June 13, 2022

Before the 2020 presidential election, I became curious about political polls claiming that Joe Biden had a ten-percentage-point lead over Donald Trump.  At that time, Trump was addressing crowds in the thousands.  When he was not barricaded in his basement, Biden was lucky to draw a crowd of a hundred.  That did not seem right.

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So I did some research and concluded that the polls were undercounting Republicans.  In one of the articles, which you can read here, I predicted the silent Trump vote to be north of two percent of the electorate.  I was not the first to consider this, but I was one of the first to make a prediction.

Polling organizations would not admit their polls were biased against Republicans.  However, it turned out my estimate was too low by half.  In fact, the polling error for the 2020 election was roughly 4% nationwide, the largest in the last 40 years.

Fast-forward to today.  Inflation is 8+ percent, the price of food and gasoline is way up, crime is up, there is a nationwide shortage of baby formula, and don’t get me started on the border crisis.  Yet Joe Biden’s job approval is close to 40% positive.  That means almost four out of every ten Americans think Joe is doing a good job if you believe the RealClearPolitics average.  And I don’t.

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It is possible that Biden’s job approval is being helped by positive coverage from the news and social media.  But I am not buying that, either.  Spin can go only so far, and even rank-and-file Democrats have to fill their gas tanks and buy groceries.

The big difference between today and two years ago is that pollsters will now admit that their results are systemically biased against conservatives.  For example, in an article published in Vox, pollster David Shor said:

For three cycles in a row, there’s been this consistent pattern of pollsters overestimating Democratic support in some states and underestimating support in other states.  It happened in 2018.  It happened in 2020.  And the reason that’s happening is because the way that [pollsters] are doing polling right now just doesn’t work.

Pollsters face two fundamental problems.  One is developing an accurate voter turnout model that predicts who is likely to vote.  The other is getting an unbiased measurement of what voters think, known as a random sample.

The turnout model is usually based on demographic distributions and historical voting records.  If pollsters get the model wrong, it can bias their results.  For example, in the 2020 election, most turnout models did not account for Republicans who rarely vote, participating in larger numbers than predicted.

The second problem is getting a random sample of the electorate.  Unfortunately, in recent elections, this has become increasingly difficult to do.  Although there are several theories as to why this is happening, it boils down to two issues.  One is technology, and the other is a lack of trust in political polls.