Did the polls hoodwink us again as they did in 2016? It’s complicated.
For the past 48 hours, voters have fumed over what they consider another round of flawed opinion research and forecasting that again gave a Democratic candidate (this time former Vice President Joe Biden instead of Hillary Clinton) a sizeable lead heading into Tuesday. Based on that information, and fueled by accompanying hopes or fears, millions watched, increasingly bleary-eyed and incredulous, as yet another election night dragged into the next day with no clear winner in sight.
“As usual, the answer is somewhere in between,” said Ryan Enos, a government professor and faculty associate of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. “It’s clear people are going to be exaggerating how much the polls got it wrong. But it’s also clear that they didn’t get it exactly right. And they certainly didn’t get it as right as we might have liked, given the enormity of the stakes right now.”
Both Republicans and Democrats insist their complaints are justified. They haven’t forgotten key polls that favored Clinton, and how Donald Trump decisively won the Electoral College with 304 votes to Clinton’s 227. (Clinton did win the popular vote with 2.8 million more ballots cast in her favor, pollsters are quick to note.)
Trump, who remains behind Biden in the ongoing electoral vote count, blasted the polls Wednesday, tweeting, “The ‘pollsters’ got it completely & historically wrong!” Twitter intervened, tagging his message with the line, “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”