Thursday, May 20, 2021

AAPOR Dissects the 2020 Polls

A Wall Street Journal headline shouts out: “Trump-Biden Was Worst Presidential Poll Miss in 40 Years,” which was the opening statement from a presentation at the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) report at their 2021 national conference.

The opening bullet point of principle researcher, Professor Joshua Clinton of Vanderbilt University, was a little out of context in what appears to be a thorough investigation of the performance of national and state polls in the 2020 election. Fortunately, AAPOR president, Dan Merkel, put the task force work in a broader context from his perspective as head of ABC News Elections. In his presidential address, he pointed out that well-identified under-polling of Republican and Trump-preferring voters led to an overall error rate that was still modest given the challenges in 2020 and was diminished after the final votes were counted.

The 2020 pandemic election, with record early voting and voter turnout and the ceaseless attacks on the media and polling by former President Trump, created circumstances that made polling more difficult, but also showed the industry’s  resilience and adaption. In fact, polls were very accurate in the 2018 election and the January 2021 Georgia senate runoff.

The final AAPOR report is due later this summer and will, no doubt, lead to adjustments in polls as the 2022 and next presidential races begin.

Polling’s future will be discussed at the June 9 OLLI Zoom presentation.

See: Polling in 2020 and Its Future

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