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Democratic Pollsters: We Got It Wrong Again

5 firms admit 'major errors' in predicting 2020 outcome, have no definitive solution
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2021 9:44 AM CDT

(Newser) – Five of the Democratic Party's six biggest polling firms are admitting "major errors" in their 2020 polling data, with "no consensus on a solution." A Tuesday letter signed by ALG Research, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, GBAO Strategies, Global Strategy Group, and Normington Petts describes a months-long effort to get a handle on why polling data showing Democrats would easily take the presidency, Senate, and House, was so flawed, per Politico. The data was strong in more Democratic areas, but often wrong in more Republican areas, "sometimes egregiously so," the letter reads. This isn't a new problem. "Since 2012, most major elections have tilted against the party, despite favorable polling data before the vote," per Politico. The pollsters say they've uncovered possible contributing factors but no definitive answer, "which makes solving the problem especially frustrating."

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Polling seemed to improve after 2016 when adjustments were made "to ensure we had enough white non-college voters," they write. But in 2020, among people expected to vote rarely, "the Republican share of the electorate exceeded expectations at four times the rate of the Democratic share," meaning "at least in some places, we again underestimated relative turnout among rural and white non-college voters." Pollsters note that people with more progressive views may have been more likely to stay home and answer poll calls during the pandemic. They also note former President Trump attacked polls, so his supporters may have chosen not to participate. Separately, the Pew Research Center finds Republican participation may be waning. The five firms plan to do more research in the hope of avoiding another "'Oh, s--t' moment," one pollster tells Politico. "We need to get this right." (Read more polling stories.)

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