Pollsters trade group: Biden-Trump surveys most inaccurate in 40 years

A preliminary assessment of polling ahead of the 2020 presidential election by the top public opinion research trade group found that surveys of the race between President Biden and former President Trump were the most inaccurate in four decades.

Members of the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s task force on the 2020 election revealed their initial findings on Wednesday at the trade group’s annual conference, The Wall Street Journal reported. They said that polls of the race overestimated Biden’s national support by nearly 4 percentage points in the two-week period leading up to the election.

The last time polling so drastically overstated a candidate’s support was in 1980 when surveys overestimated support for former President Carter by about 6 percentage points. 

The task force outlined multiple explanations for why public opinion polling in 2020 was so far off. For one,  some voters simply refused to participate in polls, potentially skewing the results, the Journal reported. 

It’s also possible that Trump was able to turn out new or infrequent voters who don’t identify with either major political party, making it difficult for pollsters to estimate what the electorate would look like. Trump also routinely criticized public polling, potentially discouraging his supporters from participating in them.

The task force has not yet released its final report on polling in the 2020 election, which was based on an analysis of more than 2,000 polls taken ahead of the November contest. 

The analysis emerged out of questions surrounding why the 2020 presidential race was so much closer than many polls suggested it would be. In the lead-up to the election, many public surveys showed Biden carrying wide leads over Trump, including in states that the former president ultimately carried.

While the study managed to identify several potential reasons for why polling failed to accurately predict the outcome of the election, experts have so far struggled to pinpoint a solution to the problem. 

One possible complication may have been Trump’s presence on the ballot, meaning things could potentially return to normal when his name is not on the ticket, the group’s president, Dan Merkle, said, according to The Wall Street Journal. That idea is supported by the fact that polling of the 2018 midterm elections was largely accurate. 

Tags 2018 midterms 2020 election AAPOR Donald Trump Jimmy Carter Joe Biden Polling public opinion research

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