Dang, Polling

Dr. Munr Kazmir
4 min readJun 12, 2021

You’ve changed.

Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash.

Polling in America has changed.

Many pollsters are no longer making a good-faith determination of public opinion on any particular issue or politician. Instead, polls are being commissioned and deployed strategically to influence public opinion, the outcome of upcoming elections, the direction of public policies, and all sorts of other things.

None of this is good of course.

In spite of the fact that polls are breaking increasingly favorably for Democrats, such does not necessarily translate into success at the ballot box. Without reliable polls, Democrats can’t even be certain that their strategic polling is having any effect.

In 2016, pollsters humiliated themselves by swearing blind that Donald Trump had no chance of becoming president. Based on polls, the best odds any mainstream media outlet was willing to give him were 15%. Even betting oddsmakers, not ones to be distracted by little things like political preferences and media narratives, lost a mint betting against Donald Trump based on the unrivaled strength of polling numbers against him.

In 2018, pollsters didn’t fare much better. Democrats managed to take back the House in 2018, yes, but the opposing party generally is more successful in the mid-term elections as a rule. Voters like checks on political power in Washington.

Still, Democrats didn’t make the kinds of gains they were hoping to make in 2018, especially considering the enormous pressure the media was then bringing to bear on Trump for the Russia and Ukraine scandals.

According to pollsters in 2020, even pre-Covid, Donald Trump was supposed to lose in a landslide. Considering how unremittingly negative media coverage of the Trump presidency was, and considering what the polls were reflecting, he should have had no chance at all.

That he came as close as he did in 2020, in spite of everything, including Covid-19, should have frightened vulnerable Democrats badly enough to stop taking polls at face value.

But aside from lamenting that Republicans, and especially Trump-voting Republicans are harder for pollsters to reach than ever and are now actively resistant to being polled, Democrats don’t seem much troubled by the phenomenon.