NYT: Polls May Be Headed For Another Major Miss, Overstating Dem Support In Battleground States
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 05: Voters cast their ballots at a Masonic Lodge on June 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. California could play a determining role in upsetting Republican control the U.S. Congress, as Democrats hope to win 10 of the 14 seats held by Republicans.
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The New York Times’ chief political analyst said Monday that the 2022 midterms may be yet another massive miss for the polling industry.

Democrats have been surging in the polls in several key battleground states. But, in an article entitled “Yes, the Polling Warning Signs Are Flashing Again,” New York Times Chief Political Analyst Nate Cohn said that the same errors in data collection that vastly overstated Democratic support in the 2020 election are cropping up again in the same areas in recent polling, meaning that Democrats may not be as strong as polls indicate.

Cohn began his article with a data table from 2020 showing the gap between media and university polling and the actual election results in 11 battleground states. Among the more egregious errors:

  • in Wisconsin, President Joe Biden had a 10-point advantage over former President Trump in the statewide polling average; Biden won the state by less than one point, a 9-point miss.
  • In Pennsylvania, Biden led Trump by 5 points in the polls; he won the state by 1 point, a 4-point miss.
  • in Florida, Biden held a 2-point advantage over Trump; Trump won Florida by 3 points, a 5-point miss.
  • in Ohio, polls showed that Trump led Biden by less than one point: he won it by 8, a 7-point miss.
  • Trump led in Iowa by 1 point; he won it by 8, another 7-point miss.

“We created this poll error table for a reason: Early in the 2020 cycle, we noticed that Joe Biden seemed to be outperforming [Hillary] Clinton in the same places where the polls overestimated her [in 2016],” Cohn recalled. “That pattern didn’t necessarily mean the polls would be wrong — it could have just reflected Mr. Biden’s promised strength among white working-class voters, for instance — but it was a warning sign.”

“That warning sign is flashing again: Democratic Senate candidates are outrunning expectations in the same places where the polls overestimated Mr. Biden in 2020 and Mrs. Clinton in 2016,” he added.

A similar phenomenon is taking place in states like Wisconsin in 2022, Cohn wrote. According to FiveThirtyEight’s electoral fundamentals index, Johnson is a two-point favorite over Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. But a recent Marquette University poll, which Cohn calls the “gold-standard” in Wisconsin, has Barnes leading Johnson by 7 points. Wisconsin was “ground zero for survey error in 2020,” said Cohn, and the potential polling misses between the 2020 and 2022 elections closely mirror each other.

“It raises the possibility that the apparent Democratic strength in Wisconsin and elsewhere is a mirage — an artifact of persistent and unaddressed biases in survey research,” Cohn wrote. “If the polls are wrong yet again, it will not be hard to explain. Most pollsters haven’t made significant methodological changes since the last election.”

Cohn’s analysis come after at least one independent pollster pointed out that institutional polling firms missed badly in battleground states in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020. On his podcast, “Inside the Numbers,” Big Data Poll director Richard Baris pointed out on Friday that Ron Johnson ran behind former Senator Russ Feingold for most of the 2016 election cycle in public polling, by double-digit margins in some polls; the final polling average, according to RealClearPolitics, showed Feingold ahead by 2.7 points. Johnson won the election by 3.4 points, a nearly five-points miss.

Other polling misses Baris pointed out included: Pat Toomey vs. Katie McGinty in 2016, Thom Tillis vs. Cal Cunningham in 2020, and even David Purdue vs Michelle Nunn in 2014.

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