The Polls Are Actually Fairly Accurate

Nate Silver: “With the 2018 midterm elections approaching, we’ve updated FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings for the first time since the 2016 presidential primaries. Based on how the media portrayed the polls after President Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton later that year, you might expect pollsters to get a pretty disastrous report card.”

“But here’s a stubborn and surprising fact — and one to keep in mind as midterm polls really start rolling in: Over the past two years — meaning in the 2016 general election and then in the various gubernatorial elections and special elections that have taken place in 2017 and 2018 — the accuracy of polls has been pretty much average by historical standards.”

The AP Plans to Replace Exit Polls

The Associated Press said that “it will begin conducting an elaborate election voter survey designed to replace the traditional in-person exit poll, which has been criticized in recent years for inaccuracy and failing to keep up with changes in how Americans vote,” the AP reports.

“The new AP VoteCast service, developed with NORC at the University of Chicago, uses a combination of online and telephone surveys conducted four days before Election Day and through the close of polls. In all, AP expects to conduct more than 85,000 interviews with voters for this year’s midterm election survey… That’s far more than the roughly 19,400 conducted by the exit poll in 2014… allowing for a deeper and more accurate understanding of the electorate.”

A Real-Time Polling Dashboard

This is great: Civiqs lets you track public opinion on dozens of issues, candidates, and campaigns, so you can see how events affect public opinion in real time.

The dashboard is updated daily with current measures of President Trump’s job approval rating, the 2018 generic House ballot, favorable ratings of the Democratic and Republican parties, attitudes towards gun control, and much more. There are no gaps between polls because polling is done daily. All of the results can be filtered and tabulated by age, race, gender, education, and party identification.

Study Finds Election Forecasts Lower Voter Turnout

Pew Research: “These probabilistic forecasts can give potential voters the impression that one candidate will win more decisively and may even lower the likelihood that they vote… The use of such probabilistic forecasts was a constant in coverage of the 2016 presidential race, with an average of 16 mentions per day in cable news broadcasts, according to the study. And at least in 2016, outlets with more liberal audiences featured more coverage. Forecasters uniformly favored Hillary Clinton to capture the White House, with odds ranging from 70% to 99%.”

“The new study finds that numbers like these can leave people with the impression that the race is far less competitive than when they see polling data presented as the percentage of the vote they are expected to get – something familiar to the public.”

Where Polls Live Forever

Cornell University political scientist Peter Enns, who also heads up the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, joins Chris Riback for a discussion on how American views have evolved — in big ways and really nuanced ways — over time on some of our biggest issues: immigration, criminal justice, religion, politics, and more.

Enns is also author of Incarceration Nation: How the United States Became the Most Punitive Democracy in the World.

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Thanks to the Cook Political Report for sponsoring this episode.