Wednesday, December 21, 2016

From 538: ‘Shy’ Voters Probably Aren’t Why The Polls Missed Trump

I'll compile a list of articles highlighting what went wrong - and right - in the polls leading up to the 2016 presidential election. One prevailing theory was that some Trump voters did not want to tell a human on the telephone - a pollster - that they intended to vote for him.

The following analysis finds little support for that argument. Below is his first point - there was no evidence that his vote totals were higher in places where he was unpopular.

- Click here for the article.
. . . the “shy Trump” theory relies on the notion of social desirability bias — the idea that people are reluctant to reveal unpopular opinions. So if the theory is right, we would have expected to see Trump outperform his polls the most in places where he is least popular — and where the stigma against admitting support for Trump would presumably be greatest. (That stigma wouldn’t carry over to the voting booth itself, however, so it would suppress Trump’s polling numbers but not his actual results.) But actual election results indicate that the opposite happened: Trump outperformed his polls by the greatest margin in red states, where he was quite popular. The two states that had the largest polling error for Trump were Tennessee and South Dakota, where Trump won more than 60 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Trump underperformed his polls in states where the stigma against him would seem to be strongest: deep-blue states like California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Washington.2We don’t have polling data for areas smaller than states, so it is possible that Trump outperformed his polls in the blue pockets of red states or underperformed them in red pockets of blue states. But there is no evidence to suggest that this happened. Overall, as my colleague Carl Bialik and I (as well as Andrew Gelman) have pointed out, there’s a very strong correlation between how Republican a state is and how much better Trump did than polling averages indicated he would.

The author offers the following graphic to support the point above. It also shows that states are increasingly polarized according to political party. What this means for the governability of the nation is worth discussing.


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