Never Forget How Wrong the Polls Were

They will try very hard to make you forget. Don’t let them.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Joe Biden, 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, speak during the U.S. presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Trump and Biden traded charges of secretly taking money from foreign interests, after the former vice president addressed head-on Trumps efforts to portray him as corrupt. Photographer: Jim Bourg/Reuters/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jim Bourg/Reuters/Bloomberg via Getty Images

No matter what happens, the polls were wrong. Catastrophically, irrevocably, irredeemably wrong. They’ll try to make us forget that. We absolutely cannot let them.

Going into the election last week, NBC News/Wall Street Journal gave Biden a 10-point lead—no matter what the final tally, there is no way this won’t turn out to have been wildly off. Likewise in the now-upended House of Representatives. The New York Times/Siena overestimated Biden’s support in Florida by 6 points, in North Carolina by 4 points, in Michigan by about 6 points, in Wisconsin by about 10 points, in Iowa by more than 10 points, and in Ohio by more than 9 points.

All this per Tom Bevan at RealClear Politics, who notes that NYT/Siena is rated “A+” by the polling website 538. Nate Silver, the famed wizard of 538 whose expertise has long been represented as infallible, responded to criticism of his approach with the following measured remarks: “f— you, we did a good job.” This attitude is typical among pollsters and will continue to be.

Over and above the inaccuracy of the polls themselves, there’s the way they were reported: relentlessly, unyieldingly, devotedly, in such a way as to demoralize and shame Trump voters. We were to believe the national averages despite their spectacular failure in 2016, because now the models, the precious models, had been adjusted. If we so much as questioned the certainty of all this we were denying the great god Science, that mighty idol of coronavirus lockdowns, apocalyptic climate change, and any number of other bloody human sacrifices.

The fury with which the pollsters and the legacy media are now insisting that they were right—in the teeth of abject failures that go well beyond their own stated margins of error—will not let up. They will keep revising the narrative backwards, keep demanding indignantly that we acquiesce, keep screaming at us to live in the world they imagine. They will do this because they hate us, and that’s all they have.

After all, in point of fact, they did not correct their models. They doubled down on them. Statistical models, as a philosophical matter, are based on assumptions about who is doing the voting and why—that is part of how statisticians choose whom to poll and how. The assumptions our ruling classes made about Trump voters were dead wrong in 2016, and they have gotten worse, not better, since then.

In the wake of the 2016 election, the professed soul-searching that was supposed to occur among the commentariat quickly revealed itself as merely a recommitment to passionate, disdainful hatred for all who dared vote Trump. We were in fact uneducated, racist, and bigoted in every other way imaginable. Now that Trump is gaining more nonwhite voters than any Republican since 1960, the true believers are doing their best to magic that reality away: only “white gays” (sayeth New York Times opinion writer Charles Blow) and “white Cubans” (declareth Times propagandist Nikole Hannah-Jones) and “Uncle Clarences” (sneereth MSNBC’s Joy Reid) are part of this movement.

The fact that these claims are patent cope, seething with venomous desperation, will not stop them from being repeated everywhere, day after day, from now on and forever more. If this is not a watershed moment for conservatives to discredit these clowns, then we are simply not worth our salt. As of this writing, the presidential election is still hotly contested.  I expect it will be for some time. But though we must fight that fight all the way to the courts, we cannot—I repeat, cannot—lose sight of how shamefully these sneering pundits and arrogant pollsters have failed. Their jig is up, and we must insist that no one who ever listens to them again is taken seriously. If we fall for their gaslighting next time, we are simply too gullible for our own good.

In the 44th chapter of the Prophecy of Isaiah, God says that it is he “who frustrates the omens of liars, and makes fools of diviners; who turns back the wise, and makes their knowledge foolish.” As it was then in the courts of Assyria and Babylon, so it is now: the readers of signs and the tellers of fortunes, whom we made to be as gods, are now shown to be men in the pure nakedness of ignorance. This truth—which may turn out to be the most important one of the year—has been made known. It’s on us not to forget it.

Spencer Klavan is host of the Young Heretics podcast and assistant editor of the Claremont Review of Booksand The American Mind. He can be reached on Twitter at @SpencerKlavan.

More from Spencer Klavan: Video Games: The Last Refuge of Manhood

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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