House Democrats hurt by bad polling, GOP attacks in 2020, campaign chief says

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), on Tuesday said that both bad polling and GOP attacks focusing on the “defund the police” movement among progressives hurt House Democrats in the 2020 elections. 

Maloney in an interview with The Washington Post outlined his “Deep Dive” into the 2020 election, details of which were later shared with The Hill.

Maloney also included the findings in a 52-page PowerPoint presentation shared with his caucus during a Tuesday evening call. 

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The new committee chairman, who is looking to defend the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House in the 2022 midterm elections, said in his report that polling did not effectively predict a surge among pro-Trump voters that led to Democrats losing 11 House seats in 2020. 

Maloney, who along with senior staff looked at a total of 600 polls in House races last year and compared them to voting files from the November elections, found that polling underestimated Republican turnout, including in three competitive Iowa races. 

The Post reported that a final Democratic poll in South Florida before the party’s narrow loss there had predicted a 6-point victory.

Maloney found that this was likely a result of polling based on a voter makeup of 38 percent Democrats and 33 percent Republicans when the distribution was actually 34 percent Democrats and 36 percent Republicans. 

The "Deep Dive" report noted that inaccuracy of Democratic polling could likely be a result of voters who backed former President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE not responding at the same rate as others. 

“That creates what we call a systemic nonresponse bias, which is a mouthful. That’s a fancy way of saying the real Trump supporters don’t like talking to pollsters,” Maloney told the Post. 

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“If you had a crystal ball, you would have surged resources around incumbents that we now know were in more danger than the polling suggested and you would have felt less enthusiastic about some red-to-blue opportunities,” he added. 

Maloney also noted that the calls to defund the police that surged amid months of civil unrest in 2020 following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black people more negatively impacted House Democrats’ chances in 2020 than it did President BidenJoe BidenBiden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day Business lobby calls for administration to 'pump the brakes' on vaccine mandate Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Afghanistan reckoning shows no signs of stopping MORE's in his White House campaign. 

“We spent a bunch of time understanding how to respond more effectively, knowing that they’re going to do it again,” Maloney said Tuesday. “So we take that very seriously and I really want to be clear. I am not saying that those false attacks about defunding the police or socialism did not carry a punch.” 

In a statement shared with The Hill, Maloney said that House Democrats "are committed to protecting our majority to keep delivering real results to the American people, and that means learning the lessons of the last election and understanding where we can do better."

"Our extensive Deep Dive is designed to help us do more of what we found works and less of what doesn't," he added.

Maloney said that in 2022, "when Trump’s name is not on the ballot, there's no evidence that Republicans’ current message, which is divisive and reckless, will be able to recreate the turnout Republicans saw in 2020, and it might in fact hurt them."

Maloney last month rolled out the DCCC’s list of offensive targets for the 2022 midterms, focusing on 21 GOP-held districts and one open district currently held by a Democrat. 

Democrats are also already preparing for new defund the police attacks from Republicans, while more progressive Democrats look to continue calls to redirect money away from police departments and instead toward mental health and other social services.

--Updated on May 20 at 9:37 a.m.