Election Coverage / Government Watch / Politics

Paradox of the Polls

AMAC Exclusive – By Barry Casselman

Polls

It is now the home stretch of the 2022 national midterm election cycle, and speculation is all over the political map about who will win and what each major party might gain or lose at the federal level and in the various states with elections this year.

There are, of course, no precise tools to aid in this speculation, but there are inexact devices on which most speculation is based. These include historical patterns and precedents, media accounts, the dollar numbers of campaign money raised, the volume of ad buys paid for by that fundraising, subjective analyses of candidate debate performance, turnout at candidate events, quality and effectiveness of arguments — and, most of all, campaign polls.

The contemporary problem with polling, however, is its recent track record of wrongly predicting outcomes. Some of this is the result of pollster bias, bad judgment, poor procedures or even deliberate falsification. But one other major reason for this defect is that, as public opinion polling has evolved over the past nine decades, the statistical accuracy of polling voters has been compromised by a growing reluctance of voters to participate in polls — causing pollsters to make more random contacts, thus increasing the margin of error in the poll. Traditional dependence on phone contact for the polls has skewed accuracy since many voters no longer have land lines. Many pollsters also ask long lists of questions that require voters to spend too much of their time taking the poll, causing incomplete polling sessions or attracting only the most politically engaged to complete to questionnaire.

Yet polls remain the principal tool for most media pundits and publications to speculate about competitive races and how well or poorly candidates might do when all the votes are counted. Individual campaign donors and independent PACs, as well as local, state, and national parties, often depend on this speculation that is based on the polls for where to direct their political ad buying and other campaign assistance — so erroneous polls can have a serious impact on a candidacy, especially for challenges to incumbents who are usually well-funded.

A case in point is the key race for Minnesota governor, pitting incumbent Democrat (DFLer) Tim Walz against Republican physician Scott Jensen. Minnesota has been a reliably blue (liberal) state for some time, and Walz was an early favorite. But polls showed him under 50% and only a few points ahead of Jensen. Then a poll appeared in early September from a major polling group showing Walz leading 51%-33%. Labeled an “outlier” by Jensen partisans, it nevertheless depressed the challenger’s fundraising, already smaller than his incumbent opponent’s, until two new public polls were reported, one showing the race at 48% to 41%, and another showing Walz leading 46% to 43% (within the poll’s margin of error). The latter poll was by Trafalgar Group, considered one of the most accurate of all pollsters, and the race now goes into its final days rated as a toss-up.

The apparent undermeasuring of likely Republican voters in the purported outlier poll above is not, however, an isolated case. Since 2016, and even before, many establishment pollsters have underweighted Republicans in their samples. The 2016 and 2020 presidential cycles were most notable for this, as were the two gubernatorial elections (Virginia and New Jersey) in the 2021 off-year cycle.

This practice seemed to be persisting in the 2022 mid-term cycle when a number of gubernatorial and U.S. Senate polls suddenly were reported with double digit or otherwise large leads for Democratic candidates in several major races — feeding a new narrative that an earlier anticipated red (conservative) wave likely in 2022 was not occurring. After Labor Day, however, the same polls often became considerably tighter or even reversed. Pollsters such as Trafalgar Group have consistently tried to avoid undermeasuring likely Republican voters, and have consistently indicated that competitive races are indeed still competitive.

Another case in point is the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, where Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman defeated a more moderate figure for his party’s nomination while celebrity physician Mehmet Oz narrowly won the GOP nomination against an establishment Republican. Although Fetterman had suffered a heart attack and stroke during the primary campaign, and was absent from active campaigning, he ran TV ads against Oz while the physician crisscrossed the state, meeting voters and speaking to groups. Because President Biden’s energy policies had made him and his Democratic administration unpopular in the state, especially in western Pennsylvania, this race to fill the seat of retiring Republican Pat Toomey had always been considered a likely toss-up, yet polls after the primary showed Fetterman winning by double digits. But Fetterman’s campaign has now seemed to implode, and new polls now show the race to be very close.

Similar examples include the U.S. Senate races in Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada, where many major polls showed Republicans, both incumbents and challengers, doing poorly, but which now report numbers showing these races much more competitive.

In 2010, as a challenger, and in 2016, as an incumbent, polls just before the election showed Republican Ron Johnson trailing his opponent, but he won both races. Similarly, Florida Republican Marco Rubio was reported behind in 2010 and 2016, yet he too won both times.

It is generally conceded that polls of simply adults or even registered voters are likely to be misleading. Only those carefully determined to be likely voters should be included in a good poll — and a sample of 1,000 or more is likewise necessary. Polls that arbitrarily weight their raw data by predicting the percentage turnout of a major party and independent voters risk skewing their results. The same is true of arbitrarily adjusting raw data by gender.

The bottom line is that polls are often more speculative than they purport to be. Because of procedures mentioned above, margins of error are really larger, sometimes much larger, than advertised.

Using a phrase normally applied to other human institutions, polls are something we can’t quite live with, but can’t live without.

In a key cycle such as the 2022 midterms, there are lots of expectations, but no matter what pundits and pollsters say, there remains a true sense of suspense until the ballots are counted.


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Ty
2 months ago

The past still defines our future. Here is a statement from the past:”I’ve never met a horse theif that wasn’t a democrate, but not all democrates are horse theifs.”If we actually learn from the past then we can easily change the group name from democrate to socialist and prove that we can learn from the past and easily identify the wolf in sheep’s clothing!

Tom
2 months ago

Let us not be distracted by media while they help cheat the Govt of,by and for the people. I for one , if the Republicans can take one or both house, will be quiet and reserved. The less people know about how I vote the better while I am pushing hard for our country and constitution. Please remember Democrats are just Americans misdirected and Blindfolded trying to make our life’s better. They think that they are helping and we are misdirected by the media while we see they are the problem. May God bless America and guide her thru this horrific time.

rebel jtown
2 months ago

How crazy that the stars on the elephant are pointing down symbolizing the devel !!!! No wonder the demoralizing of the republican party. Always remember this is not a democracy.

Patriot2024
2 months ago
Reply to  rebel jtown

We were never meant to be a democracy. We are a Constitutional Republic. You are correct on that!

David Shingledecker
2 months ago

The only poll that matters because it’s always 100% correct is the one taken on election day.

Beagle Boy
2 months ago

I’d normally agree with you. However, your “100% correct” isn’t proving to be true. I’m not debating the last election was rigged or stolen, that’s an Un-winnable argument. What has been proven is in more than a few precincts the Polling Place Managers have been prosecuted and found guilty for deliberately miscounting votes. That in itself might not change the election outcome but it proves “100% correct” is no longer a true statement.

David
2 months ago

With what I have heard and seen of Brandon I fail to understand how he could win an honest election!

Jeanine
2 months ago

This does not have anything to do specifically with polling, but I remember voting between about 32 to 45 years ago. A few times when I voted I had to not only show my ID (drivers license), I also had to show proof of residency (for the location at which I was voting). Neither did I nor anyone in our district ever ever complain of “discrimination” or any other false “feelings” because these things were required. Maybe it was not a universal voting policy but it should have been, still should be.

johnh
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeanine

Good points……………

Elaine
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeanine

Same here, and we voted in our local elementary school. Everyone lined up and visited with neighbors while waiting for our turn to vote.

JerryH
2 months ago

The polls have become meaningless tools that are used mainly to dissuade voters from voting. The numbers are far from accurate even if the election itself is free from corruption (which we know is not always the case). The key line on polling accuracy in this article is the statement that most people no longer have land lines. Without wired land line connections, it is next to impossible to get a true random sample. Many people keep the same cell phone number regardless of where they currently live, thus negating any possibility of identifying a respondent’s location using an area code. Moreover, I doubt the accuracy of people’s statements about party affiliation or any other information they may provide the pollster. The only poll that matters is the one taken on election, and even that can no longer be trusted since the numbers are so easily manipulated by bogus mail in voting and other subterfuge.

pete
2 months ago
Reply to  JerryH

In the Texas primary, several candidates took screen shots of the totals thru the night and showed their totals DECREASE. The voting machines are compromised, and nothing is being said or done about it.

Walter
2 months ago
Reply to  pete

Agree.

J. Lamoureaux
2 months ago
Reply to  JerryH

Jerry H. I couldn’t agree more.

KDESQ
2 months ago

Assuming they actually count the ballots as voted and not use their predetermined % as the bottom line. The tallying machines are just as horrible as the voting machines.

Mario Capparuccini
2 months ago

I hope and pray that Republicans trounce the party of Satan. I do not understand why anyone wants to vote Democratic. Foreign policy debacles, soaring inflation, a weaponized IRS & FBI, exceedingly divisive speech, soaring crime, and an open border over which fentanyl is pouring are plenty of reasons to soundly reject the Democrats. Yet, 40% of those polled say Uncle Joe is doing fine. Perhaps we are doomed. Perhaps I should sleep in my clothes unless the Gestapo, er, the FBI, comes at 2:00 AM for me.

EDWARD
2 months ago

“I do not understand why anyone wants to vote Democratic”
Lenin referred to them as “USEFULL IDIOTS”.

joe mchugh
2 months ago

Mario Capparuccini, who votes for a Democrat candidate and why? Lots of people!

Taxsuckers, all those who receive some level of taxpayer support.
Illegal aliens, vote for any candidate who calls for open borders.
Dead voters, even those who were former Republican voters.
Those who hate all, or most of the Constitution.
All liberals, (mentally defective by definition).
Mail-in voters who fear COVID, Monkey Pox, etc, etc.

By the way at least 12 states issue drivers licenses to known illegal aliens. A licensed alien can then sign a form that states that he or she is really, really an American citizen in order to register to vote.

Sadly, there are millions of the aforementioned voters in America.

TONY MARTIN
2 months ago

SATAN IN CONTROL OF THE DARK SIDE. GOOD AGAINST EVIL. JESUS AGAISNT THE DEVIL. JESUS WON AT THE CROSS. SATAN KNOWS HE HAS LOST, HE IS GOING TO TAKE DOWN AS MANY PEOPLE HE CAN. THIS IS ONE WAY SATAN CAN HURT JESUS. HE KNOWS THAT JESUS WANT TO SAVE AS MANY PEOPLE HE CAN.

Corbin L Douthitt
2 months ago

Polls will give you the result you ask to get. one can set the questions to get the answers desired AND you can set the sample of people to guarantee the results. IMHO most polls are Democrat to begin with- they stack dems 50D-40R-10Ind.The idea is to promote the agenda and prime the public that the Dems are winning. Also, the Dems need to ‘feel’ that they are winning or they won’t turn out. Just like elections, Dems stack the deck on polls. they lie. they lie to everyone. They lie to themselves, If they told the truth they wouldn’t get 15% of the votes.

EDWARD
2 months ago

Polls are related to statistics; your can set them up to tell you whatever you want.

Jeanine
2 months ago

15% ??
That much?

Myrna Wade
2 months ago

Polls will not correctly report my plans to vote. I am among the voters who are protecting my position, keeping my opinions to myself out of fear. I trust AMAC to keep what I say private, but freedom has been set back.

anna hubert
2 months ago

RINOS and democrats motto is let’s make a deal

johnh
2 months ago
Reply to  anna hubert

I am a RINO because I will vote for the candidate that I believe is the best for Americans.

Hal
2 months ago
Reply to  johnh

From what you post I would disagree that you are a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only). You seem to fit “non-partisan political citizen” …. “NPC”. …which is okay to most partisans and probably describes the true majority of citizen voters. My situation is that the DemocRat Party is almost always NOT representative of my governance views/opinions and often very opposite to them. More succinctly put, I don’t cotton to Communism as the form of governance, especially however disguised in a liberal Political Party that touts it.

Hal
2 months ago
Reply to  anna hubert

You needed to be more accurate by adding ” … under-the-table” to the motto!!!!

Jeb
2 months ago

It is known that people lie and give mocking answers to polls just to dance in their poop.

Chuck
2 months ago

A recent poll shows that people tell the truth when they answer polls, unless they decide to lie.:) FJB!

Hal
2 months ago
Reply to  Chuck

Yeah … FJB … Fire Joe Biden? (polite translation) … LOL

Pam Chitwood
2 months ago

I do believe that the democrat powerful are snakes. They lie cheat and steal to keep power. We have been pushed into corners by the media. The media had caused a great deal of stress to this country and the people. Ratings money power grabbing for the minds of the country to push us a certain way. I can not believe the way the media covers for Democrats. Don’t report things and cover up for them. We need the truth.

Charles
2 months ago

A national voter registration needs to happen – photo ID & finger print for every citizen . Serial Numbered mail – in votes to tally with the ledger , All voter ledgers checked by an outside source . Voter tally checked & double checked by an independent watchdog organization . Problem is you first have to locate an honest company. If anyone votes for the present administration you should be ashamed of yourself . Our ancestors fought & died for AMERICA “s Freedom & I for one will not disrespect my ancestors. GOD BLESS AMERICA — ONE NATION UNDER GOD — LAND OF THE FREE BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE

Carol
2 months ago
Reply to  Charles

I don’t want a national voter registration! Talk about corruption! Voting needs to stay at the STATE level and keep the greedy hands of the federal government out! The best way for the power hungry to take over and stay in power is for any part of the voting process to be in federal hands! The Dems know this and that’s why they tried to pass a voting bill to do just that, put voting and registration in federal hands! NEVER let our voting process or registration get to the federal level is you want to remain free!

KDESQ
2 months ago
Reply to  Carol

Absolutely correct.

PaulE
2 months ago
Reply to  Carol

Agreed!

PaulE
2 months ago
Reply to  Charles

Absolutely NO to a national voter registration. The last thing on earth you should want done is giving Democrat controlled Washington, D.C. any control over voter regristration or elections at the national level. All you would accomplish is ensuring Democrat victories down the line. Voting MUST remain at the state level and local state legislatures need to tighten up their voting standards to make cheating much, much more difficult.

J. Farley
2 months ago

I hold no speculation on who might win, I live in fear up until the polls close that the RINO’s will screw everything up and what give away’s the Democrats will come up with and how close the polls are watched to prevent fraud. I no longer have faith in the election process as the process is in shambles, we have an election time period that lasts for a month or more that gives too much time to slip a few extra ballots in here and there. If you believe anything that the Democrats tell you, your brain is equivalent to Dead Beat Joe Bidens.
Vote for Republicans if Democrats win, they will Gut the Constitution, it will be Liberty Lost!

Pcar
2 months ago
Reply to  J. Farley

It does seem like Mitch and Lindsey want to keep the Democratics in the Senate majority.

J. Farley
2 months ago
Reply to  Pcar

They are loose Cannons, for sure!

PaulE
2 months ago
Reply to  Pcar

They both do. So far both Mitch and Lindsey are doing everything they can to ensure that outcome.

J. Farley
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

They are loonies, absolute Loonies, how do they function?

Steve G
2 months ago

The biggest issue is the cheating going on by the demoncrats, like paying off those counting the votes, big tech hacking the voting machines, Soros spending millions to buy votes to destroy America, plus other ways that the demoncrats lie & cheat to stay in power. They are an evil group that needs to be eradicated from the planet!!!!!!!

James Thompson
2 months ago

I’ve stopped taking polls and showing support for any Republican. I don’t donate or comment. I can’t believe I’m commenting now. I fear retribution from the left. I don’t fear them,I fear my response.

PaulE
2 months ago

The only poll that matters is the one conducted on election day by the people voting. Everything else is basically media spin done ahead of time to try and persuade voters one way or the other. I expect those counting the votes will again do their best to try and tally the votes in favor of the Democrat candidates wherever possible. Little has been done nation-wide to restore the voting system to the more secure pre-2020 standards. So it will be interesting to see how many “surprises” we get election night.

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