Polls, historically

In 1980, five days before the election, five days before Ronald Reagan blew Jimmy Carter out in a landslide, the last major poll had Carter up by nine points.

Carter by nine.  I shudder to think what history would have looked like if that had worked.

The last batch of John Podesta emails contains a “handbook” for how to put out rigged polls, and have no doubt, they are rigged.  All you have to do is look at sample percentages and demographics for it to be crystal clear that they WAY oversample Democrats and undersample Republicans.  My good friend and intellectual mentor* Rush Limbaugh has pointed out that for every example of a poll that didn’t come near the mark (Matt Bevin and Larry Hogan in 2014 being two more excellent examples, as well as George W. Bush in 2000) there are a dozen stories of polls getting it right on the money, and he’s right, but what is significant is the corollary: for every dozen polls conducted, one is grievously wrong.

Being a pollster is kind of like being a weatherman with the difference being that a pollster can actually influence what he’s reporting on, while the weatherman can’t change the forecast no matter how many people he convinces that rain is coming.  Though to continue the analogy, if the weathermen all want to make sure people stay inside this coming weekend, and all forecast torrential rain and cold, no one’s going to plan to go to the beach or have a barbecue, and when Saturday rolls around bright and sunny and it’s too late to do anything with it the forecasters just shrug their shoulders and talk about how it’s not an exact science.

So it is with polls.  There are plenty of things pollsters can safely report on to build up their credibility–usually more nebulous public opinion or more sure things like political races in one-party districts.  This gives them the freedom to nudge the numbers when it suits their purposes.  In 1980 the media hated Reagan with a white-hot incandescent fury, certain that he was going to be the nuclear death of us all that Lyndon Johnson had predicted in his infamous “Daisy Girl” ad.  They have not had cause to loathe a political candidate with this same level of intensity since Reagan left office…until now (note: not to say they did not also loathe George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, but Trump they despise more than all the rest because despite his centrist leanings he has had the audacity to take the fight to the media itself).  This election, there is ample evidence to support the theory that the media is going all in–WikiLeaks has exposed their connection to the Democratic party (that every thinking person already knew about) so before that sets into the public consciousness they’re willing to throw whatever’s left of their credibility straight out the window to make sure they get their all-important first woman President.

Yes, the polls were right about Romney.  Congratulations, you got one.  Now you’re trying to tell us all that Hillary Clinton, the most hated career politician in recorded history, is rolling over Donald Trump by double digits?  Seriously, if you fall for that you’re either willfully blind or grotesquely stupid.

 

*Note: I do not actually know Rush Limbaugh personally.

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