New Republic Discovers Flaws of Presidential Polling

June 25th, 2019 12:31 PM

The New Republic, which in the past few years has faded from obscurity to invisibility, has discovered what is all too obvious to even the casual observer of politics. Namely that some polls are, get this, inaccurate. The one who went on this voyage of discovery to tell us what we already knew is staff writer of long political experience, Walter Shapiro. And since Shapiro has worked as a standup comedian (Laugh Factory?) he does provide us with some chuckles at the expense of the news media which has demonstrated an absurd dependence on polling despite the fact polls have become even more inaccurate than they were in the past.

Shapiro revealed on June 21 that despite the media often worshiping polls as their sacred talisman that "The Polling Industry Is in Crisis."

The polls were unequivocal. In 2016, two days before Michigan’s Democratic primary, the respected Marist poll predicted that Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide, with 57 percent of the vote to Bernie Sanders’s 40 percent. On the morning of the March 8 primary, James Hohmann of The Washington Post wrote, “Michigan should have been fertile territory for Bernie Sanders’s populist and protectionist message, but he’s expected to lose the Democratic primary there today by double digits.” That night is mostly remembered for the marathon coverage of a bizarre press conference in which Donald Trump, who had just won three primaries of his own, shamelessly hawked Trump Steaks and Trump Wine. But if TV viewers had squinted at the crawl, they would have noticed that Sanders was pulling off a stunning, poll-defying upset—defeating Clinton by 1.5 percent. At the time, Nate Silver called it “among the greatest polling errors in primary history.”

Not to be confused with the absolute greatest polling error in general election history a few months later.

Polling meltdowns like the one in Michigan—where pollsters missed the mark by roughly 20 percentage points—should have chastened the journalists who printed flawed forecasts throughout the 2016 campaign, all the way up until the night of November 8.

When the polling meltdown was exceeded only by the audience meltdown at Javits Center in NYC.

To take roughly one week in May, they produced such headlines as, “Biden dominates Dem rivals in new early primary polls”

They should have waited a couple of weeks for the headline to read, "Biden Fading Faster than the New Republic."

As Diane Feldman, a leading Democratic pollster turned consultant, put it, “I want the public to believe the news media, but they are blowing their credibility by overhyping the polls.”

Diane, you really should read NewsBusters because there are a lot more ways the media have blown their credibility than by just overhyping the polls.

To explain the wild fluctuations in their numbers, pollsters and their eager enablers in the press have created an artificial narrative of candidates bouncing up and down as if the campaign were conducted on pogo sticks.

One of my favorite of these types of political horse race announcers is CNN's Chris Cillizza who breathlessly announces the results of the races in his distinctive sing-song voice long before they have even finished based on the wildly inaccurate polls which he cites with absolute awe as if they were carved on holy tablets.

Oh, and thanks for taking us on the Been There, Done That tour of the state of polling, Walter.