Why were polls incorrect about Trump’s victory?

Trump’s presidential election victory despite many major poll predictions against him reawaken a mystery not all too foreign in other parts of the world: How is it possible that so many pollsters failed to predict the election results?
Are election polls still reliable? Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

As voting centers opened throughout the US, many pollsters and political analysts were convinced that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s path towards the White House was already paved. Yet as voting came to a close this morning (Wednesday), it became clear that the early projections were completely incorrect.

On the morning of Election Day, pollster and FiveThirtyEight’s editor-in-chief Nate Silver predicted that Clinton had a 72% chance of winning the election. But at midnight, the tendency totally shifted and Silver estimated that current President-elect Donald Trump had an 84% chance of winning the presidency. Trump won majority votes in Florida, Wisconsin and North Carolina, all of which are key states that had previously given Clinton an advantage in most polls.

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Does everyone lie in polls? Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

This situation is all too familiar in other parts of the world. During Israel’s last elections, a majority of the polls gave Knesset Member Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) the advantage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The UK was so certain that its citizens would vote against Brexit and that the country would remain part of the EU. How is it possible that so many pollsters and political analysts continue incorrectly predicting election results?

Geoff Garin, a seasoned Democratic pollster who worked on Clinton’s primary election campaign, said that many pollsters failed to properly sample white Americans without a college education: A group that provided Trump with a huge advantage. He also added that too much emphasis was placed on the effect demographic changes within the US had on the election results. “Too many people believed that the demographics would lead to certain results,” Garin said. “The reality proved to be completely different.”


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