Before the major networks ended their 30 minute analysis of the Third Presidential Debate – CNN was pushing a headline saying polling showed Hillary Clinton won the debate 52 to 38 percent.
The numbers are offered as fact without context – opinion reported as NEWS!
That poll means absolutely nothing!
52 percent to 38 percent of how big a population – the first one hundred responders to an online poll conducted during or in the first five minutes following the debate? Or, was it the first 1000 respondents?
Polling is Increasingly Unreliable
I listened to a No Labels telephone town hall on the morning after the final Presidential Debate.
The guest speaker was Jennifer Duffy, a Senior Editor with the well-respected Cook Political Report.
Ms. Duffy opened her remarks by declaring:
- “Cook Political Report projects Clinton goes into election with 278 electoral college votes (8 more than she needs to win).
- Trump goes in with 179 votes, though he needs 270 to win.
- It’s almost impossible to find a path to victory for Trump right now”.
The problem with this statement is that it’s purely based on a set of assumptions!
Neither the Cook Political Report – nor any other living person really knows for whom the first vote in early voting was cast or who will accumulate the largest number of votes on November 8.
As recently as 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 – events occurring in the last moments of the campaign had profound impact on the outcome!
- Weeks before the 2000 election, the release of court records of George W. Bush’s driving case 25 years earlier tighten an already close race
- The September 2008 financial crisis doomed the McCain campaign
- Super Storm Sandy gave Barack Obama a chance to show himself as a “bi-partisan crisis manager” in weeks before the 2012 election.
Ms. Duffy later acknowledged, in response to a listener question about polling results in Southern California:
“Polling has gotten difficult for a number of reasons and simply, response rates are very low. It forces pollsters to make some assumptions about turnout and weight populations (i.e. multiply the impact of populations to make them more representative)”.
Seeming not to realize that she had contradicted herself, she did not qualify her opening statement.
Campaigns pay pollsters a lot of money to conduct polls that show their candidate winning by such a margin that your candidate has no chance. Why waste your time voting if you know in advance that your candidate is going to lose?
Hillary Clinton outspent all the GOP 2016 Presidential Primary candidates combined for polling during her race against Bernie Sanders.
No surprise — polling is used to suppress the opposition candidate’s vote.
Public Unease About 2016 Polling
I participate in a quick online YouGov poll every morning. About 3000 people participate and the results are posted – comparing individual answers to the group.
The question today: “We’re just 14 days away from finals at the Electoral College. Currently almost all of the polls suggest Hillary Clinton has most chances to win. Do you trust the polls?
- Yes 43%
- No 47%
- No sure 10%
More than half of the 3216 respondents question the accuracy of the current polling results. That’s news!
Don’t Let any Poll Deter You from Voting
There is no substitute for counting the ballots. Every vote matters.
In 1948 all the polls showed Governor Dewey of New York beating President Harry Truman in a landslide. But the final results were not even close – Truman won by a commanding 303 Electoral College Votes to Dewey’s 189. The last 39 votes were won by Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.
In the 2000 election, polls predicted an electoral majority for Al Gore. George W. Bush’s official margin of victory was less than 700 votes in the state of Florida.
Voting has never been easier. At least four western states are conducting their statewide 2016 general election entirely by mail.
Undoubtedly, better candidates would spur higher voter turnout but even absent that – voting is about the mystery. We won’t know the winner until the votes are counted ballot by ballot!
Remove Polling for the Election Equation
I would favor a law banning public announcements of poll results in the last 30 days before an election. The mystery would deepen. “What if I don’t vote and my candidate loses by one vote”?
Put the pollsters in their place – do your duty, vote!
What if the 2016 polls are wrong and your candidate either wins or loses by only one vote – and you didn’t vote?
What if the 60 percent of voters who don’t favor any Presidential candidate skipped the Presidential vote (for their assessed “lesser of two evils”) but voted down ballot?
- The “winner” could claim no mandate to make a bad situation worse.
- The power would be returned to Congress – where the Founding Fathers wanted it to be!
- Every member of Congress would be on notice that if they didn’t get results for the majority of Americans, they would be fired in two years!
Best of all — if 100% of eligible voters voted, no one could dispute the result.
Photo Courtesy of Whaleoil Media