WTF Happened? 5 ‘Bigly’ Reasons The Polls Were DEAD Wrong About The Election (VIDEO)
Liberals thought they had it in the bag and President Hillary would be giving her inauguration speech in January. Polls from just about everywhere happily gave Clinton a healthy lead over Trump and they were confident and reassured. Then the hell that became election night occurred and, to the dismay of Americans of all ideological stripes, the nation was Trumped.
The Polls were off. Way off.
Political polls don’t cover body language. They don’t cover anger. They miss out on a lot of things that many of us don’t realize. With that in mind, here are five things pollsters got wrong about this election.
- Polls didn’t account for the “monster vote.” This vote refers to politically disenfranchised Americans who generally don’t vote, but did, in fact, turn out for Trump, The Wrap notes. It’s been called the “monster vote” because, really, the size of this thing was unknown. And because it scared the crap out of political traditionalists. This strategy worked here because most polls don’t include people who haven’t voted in recent years.
- Trump’s influence on swing states was underestimated. Individual polls were wrong, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight reports, but when they were aggregated they were off the mark in individual states. And this includes many swing states. National polls were also off — overstating Clinton’s lead over Trump. The lead she did have wasn’t enough to overcome her weak position in the Electoral College.
While most polls missed this by a mile, one San-Francisco-based startup app got it right, NPR reports. Data compiled by the company Brigade pointed out a big cross-over effect—an enormous number of Democrats voted for Trump.
The company built an app that asks this simple question: Which candidate are you going to vote for? Organizers here had their ears to the ground, and that worked well for one big reason. Most of us, after all, haven’t been wearing a candidate button for the last year or more. In other words, we don’t wear our political hearts on our sleeves. But on the app, Brigade CEO Matt Mahan explains that people share their pledge and invite their friends through the app:
“It’s a little bit of a change from what most people are used to. People don’t go around in the offline world broadcasting [whom] they’re voting for . . . They may share it with friends or family. But I think many people feel that it’s a fairly private decision.”
And the app appears to work. With nearly 200,000 verified users — which aren’t just signups or Twitter bots or trolls, but everyday people that the startup has crosschecked with voter registration records to confirm identity.
Mahan checked out the pledges and didn’t find data among Republican voters to support the trending hashtag #NeverTrump. Of the registered voters on Brigade, 94.5 percent of Republicans pledged their votes for Trump, while only 2.2 percent pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton.
That’s not particularly surprising. But here’s what is:
On the Democratic side, Mahan notes “we saw something entirely different.” Only 55 percent of registered Democrats pledged to vote for Clinton. And you can’t blame Bernie Sanders or his supporters. This result comes directly from the general election — after the primaries. Instead, it looks more like the Trump effect. Some 40 percent of Brigade’s verified voters who are registered Democrats pledged their votes to Trump.
This pattern emerged in September, but Mahan and crew were skeptical because Brigade’s userbase skews conservative. Despite the fact that the company was started by San Francisco liberals, it quickly went viral in Republican circles.
And once the election was over, they realized the company was on to something after all.
Company analysts noticed something interesting — their data foreshadowed the outcome in states where Trump did better than expected and beat the predictions of noted polling wonks like FiveThirtyEight.
Consider the swing state North Carolina. Trump beat FiveThirtyEight’s final prediction by 4.5 percentage points. But the app points out that this was also a state where about 25 percent more than Brigade’s baseline of Democrats pledged their votes for Trump. So, what does that mean? It means this — when Brigade’s analysts compared North Carolina to the overall baseline of Democrats who crossed over on the app — the analysts saw this happening even more, at a much higher rate there.
And it happened in Pennsylvania, another swing state. Democrats on the app appeared 15 percent likelier to cross over, NPR reports.
But here’s where things get a little bit weird. We’ve been hearing for months about how Trump has turned the Republican Party all inside out. However, there were signs he was doing the same thing with the Democratic Party, among voters you’d not likely expect — like women, for instance.
Mahan’s team continues to pore over the data, and here’s what he’s found:
“Interestingly one of the data points we just pulled in the last hour indicated that a higher percentage of these registered Democrats crossing over to vote for Trump were women.”
Do these women hate themselves? I really have to wonder. But in states where the outcomes didn’t match the polling results — where Trump did better than expected, white women registered as Democrats pledged their vote to Trump at an astonishingly greater rate (170 percent) than the country as a whole.
I don’t understand this at all.
What else went wrong?
- If you live in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, or Iowa, and you were keeping tabs with VoteCastr and went to bed after 9 p.m. then you likely heard that Clinton had these states all wrapped up.
Then you had a really nasty awakening the next morning. And VoteCastr isn’t the only website that erred. The New York Times’ TheUpshot projected that Clinton had an 85 percent chance of winning, while FiveThirtyEight gave her a 72 percent chance.
But what makes VoteCastr’s trainwreck unusual are the claims the company made. Helmed by data gurus from the George W. Bush and Obama campaigns, they gave the impression that by keeping a close-eye on early voting results, voters’ identities and exit polling they could gain a real-time look at the election — something that wasn’t possible before. This was meant to be cutting-edge, but it turned out to be a deeply flawed and incomplete means of election-tracking — in other words, much like the other products out there.
An under-appreciation of how powerful white, working-class voters are in the U.S. might be one reason VoteCastr stumbled. There’s also the possibility that some people did a bit of fibbing when asked who they supported. And this is one place where the Clinton campaign skidded off the runway. The campaign believed her Midwestern “firewall” of states were all secure. They weren’t, even though the data team working with Trump’s campaign only gave him a one-in-five chance of winning.
- The media misfired. The polling data confirmed that Trump was going to lose, and lose “bigly,” which means many journalists didn’t question it. Trump supporters who still believed their man might become king were painted as being out of touch with reality. However, as the New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg points out, it was the other way around.
And journalists were merely repeating a folly that had occured a few months earlier, when much of the European media failed to foresee that Britain would vote to leave the European Union.
For the past month, we’ve heard almost non-stop declarations that the race was close but essentially a done deal. This continued even after FBI director James Comey dropped the bombshell that emails related to Clinton’s private server were being reviewed all over again.
Then there was the Huffington Post, which proclaimed that Clinton’s victory would be “substantial but not overwhelming,” assuring its readers “she’s got this.”
“Then came a profound shift, as mainstream media organizations scrambled to catch the bus that had just run them over. By 10:30p.m., the Upshot projection had switched around, remarkably to 93 percent in favor of Mr. Trump.”
A host of other sites flipped. CNN’s John King told his enormous election night audience that over the previous couple of weeks, “we were not having a reality-based conversation” referring to the map he had before him. The map showed Trump had a very good chance of reaching the White House.
This, Rutenberg notes, is a remarkable admission. By failing to present a reality-based political scenario, the news media failed in performing a very fundamental function.
But the news media tripped over itself here, appearing to miss the point that politics isn’t just numbers and data doesn’t always portray the human condition, which is the pulse of American politics. And it’s not just the job of the political journalist to only report on who’s winning or losing. Even so, the horse race looms. No doubt it also colors other reporting as well.
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And this was a gut-wrenching election, with the horse race tweaking everyone’s nerves because so many of us were afraid of the outcome.
- Polls didn’t reflect Trump’s strength, say some pro-Trump operatives. Instead, this was largely ignored or explained away by the media and analysts.
“Most of the press and folks in DC were science deniers when it came to this election” said Curt Anderson, a veteran GOP operative and adviser to a pro-Trump super PAC. “Even in the face of polls that showed it very close, they all said that Trump had almost no chance. It was because they couldn’t imagine it happening.
“They are in a bubble, and that bubble has just been burst.”
And the damage is done.
There are actually dozens of reasons why polls went astray — far too many reasons for me to mention in one article. But if there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s this:
Journalists didn’t ask enough questions once the polls came out, and since there’s usually a margin for error, perhaps that’s where the questions need to arise. This time around, too many of us took the polls at face value. And that turned out to be a rude awakening.
The video below gives a good example of polls that were really in the wrong.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images