As the election dust settles and we get a clearer picture of the results two things stand out. First, Trump’s loss clouds over the fact the GOP actually had a good election – particularly in the states. Secondly, and more troubling for people’s crumbling trust in institutions, polling had yet ANOTHER bad night. And when I say polling, I mean the entire statistical industry including Nate Silver whose fallback is and I quote “If you already believe polling is broken, nothing I can say will change your mind.” Probably true, but you could make your results more accurate going forward.
Alas, that has not happened. Since 2012, the polls have largely missed the end result on aggregate. In 2014, the polls were off on average by four points and underestimated the GOP wave. In 2016, the polls were off by about the same amount in crucial swing states which handed the Presidency to Donald Trump. Again, in the aggregate, the polls were not that far off on the mark in general in 2018, but in critical battleground states (Ohio, Florida, Iowa, etc.) the polls missed.
This year, despite Joe Biden winning the election, pollsters missed by even wider margins. Nowhere was this more obvious than once again in the Rust – Belt. Per the final pollling averages from RCP (assume 538’s averages were two to three points more pro Biden than RCP’s), Wisconsin favored Joe Biden by 6.7 percent, and many individual polls were further off. Many had him above 50 percent. Biden has reportedly won the state by .7 percent with only 49.4 percent of the vote.
Michigan and Pennsylvania are still counting so I will leave them out (for now). Once again, in Ohio, the polls were off. RCP had Trump up one and only because two Trump leaning pollsters released surveys late. Trump ended up outperforming the polls by a minimum of seven percent. In neighboring Iowa, Trump was up two in the RCP average and he won by 8 plus percent, once again outside the average.
Just look at how badly two of the top rated pollsters according to 538 performed. Tom Bevan, editor for website aggregator RCP, tweeted out the following aboout NYT/Siena…..
And Quinnipiac, another top rated pollster, is under fire for its results. Quinnipiac being the same pollster who has now missed the final results in Florida by an average of seven points. Even internal polls which showed Democrats making massive gains in suburban Texas, California and Georgia appear to be off. Now, to be fair, polls appeared to be closer to the mark in North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona, but once again they missed the mark in certain parts of the country.
And while pollsters did not specifically poll state legislative battles, the size of Democratic victories in the states should have ushered in new majorities in up to a dozen competitive legislatures. Yet, at the end of the day. Let’s look at the results shall we.
Per Ballotpedia’s state legislative elections page, only two chambers have flipped and they flipped in FAVOR of Republicans. In New Hampshire, the GOP flipped both chambers in a state Biden carried by a whopping eight points. Meanwhile, in the battleground states of TX, NC, AZ, MI, PA, MN, FL and Iowa, the GOP held their majorities, if not entrenched them further. Note: AZ’s results are still out. But, even in a state like MN where Biden won by five points the GOP held their single seat majority in the state senate. As for Ohio, Kansas and other states, Democrats appear to have failed to break the GOP’s supermajorities.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The DLCC (Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee) spent over $50 million to flip legislatures in preparation for 2020. The actually outraised the GOP counterpart knowing just how much impact the GOP’s efforts have had in local elections this decade. But, in the end, they could not break the GOP’s dominance at the local level and even worse could not even carry supposedly Democratically trending areas like South Florida. As a result, the GOP will now have unfettered control (minus the courts) to draw three times as many legislative districts as their counterparts.
If pollsters had been right, this would not have happened. Democrats would have gained seats in the House – instead they are bickering over what happened – they would now control more legislative chambers and the Senate would likely be in their control. In the end, pollsters bad night is bad news for Democrats for the third time in the last four elections. And half the country may never listen to pollsters again.