What went wrong with the polls and how can we fix it next time?

Natalie Brand reports.

SEATTLE - Pollsters and pundits are still trying to predict what they didn’t see coming before Election Day last week.

The New York Times Upshot called it “the biggest polling miss in a presidential election in decades.”

So what went wrong? Different pollsters give different reasons, but longtime Washington State pollster Stuart Elway says turnout and shy Donald Trump supporters were likely contributing factors.

“As an industry we didn’t interview quite the right people, and the people we did interview didn’t quite tell us what they really were going to do,” Elway told KING 5.

While national polls weren’t too far off, there may not have been enough focus and scrutiny of individual state polls, particularly the swing states that affected the election.

“Turnout varied not only state by state, but within regions. Turnout was lower in blue areas within states and higher in red areas within the same state,” Elway noted.

Plus, there’s that very real thing called the margin of error. It does matter.

“Pollsters talk about the margin of error, and people get sick of hearing about that, but it’s a real thing, and when you’re talking about 100,000 votes across three states, that’s kind of easy to miss,” said Elway.

While Washington's State polling accurately predicted a sizable win for Hillary Clinton, digging into the numbers of individual counties tells a story very similar to the one we're hearing nationwide.

“Our state does look a lot like the national map. The Republicans won a lot of square miles, and the Democrats won a lot of voters,” said Elway. “King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap: 56 percent of the voters live in these four counties.”

But, drive a couple of hours to the coast along the Olympic Peninsula, and counties like Grays Harbor and Pacific voted red for president for the first time in decades. Voters in economically struggling and rural areas have said they feel left behind.

“I think this is representative, indicative of what we saw in Ohio and Michigan,” said Elway.

As the urban rural divide and accompanying polarization appears to be intensifying, Elway says pollsters need to drill into reasons why.

“When you see this and see what's happening nationally, we need to get below what's below what's red and what's blue to find out more about what's driving this change and what the common ground is,” he said. “I think that's the real goal, how do we bridge this? We're going to have to move forward as a state, as a country and the trajectory we're on now is not healthy.”

Related: The one poll that was more predictive than other

Related: RealClear Politics Sean Trende says “It wasn’t the polls that missed, it was the pundits”

Copyright 2016 KING


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