‘The polls clearly got it wrong’: The autopsy will take months

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CNN projects Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.

NEW YORK — Pre-election polls underestimated support for Donald Trump — and now there’s a crisis of confidence in polling and media circles.

The problem was particularly acute at the state level. The lopsided data led many forecasters, journalists, investors and other people to anticipate a Hillary Clinton victory. Even the Clinton and Trump campaigns were misled.

“The polls clearly got it wrong this time,” the American Association for Public Opinion Research said Wednesday.

Why? Simply put, the experts don’t know yet.

“As final results continue to be tabulated it would be inappropriate for us to participate in conjecture,” the association said. Its “post-hoc analysis” will take six months.

In some swing states, Trump outperformed the aggregate statewide data by 8%, according to FiveThirtyEight. The site’s editor in chief, Nate Silver, who was criticized for a cautious approach to the race before Tuesday.

State polls “missed some big demographic changes, including complete collapse of support for Clinton among white voters without college degrees,” Silver said. “But they also underestimated her in other places, such as those with large Hispanic populations.”

Silver pointed out that national polls — published by outlets like ABC, NBC and CNN — “are going to wind up having done a fairly good job.”

CNN’s final poll of polls before election day showed Clinton with a 3-point advantage. She currently has a narrow lead in the popular vote, which experts believe will end up being a 1- to 2-point advantage, well within the margin of error for most polls.

“So, that’s pretty close — actually closer than the national polls were in 2012,” Silver said.

His argument is that it’s irresponsible for people to blame the polls when “the conventional wisdom was so much more sure of itself than it should have been.”

“We got a lot of crap for pointing out that the polls showed a fairly close election and that a fairly ordinary polling error could shift the Electoral College to Trump. People just didn’t want to hear it,” Silver told CNNMoney on Wednesday.

Indeed, one news outlet that criticized Silver in the days before election day — The Huffington Post — apologized to him when Trump prevailed.

HuffPost’s’s electoral map model showed Clinton with a 98% chance of beating Trump.

“You were right that there was far more uncertainty than we were accounting for. I apologize,” the site’s D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim tweeted to Silver.

So what happened? There are early indications that some Trump voters weren’t properly polled either during the campaign or during the exit polling on election day.

Princeton professor and election forecaster Sam Wang, who promised to eat a bug if Trump exceeded 240 electoral votes, said on Wednesday’s “CNN Tonight” that “there was a reasonably large polling error.”

“Probably a significant cause here is undecided voters who made their minds up at the last minute. Maybe they weren’t even aware of what their preference was,” Wang said.

Silver suggested that it looks like “a nonresponse or coverage error — the people who answered surveys weren’t fully reflective of the actual electorate.”

He emphasized that “there’s a lot to unpack in the polling” and that he is “reserving the right to change my opinion after reviewing more data.”

In the meantime, news organizations must reckon with the missteps. CNN commentator S.E. Cupp commented on Twitter that news outlets need to “seriously rethink our polling process: how we poll, and how we allow polls to drive coverage.”

Others have offered a thought experiment: What if news outlets didn’t report on pre-election polling at all?

4 comments

  • Opinion8d

    Maybe instead of participating in the election (as supporters of Democrats/Clinton), they should COVER the election! The MSM did everything it could to defeat Trump. How many times did they say he should drop out because he has no chance?? They pushed the polls to dishearten the Trump supporters. He’s filling stadiums and convention halls and Hillary couldn’t pull in 100 people. They also painted Trump supporters racists, bigots, etc, and tried to demonize anyone who supported him…….do you really think people feel comfortable expressing their support of Trump to strangers?

  • Al P

    One of the worst ones is the Marquette University liberal poll. They are always off by 8-10 points, that is why I don’t even read their poll results anymore. They think by giving Donald no chance of winning I will stay home and not vote, well I didn’t stay home and was proud to vote for the man who will make America Great Again. I refer to him by his first name like you folks do with Russ the loser, what some stupid political signs those were as if he was on a first name basis with everybody. Well the way it stands the drive by media and the universities got their clocks cleaned but they won’t learn anyway. Why they call themselves institutions of higher learning is a mystery to me. Looks like the protests of the cry-baby losers has begun as I type this. Maybe they should put there Big Boy pants on and work with him and get some of the credit but I have my doubts that will happen. How many protests did you see in 2008 and 2012 when one of the worst if not the worst President ever was elected. And before you say it, no that is not a racist statement it is a statement of fact based on where he took our Great Country. Now we can get back to being Great again.

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