This Politico headline and subhed say it all: “Pollsters fear they’re blowing it again in 2022: Democrats seem to be doing better than expected with voters. But if the polls are wrong, they could be disappointed in November — again.”
Pollsters know they have a problem. But they aren’t sure they’ve fixed it in time for the November election.
Since Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 victory, pre-election polls have consistently understated support for Republican candidates, compared to the votes ultimately cast.
Once again, polls over the past two months are showing Democrats running stronger than once expected in a number of critical midterm races. It’s left some wondering whether the rosy results are setting the stage for another potential polling failure that dashes Democratic hopes of retaining control of Congress— and vindicates the GOP’s assertion that the polls are unfairly biased against them.
It’s not that pollsters haven’t tried to fix the issues that plagued them in recent elections. Whether they’re public firms conducting surveys for the media and academic instructions or private campaign consultants, they have spent the past two years tweaking their methods to avoid a 2020 repeat.
But most of the changes they have made are small. Some pollsters are hoping that since Trump isn’t running in the midterms, the problems of underestimating Republicans’ vote share will disappear with him. But others worry that Trump’s ongoing dominance of the news cycle — from the FBI seizure of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago to litigation against his businesses in New York — effectively is making him the central political figure going into Election Day.
“There’s no question that the polling errors in 16 and 20 worry the polling profession, worry me as a pollster,” said Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette Law School Poll in Milwaukee and a longtime survey-taker in the battleground state of Wisconsin. “The troubling part is how much of that is unique to when Donald Trump is on the ballot, versus midterms when he is not on the ballot.”
The stuff of nightmares. Truly.
Get out and vote.