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On Wednesday, Frank Luntz, an American political consultant, pollster, and pundit told Axios that “the polling profession is done” after this year’s presidential election, in which a number of polls appeared to show a much brighter picture in various states for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “It is devastating for my industry,” he added. Joe Concha of The Hill writes: “Beyond the presidential election many pollsters were projecting that Democrats would gain House seats and the Senate majority. Instead, it appears that Republicans will gain House seats and that the party has a strong chance of keeping control of the Senate.” Here’s what outlets on both sides of the political spectrum said about the polling industry’s latest debacle.
On The Left: David Graham of The Atlantic titled his take: “The Polling Crisis Is a Catastrophe for American Democracy.” In his piece, Graham says no matter who wins the election the result, “is a disaster for the polling industry and for media outlets and analysts that package and interpret the polls for public consumption.” Graham says, “They now face serious existential questions. But the greatest problem posed by the polling crisis… is that the failure of the polls leaves Americans with no reliable way to understand what we as a people think outside of elections—which in turn threatens our ability to make choices, or to cohere as a nation.” Graham adds: “Much of American democracy depends on being able to understand what our fellow citizens think. That has become a more challenging task as Americans sort themselves into ideological bubbles—geographically, romantically, professionally, and in the media they consume. Parties are now mostly ideologically homogeneous. We no longer spend much time around people who disagree with us. Public-opinion polling was one of the last ways we had to understand what other Americans actually believe.” Graham continues by saying, “If polling doesn’t work, then we are flying blind.” He says, “without reliable sources of information about public opinion, the press, and by extension, the public should perhaps employ a measure of humility about what we can and can’t know in politics.”
On the Right: Paul Steinhauser of Fox News agrees with David Graham, saying, “this time around, it wasn’t just the state polls that were off the mark. So were an average of the national popular vote surveys.” Steinhauser points to Florida, for example, where “an average of the final public surveys on the eve of the election that was compiled by Real Clear Politics indicated the former vice president with a .9 point edge… At last check, his margin of victory stands at 3.4 points.” Steinhauser then turns to Ohio where “an average of the final public polls indicated Trump with just a 1-point edge. The president once again won battleground Ohio by 8 points.” Finally, “it was a similar story in Iowa, which the president also carried by 8 points on Tuesday. An average of the final surveys showed Trump with a 2-point advantage over Biden.” Steinhauser asks: “So why did the public polls apparently once again underestimate Trump’s support?” In an interview with Fox News, Frank Luntz from above said: “Trump voters are hostile to pollsters because they think the pollsters want to make them look bad. They wear it as a badge of honor that they refuse to cooperate and refuse to be interviewed.” Veteran GOP pollster Neil Newhouse expanded on this idea saying, “They believe that their responses will somehow be used against them or will be recorded someplace and attached to their name and specifically may not be comfortable telling someone else they are voting for Trump.” In conclusion, Steinhauser says, “We still don’t know if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden or President Trump will win the White House, but the biggest loser appears to be the polling industry.”
Flag This: One of the more interesting exchanges we stumbled across online was between Charles M. Blow a journalist, commentator, and op-ed columnist for The New York Times, and Coleman Hughes, an opinion columnist on issues related to race and racism at the online magazine Quillette, a fellow and contributing editor at City Journal. On Wednesday, citing New York Times Exit Poll information, Blow tweeted: “This is so personally devastating to me: the black male vote for Trump INCREASED from 13% in 2016 to 18% this year. The black female vote for Trump doubled from 4% in 2016 to 8% this year.” He added: “Also, the percentage of LGBT voting for Trump doubled from 2016. DOUBLED!!! This is why LGBT people of color don’t really trust the white gays. Yes, I said what I said. Period.” He concluded with: “Also, the percentage of Latinos and Asians voting for Trump INCREASED from 2016, according to exit polls. Yet more evidence that we can’t depend on the ‘browning of America’ to dismantle white supremacy and erase anti-blackness.” In response, Hughes said: “Ok. But after being devastated by it, will you try to understand it? Will you try to understand which false assumptions led you to be surprised? I hope so.” If anything, we included the exchange simply as food for thought. Also, the increased amount of Black, LGBT, Latinos, and Asians who voted for Trump in 2020 vs. 2016 highlights the “Hidden Trump Vote” that the polling community once again missed entirely.