Survey Says: The Art of Polling Not What It Used to Be

If you thought weather forecasters had a rough batting average, check political pollsters. Especially in recent years, it has been a rough go for the professionals who gauge public opinion to predict election outcomes. From Brexit and Donald Trump in 2016, to the botched predictions of "blue waves" in 2018 and 2020, to the razor-thin margin in the New Jersey governors race this year, the pollsters have had a lot of post-Election Day egg on their faces.

The problem is that traditional methods of polling that proved effective for decades have changed. "We used to do polls on landline telephones," says Vlad Davidiuk, veteran Republican political strategist. "I don't know anyone who has a landline phone anymore."

"And, with the expansion of early voting, absentee voting, mail-in ballot voting, it's harder to get a real gauge on how people are going to vote."

Davidiuk tells KTRH that even the way and time people vote has become partisan. "Republicans tend to vote on Election Day, Democrats tend to vote by mail or spread out during early voting," he says.

But even if pollsters can reach real people who are willing to respond, those responses are not always reliable or trustworthy. "You have people who will say one thing to pollsters, but then go into the polling booth and do something completely different," says Davidiuk. "Because of this negative perception of what the media does with this information, and how they spin it."

Indeed, many voters are turned off by the mainstream media using polls to shape public opinion, rather than reflect it. "We're finding people just don't want to respond to some of these things in terms of where they stand (because of the political climate)," says Davidiuk.

"So it's hard to find people who are likely voters, who are not only going to respond to these things, but do it in a timely fashion."

Or as the old adage goes: The only poll that matters is the one taken on Election Day.

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