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HomePollsPolling Bias: Pollsters Have Completely Lost the Public Trust

Polling Bias: Pollsters Have Completely Lost the Public Trust

Incumbent President Harry Truman holds up a Chicago Tribune headline stating that he had been defeated by Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican candidate in the 1948 presidential election.
Incumbent President Harry Truman holds up a Chicago Tribune headline stating that he had been defeated by Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican candidate in the 1948 presidential election.

Incumbent President Harry Truman holds up a Chicago Tribune headline stating that he had been defeated by Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican candidate in the 1948 presidential election.

The 2016 presidential election wasn’t the first major polling blunder in U.S. politics, but it does appear to be the one in which pollsters lost the public trust. President Donald J. Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College by carrying states Republicans haven’t carried since the 1980s.

In several of them–including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania–he trailed outside the average margin of error.

In 1948, Gallup had incumbent Democratic President Harry S. Truman trailing Republican Thomas E. Dewey by five points in their final survey, 49.5% to 44.5%.

Dewey lost.

But Gallup was the only serious pollster in the 1940s and even the former “Gold Standard” is going to be wrong from time to time. Gallup would go on to earn back what little trust they lost in the elections to follow, only to decide not to even poll presidential elections after they misfired in 2012. Now, Big Media has a plethora of polls to cherrypick from for their reports.

But Americans aren’t buying it anymore.

A new survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted by Rasmussen Reports from May 3-4, 2017, shows just how badly the polling industry is viewed by Americans. A meager 26% say they trust most political polls juxtaposed to 55% who do not. Nineteen percent (19%) indicated they were undecided.

Worse still, only roughly a third (35%) believe most pollsters are interested in accurately reporting Americans’ public opinions in an unbiased manner when they poll on President Trump. Forty-three percent (43%) think most pollsters are trying to block the president from passing his agenda, while 12% say most are trying to help.

Majorities of Republicans (66%) and unaffiliated voters (56%) do not trust most political polls, and while Democrats agree, it’s a far tighter 44% to 36% margin. Americans also feel pollsters are just like journalists, liberals living in a bubble who want the rest of the nation to think the way they do. Only 25% of all voters feel the average pollster is ideologically close to them, with 35% saying they are more liberal.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are far more likely than the others to feel as if the average pollster is more liberal than they are.

“There are too many polls and not enough pollsters,” R. D. Baris, the head of polling at People’s Pundit Daily said. “Not all polls perform equally and not all should be given equal consideration. In fact, there are numerous big name polling firms often cited by network and cable news that don’t even deserve any recognition, at all.”

Worth noting, Rasmussen Reports was widely criticized for showing a much tighter race at the national level than other pollsters. But both Real Clear Politics and American Research Group admitted their national poll was most accurate as it relates to the nationwide popular vote. Now, they continue to show the President’s approval rating higher than most surveys, as does PPD.

The People’s Pundit Daily (PPD) Battleground State Polls were the most accurate Electoral College polls in 2016, and it wasn’t even close. We were also frequently criticized for going against the Big Media grain, but we outperformed even some of our own goals and expectations.

The final PPD Keystone State Battleground Poll released on November 6 found Mr. Trump taking 48.4% of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 47.8%, a statistical tie that nearly nailed the margin exactly. In Florida, where we are based, the final PPD Sunshine State Battleground Poll found Mr. Trump leading by 1.6% rounded up to two points. He carried the state by about 1.2%.

In Colorado, the final PPD Rocky Mountain Battleground State Poll found Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Trump by 3 points, 48% to 45%. She won by 3 points, 47% to 44%. The final PPD Tar Heel State Battleground Poll found Mr. Trump leading by 3 points, 49% to 46%. He won by 4 points, 51% to 47%.

The most recent PPD Sunshine State Battleground Poll released earlier this week finds President Trump’s approval rating in Florida far above his national numbers, 52% to 45%. By adjusting the findings according to the demographics of each, our best estimate of how the counties would vote if the President was up for reelection today finds it is highly likely he would carry the nation’s largest battleground state, again.

As Mr. Baris noted, many of the media-favorite pollsters had the President trailing in every single battleground state–including Public Policy Polling (PPP), the Monmouth Poll, the Quinnipiac Poll and YouGov.

These firms also met with similiar debacles during the 2014 midterm elections, the worst being misses by PPP in the Virginia Senate race and YouGov in the Maryland gubernatorial election.

“No pollster is going to have a perfect record, but at some point these same repeat offenders should just stop embarrassing themselves. They are damaging the industry as a whole,” Mr. Baris added. “If Big Media was ethical they would cite them with disclaimers. Americans are rightfully ignoring them until they prove their worth and earn back the public trust.”

“The jig is up.”

Written by

Led by R. D. Baris, the People's Pundit, the PPD Elections Staff conducts polling and covers news about latest polls, election results and election data.

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