Yu­uge mis­take: Trump, Se­nate Repub­li­cans de­fied me­dia polls

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCARBOROUGH

Ma­jor me­dia poll­sters and pun­dit fore­cast­ers wrongly called the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion for Hil­lary Clin­ton, had her win­ning states that Donald Trump ac­tu­ally cap­tured and wrongly pre­dicted Demo­cratic vic­to­ries in the Se­nate.

ABC News an­a­lyst Nate Sil­ver, 38, the na­tional polling guru who runs the web­site FiveThir­tyEight.com and who con­fi­dently pre­dicted a Clin­ton vic­tory, said, “It’s the most shock­ing po­lit­i­cal devel­op­ment of my life­time.”

Big me­dia out­lets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and NBC News — which put much ef­fort into ag­gres­sively vet­ting Mr. Trump’s cam­paign — re­leased fi­nal polls and as­sess­ments that said the Man­hat­tan real es­tate de­vel­oper would lose the pop­u­lar vote by 3 to 5 per­cent­age points as well as the de­ci­sive Elec­toral Col­lege.

The coun­try­wide vote on Wed­nes­day evening stood at a near-tie — 47.7 per­cent for Mr. Trump, 47.5 per­cent for Mrs. Clin­ton.

NBC had said she would win by 5 per­cent­age points na­tion­wide, a spread that likely would have won her enough states to be pres­i­dent-elect. Reuters also said she would win by 5 points. The ABC/Washington Post poll put it at 3 per­cent­age points. The most ac­cu­rate ap­pears to be TIPP/ Busi­ness In­vestors Daily, which pro­jected a 1-point Clin­ton na­tional mar­gin.

It was not that the na­tional polling was way off. The mis­take was that, based on those num­bers and in­di­vid­ual state polls, news­pa­pers pre­dicted a Clin­ton win. The Washington Post did not just pre­dict a vic­tory for her; it said flat-out that it was math­e­mat­i­cally im­pos­si­ble for Mr. Trump to gain the needed 270 elec­toral votes.

“Trump’s path to an elec­toral col­lege vic­tory isn’t nar­row. It’s nonex­is­tent,” read The Washington Post’s Oct. 18 head­line over a story by vot­ing an­a­lyst Stu­art Rothen­berg.

The New York Times gave Mrs. Clin­ton an 80 per­cent chance of win­ning as the polls were clos­ing.

Mr. Trump is pro­jected to have won as many as 306 elec­toral votes.

It was in the state bat­tle­grounds, where elec­tions are de­cided, that poll­sters goofed. They had Mr. Trump los­ing in Wis­con­sin, Penn­syl­va­nia and Michi­gan. He won the first two and was lead­ing in the third. The sur­veys also missed key Se­nate races by un­der­count­ing Repub­li­can turnout.

The poor prog­nos­ti­ca­tions on Elec­tion Day were per­haps sig­naled two years ago. A Washington Times anal­y­sis showed that in 2014, ma­jor poll­sters mis­judged the Repub­li­can turnout in key races. Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan, for ex­am­ple, was down dou­ble dig­its in late polling but won by 4 per­cent­age points.

Also Tues­day, Edi­son Re­search de­liv­ered exit polls to TV net­works pre­dict­ing that four Repub­li­can Se­nate in­cum­bents would lose. They in­stead won. The Edi­son hand­outs in­flu­enced the chat­ter by cable TV elec­tion an­a­lysts, who rely on the num­bers to guide their com­men­tary while wait­ing for the ac­tual data. On live TV, some in­ti­mated that Hil­lary Clin­ton and Se­nate Democrats had won.

“They say it’s a Hil­lary land­slide,” one cable net­work pun­dit told The Washington Times on Tues­day night.

That pro-Clin­ton tone faded as real re­turns rolled in and Mr. Trump picked off must-win states of Ohio, North Carolina and Flor­ida, and then led in Wis­con­sin, Penn­syl­va­nia and Michi­gan.

Larry Sa­bato, who runs the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics, ap­peared on “Fox and Friends” to humbly ac­knowl­edge that his bal­ly­hooed “Sa­bato’s Crys­tal Ball” failed him and the public. He had pre­dicted a de­ci­sive Clin­ton win, with more than 300 elec­toral votes.

“That ball is shat­tered in a thou­sand pieces,” Mr. Sa­bato said. “I’ve got to or­der a new one.”

He said he fed thou­sands of polls into the com­puter and 90 per­cent of them turned out wrong.

“We were wrong. The en­tire pun­ditry in­dus­try, the en­tire polling in­dus­try, the en­tire an­a­lysts in­dus­try. And I want to take this op­por­tu­nity to take my share of the blame. We were wrong. … I apol­o­gize,” he said. Here are some of the big misses:

Vir­tu­ally ev­ery na­tional poll had for­mer Demo­cratic Sen. Evan Bayh de­feat­ing Rep. Todd Young, a for­mer Ma­rine Corps of­fi­cer. Mr. Young won by 10 per­cent­age points.

All but one of 25 polls had for­mer Demo­cratic Sen. Russ Fein­gold beat­ing in­cum­bent Ron John­son, who won by 3 points.

Of 12 late polls, only one had Repub­li­can Sen. Pa­trick J. Toomey of Penn­syl­va­nia ahead of Demo­crat Katie McGinty — by 1 per­cent­age point. He was be­hind in the rest by as many as 12 points but won by 2 points.

For Wis­con­sin, more than 30 na­tional polls said Mrs. Clin­ton would win the state by 4 to 15 points. Mr. Trump won by 1 point.

For Michi­gan, ev­ery na­tional poll had Mrs. Clin­ton win­ning by 4 to 10 points. She was trail­ing Mr. Trump by 0.3 per­cent­age point with all precincts re­ported.

For Penn­syl­va­nia, all na­tional polls said Mr. Trump would lose. He won by 1.2 per­cent­age points.

A small, some­what quirky polling firm in At­lanta went against the grain. It pre­dicted Trump vic­to­ries in Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia on the eve of vot­ing and turned out to be right when all of the na­tional firms were wrong.

Trafal­gar Group and its seven em­ploy­ees dis­cov­ered dur­ing com­par­i­son polling that some Trump vot­ers would not dis­close how they planned to fill out their bal­lots. Af­ter all, the lib­eral news me­dia and Mrs. Clin­ton had la­beled Trump fol­low­ers as de­plorable peo­ple.

So the com­pany used ro­botic calls for which Trump vot­ers seemed more com­fort­able. They also added a “neigh­bor” ques­tion, fig­ur­ing that a re­spon­dent would be more will­ing to an­swer truth­fully if a neigh­bor was vot­ing for Trump.

The also cre­ated a de­mo­graphic of peo­ple who had not voted in a half-dozen years or so but planned to vote for Mr. Trump. To cap­ture these vot­ers, Trafal­gar cre­ated a large sam­ple, about 1,000 re­spon­dents, com­pared with a usual poll of 400 or so.

The re­sult: A day af­ter the elec­tion, when searchers looked at the Real Clear Pol­i­tics web­page for Michi­gan polls, there was a long list of pre­dic­tions, all of which were in blue be­cause they had Mrs. Clin­ton ahead — ex­cept one posted on Nov. 6. It had Mr. Trump win­ning by 2 per­cent­age points. He was lead­ing by 0.3 per­cent with all precincts re­port­ing. That out­lier poll was by Trafal­gar Group.

The Real Clear Pol­i­tics Penn­syl­va­nia page tells the same story. A sea of 30 “blue” poll re­sults up to the top of the list, where Trafal­gar pre­dicts, in red, a 1-point Trump win, which ac­tu­ally ma­te­ri­al­ized at 1.2 per­cent­age points.

“We knew Mon­day night that Trump was go­ing to win,” said Robert Ca­haly, the group’s se­nior strate­gist.

Trafal­gar also nailed re­sults in North Carolina and Ge­or­gia and pre­dicted a Trump win in Flor­ida, though by 5 points rather than the ac­tual 1.3 points.

It also said Mr. Trump would re­ceive 306 elec­toral votes. He is likely to end up with that ex­act num­ber.

Trafal­gar’s bet that a “hid­den” Trump vote ex­isted was dis­missed by the main­stream press.

But Matt Briggs, a teacher of statis­tics at Cor­nell Univer­sity, is­sued a study on Wed­nes­day con­clud­ing that in­deed there was a “shy” Trump ef­fect that the ma­jor poll­sters did not try to iden­tify and thus was left out of their turnout mod­els. Trafal­gar did use such vot­ers.

“Ev­ery­body around elites — namely other elites — were say­ing Hil­lary was go­ing to take it,” Mr. Briggs wrote. “It’s dif­fi­cult to dis­count the opin­ion of all your col­leagues. Wish­cast­ing, a type of con­fir­ma­tion bias well known to me­te­o­rol­o­gists, also played a role. Wish­cast­ing is when the ev­i­dence that sup­ports a strong de­sire is given more weight than it de­serves. Is there any doubt the whole of the elite me­dia were des­per­ate for Hil­lary to win?”


Emily Benn was among the dis­ap­pointed sup­port­ers of Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton, who was con­fi­dent of win­ning the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion based on pro­jec­tions of po­lit­i­cal pun­dits and a sea of ma­jor me­dia polls that turned out to be highly in­ac­cu­rate.

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