What to make of the polls?

Biden is dominating the polls but Ace of Spades notes:

I was observing some politicos I know. They’re having a hard time squaring the current polling with what they know anecdotally.

They all note this: Of all the people they know — including RINOs and squishes and NeverTrumpers who voted against Trump in 2016 — many of the NeverTrumpers are now reluctant Trump voters, and many of 2016’s reluctant Trump voters are now enthusiastic Trump voters.

On the other hand, they don’t know anyone who has moved from voting for Trump in 2016 to voting for Biden.

One friend [who works in politics] tells me that the suburban well-to-do Wine Moms and Squish Sisters he knows are now fully on the MAGA train.

Everyone they know who’s moved on The Trump Question (and Trump seems to be the only issue in 2020) has moved in favor of Trump.

I notice this too. People who have hated Trump since November of 2016 have hardened their positions, people who tended to vote Republican but didn’t vote Trump have long since come around. Trump obviously has all the enthusiasm on his side, in fact the enthusiasm feels almost Obamaesque this time around. Biden has the media and the polls.

Also, there is the curious case of the no-show Biden campaign. Why is Biden not campaigning? Is it because his internal polling is so good that he does not have to, or so bad that it does not matter what he does? I have concluded that his internal polling is just good enough that he does not want to screw it up by making too many appearances and coming across as a feeble old man (Nothing against feeble old men, I hope to live long enough to be one myself some day).

Often, in the aftermath of an election, analysts will look back and see that the polls were right all along. I don’t think that was the case in 2016, the polls were pretty much wrong. Is this going to be the case again?

This is a heuristic problem: do I trust a faulty and manipulatable but at least quantifiable metric like opinion polls or do I trust what I see?

If I trust what I see, I could end up like the NYT film critic Pauline Kale who confessed to “knowing only one person who voted for Nixon” after his 49 state landslide victory. I have plenty of doggedly anti-Trump acquaintances and relatives, but my inner circle is on the Trump train, reluctantly or not.

Trusting what you see also comes down to what you choose to see. I can see the Trump rallies and the Trump parades and think Trump has all that on his side. Then I reflect that Friday night I went out to eat in downtown Salem and the crowds were only half their normal size (which are usually massive in October) and out of the hundreds I saw less than ten people not wearing masks, and I was one (I refuse to wear masks outdoors). I spent Sunday afternoon an an outdoor concert in a rural part of central MA and the same: all masks but me. Masks are a sign of fear, and universal fear is not a good sign for the sitting President. If I trust the universal atmosphere of fear, Trump is a sure loser.



One comment

  1. People made a huge deal about the poles last time, but it was the media’s fault. The criticism should have been aimed at the interpretation of the numbers rather than the numbers themselves. I believe the vast majority were correct within the margin of error. If one candidate is at 52 and the other at 48 and the margin of error is 4 – the responsible thing for the media to do is call a statistical tie. Results should be given and the margin of error should be added/subtracted on the spot to show alternate possibilities.

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