
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