So the pre-election polling saying the electorate was going toward Biden in landslide lots was wrong?
Who could have possibly figured that out?
Oh, yeah – anyone that’s been reading this blog for the past ten years.
There are three possible explanations:
1. Evolution! – The pollster’s craft hasn’t caught up with the “new normal”, in a society where people legitimately fear being “canceled”, losing jobs, social standing and being targeted for violence because of their beliefs.
That is simultaneously possible, and not mutually eclusive
2. Incompetence! – The pollsters absorbed the lessons of 2016, where they actually did a little better than they did this year…
…and learned nothing.
3. Never Ascribe to Incompetence What Can Be Chalked Up To Malice – I’m going to present three facts and a conjecture:
Fact 1 – On December 1, 2016, representatives of the New York Times and Washington Post newsrooms went on WNYC radio’s “On the Media“ program (syndicated on NPR) and said, In as many words, that was time to change the rules of journalism. It was time to move past “passing the facts on to people and letting them make up their own minds” to “Denormalizing Donald Trump“.
Fact 2 – in 1986, a UCLA psychology professor, Dr. Mehrabian, showed the existence of a “bandwagon effect“; when polls showed that a candidate had no chance of winning, “swing“ voters tended to stay home or vote for someone else.
Fact 3 – for the past 30 years, the Star Tribune “Minnesota Poll” has had a fairly clear pattern; the closer a race ended up being, the more wildly distorted pre-election polling numbers were. For example, they showed Tim Pawlenty, Norm Coleman and Tom Emmer getting blown out just before the election. All three races ended up being famously close. On the other hand, they tend to report blowouts pretty accurately; they had Amy Klobuchar and Kurt Bills pretty much dead on.
Conjecture: It’s not an “accident”, or a learning error, that polling predicting a landslide up until election day was completely wrong.