I’ve been harsh on the polling industry, and until I see some sort of methodological changes and admittance their industry has issues I will continue to be. I have written numerous articles on the polling industry’s struggles and likelihood this November they will be wrong by a significant margin once again.
The reasons for this are various but numerous. The first reason is few pollsters have not weighted their samples appropriately (see Yougov’s generic ballot). The second is pollster’s refuse to acknowledge a non – respondent bias which has only gotten worse and been reinforced by polarization (see college educated whites turning out in droves in special elections). The last two have been less focused on but no less important and are best illustrated by NYT’s analyst Nate Cohn.
Speaking in his analysis, Cohn Notes, “But in this case, good for Wisconsin Democrats might be too good to be true. The state was ground zero for survey error in 2020, when pre-election polls proved to be too good to be true for Mr. Biden. In the end, the polls overestimated Mr. Biden by about eight percentage points. Eerily enough, Mr. Barnes is faring better than expected by a similar margin. The Wisconsin data is just one example of a broader pattern across the battlegrounds: The more the polls overestimated Mr. Biden last time, the better Democrats seem to be doing relative to expectations. And conversely, Democrats are posting less impressive numbers in some of the states where the polls were fairly accurate two years ago, like Georgia.”
Continuing on, Cohn notes, “If the polls are wrong yet again, it will not be hard to explain. That’s because most pollsters haven’t made significant methodological changes since the last election.” This means if the polls are off the “apparent Democratic edge in Senate races in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio would evaporate.” This would mean the GOP only needs two seats out of four (likely NC and NV) to take the Senate.
Without substantial methodological change pollsters are unlikely to see better results. But, instead of revising their approach or efforts, the few remaining pollsters in the industry have doubled down on past approaches which saw 2020 misses in Wisconsin by 8 points and Maine’s Senate seat by +10. Cohn notes this with a table where he showcases 2020 polling results relative to expectations.
Note, this is not even getting into the generic ballot’s issues. Democrats are partly so high on the polls because they desperately need them to be right. Maybe the polls are right. But the polling industry desperately needs them to be right because they need an election where their standard process works (as opposed to the last three).
The problem, well I will leave it Cohn to note, “First newsletter post: the polling warning signs are flashing again. Democrats are outpacing expectations in exactly the states where the polls overestimated Joe Biden in ’20.”