Pollsters say it’s ‘impossible’ to know why Dem support was overstated ‘across the board’ in 2020 elections

A new report commissioned by the American Association for Public Opinion Research has determined it is “impossible” to say what went wrong in the polls from the 2020 general election and state-level races and why Democratic support was so overstated “across the board.”

Polls were the worst in decades according to the analysis. The report found that the polling error in surveys estimating the 2020 national popular vote was the highest it has been in more than 40 years. State-level predictions in 2020 for presidential, senatorial, and gubernatorial contests were also the worst seen in at least 20 years. The American Association for Public Opinion Research is adamant that the errors were not the same as in 2016, even though they don’t know why they occurred.

The average error margin for national popular voter polls was 4.5 points during the last two weeks before the election took place. For state-level presidential polls, it was 5.1.

Unsurprisingly, the report noted that the discrepancies were “much more likely” to favor Biden over former President Trump. Among the polls conducted in the last two weeks of the election, the average error between Biden and Trump favored Biden by 3.9 percentage points in national polls and by 4.3 percentage points in statewide presidential polls.

The report states that polls overestimated Biden’s support by one percentage point and underestimated Trump’s following 3.3 percentage points.

While the analysts cannot determine the cause of the errors, they have ruled out a number of contributing factors. Those include late-deciding voters for Republican candidates, a reluctance to tell pollsters that they supported Trump, and a failure to take education into account.

The report essentially concluded that it “appears to be impossible” to determine what exactly went wrong based on available data. The authors have no idea why the discrepancies are so historically large.

“Some explanations of polling error can be ruled out according to the patterns found in the polls, but identifying conclusively why polls overstated the Democratic-Republican margin relative to the certified vote appears to be impossible with the available data,” the report states.

“Reliable information is lacking on the demographics, opinions, and vote choice of those not included in polls (either because they were excluded from the sampling frame or else because they chose not to participate), making it impossible to compare voters who responded to polls with voters who did not. Some educated guesses are possible based on patterns emerging from available data but conclusive statements are impossible. It cannot be ruled out that there is a multitude of overlapping explanations for the pattern of polling error,” it continued.

The polling methods overstated the Democratic-Republican margin relative to the final certified vote margin. It concluded that the error in the Democratic-Republican margin in polls was larger on average in senatorial and gubernatorial races when compared to the presidential race. On average, those races favored Democratic candidates by 6 percentage points.

“Within the same state, polling error was often larger in senatorial contests than the presidential contest,” the report reads. “Whether the candidates were running for president, senator, or governor, poll margins overall suggested that Democratic candidates would do better and Republican candidates would do worse relative to the final certified vote.”

The report reviewed 2,858 polls. Those included 529 that dealt with the national popular vote, 1,572 that reviewed the presidential race from the state level, and 757 senatorial-gubernatorial surveys.

Without definitive answers that determine the causes of the 2020 polling errors, pollsters aren’t sure they’ll get it right in 2022, 2024, or beyond.

“Even seven months after the fact, you’d think you’d be able to know exactly what happened,” Josh Clinton, a professor at Vanderbilt University and the chair of the association’s 2020 election task force said according to The Washington Post.

“How certain are we that we can fix this in the future? Well, it’s unclear,” Clinton noted. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens — which isn’t a particularly reassuring position. But I think that’s the honest answer.”

Many have lost faith in the election process and polls altogether:


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