If you read the headlines in major news publications like the Wall Street Journal, presidential polls once again missed the mark this year. An article in the New York Times “The Upshot” section suggested that the underestimation of President Trump’s support this year might have been even worse than it was four years ago. Maybe even more glaring were the errors in forecasting the U.S. Senate and House races, where polls ahead of the election suggested Democrats would make big gains in both chambers. That didn’t happen.
After 2016, where many polls leading into the presidential election predicted a landslide victory for then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, most of us would think that pollsters and public opinion research firms would have spend the last four years figuring out what went wrong in 2016 and how they could model their surveys and polls this year to account for those Americans whose sentiments weren’t accurately modeled by national polls. It’s still early in the process, as votes continue to be counted in some states and researchers continue to evaluate data, and while some polls and pollsters may have addressed the issues that produced the inaccurate models in 2016, there may also be new issues to consider this year that weren’t a problem four years ago.
Today on AirTalk, we’ll talk with experts on election polling and political opinion research to find out what they think the polls got right (and wrong) in 2020 and what can be done to better model Americans’ opinions on political issues in the future.
Mark Blumenthal, principal at MysteryPollster LLC, a consultancy that works with public opinion polling firms; he is a long-time pollster and campaign consultant and has held previous positions as head of election polling at SurveyMonkey and senior polling editor for The Huffington Post; he tweets @mysterypollster
David Dutwin, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, an objective non-partisan research institution; he is a senior fellow of the Program for Opinion Research and Election Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also serves as a lecturer, and was president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, the professional group for the polling industry, from 2018-2019; he tweets @DDutwin