Have we actually learned anything after another epic polling failure in the 2020 election? Perhaps, though there’s still a tendency to take the polls seriously simply because they represent a data point, and people crave data in political situations.
Let’s take a poll out of Georgia as an example. Here’s HotAir’s Ed Morrisey pointing out the latest polling for the Georgia run-offs.
Either SurveyUSA’s sampling is way off, or Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are having a big impact on the runoff. Republicans appear to be talking their way into losses in GA.
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) December 3, 2020
This is in noway meant to call out Ed (who I’ve met and is an incredibly nice guy) for posting this. It’s to note that I think his first instinct is likely correct. The sampling on the polls since 2016 has indeed been way off in many cases. SurveyUSA, given they are the example here, has been a very bad pollster, especially in 2020. But we can go back to 2018 as well to see huge, systematic polling errors.
Look, I’m a data guy too. I’ve often cited polls in the past. But 2020 broke me for good in that respect. I simply do not care what these mostly garbage polling outfits throw out there. That’s even more true given they seem to never learn from their mistakes. After 2016, the polling industry should have seen a complete reset in methodology. Instead, we got even worse errors in 2018. Now, in 2020, we’ve seen states being missed by 10+ points, the national vote being off, numerous Senate races being off up to 14 points, etc. It’s been an absolute mess.
The “you actually trust the polls?” responses to this are weird. Almost every statewide election in GA for the last few cycles has been incredibly close. If even 5% of Republicans decide to stay home, that could clearly swing the elections.
— (((AG))) (@AGHamilton29) December 3, 2020
I’d posit that two things can be true in relation to the above commentary. Yes, every Republican in Georgia should get out there and vote. To the extent that grifters like Lin Wood are affecting things, that should be pushed back on relentlessly. But there’s absolutely no reason to just forget about how awful the polling has been in order to make what is otherwise a valid point. The polling is trash. I’d suggest not citing it in relation to the Georgia run-offs. These people do not deserve to be lent any credibility. That only comes when they earn it back, and they are a long way off from that.
So do I believe these latest SurveyUSA polls? The answer is obviously no. But it’s not because I want to deny “data.” It’s because the data has been shown over and over to be absolute garbage. Until that changes, there’s no reason to take polling seriously as a barometer for anything. Get out there and vote. That’s the only thing that matters.
(Please follow me on Twitter! @bonchieredstate)