President Donald Trump has been harshly criticized for scoffing at polling data, but according to The Hill’s Joe Concha, and opinion contributor, historically, the president could have a point.
Concha argues that polls can be very useful for “taking the pulse of the American people” and accurately reflect the current opinion. However, they are somewhat less accurate at looking months into the future, according to his recent article.
“A look back to 1980 is a prime example. Did you know that Jimmy Carter once held a 23-point lead over GOP challenger Ronald Reagan in January 1980?” Concha said. “This was a time when the economy was in a deep recession while Americans were being held hostage by Iran. Yet, the incumbent held a 59-36 lead over the former California governor and actor in Lou Harris’s reputable poll at that time.
“More than 11 months later, Reagan won 44 states in a landslide. His popular vote margin was about 10 points. The difference between the January 1980 poll and November 1980 result: Nearly 33 plus points to Reagan.
“Fast forward to 1988: Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis holds a 17-point lead over then-Vice President George H.W. Bush less than four months before the election, according to Gallup.
“The Massachusetts governor proceeds to take a ride in a tank, a ridiculous photograph of the event is taken, and bye-bye went that huge lead. Bush would go on to win 40 states and easily topped Dukakis in the popular vote by 8 points. The difference between the January 1980 poll and November 1980 result: 25 points.”
Concha went on to point on multiple other occasions when the polls did not reflect the actual outcome of the election, before moving on to what he believes is the overall takeaway from his chronicles:
“What should 2016 teach us?” Concha went on. “That national polls mean little, especially at this stage of the game. And as Election Day approaches, polling resources should be poured into the aforementioned states that matter.
“Because while these national polls are fun for a little conversation, they’re absolutely, positively meaningless.
“But don’t expect many in our media to treat them as gospel anyway.”