British polling experts who didn’t see Brexit coming on why the US should be prepared for a similar upset
While the latest twist in Hillary Clinton’s email controversy may have shaken her support base, Democratic voters have been feeling rather confident of late. But lessons from the other side of the pond suggest that polls are no reason for complacency. Pollsters in the UK who were surprised by the outcomes of the 2015 General Election and Brexit referendum say the same issues could distort predictions in the US presidential election.
First, a recap of what went wrong in the UK. Britain choosing to leave the European Union sent shockwaves around the world. Betting markets, politicians, and pundits were confident that Remain would win. Though the race was narrow and polling analysts collectively suggested it was too close to call, four of the six surveys released the day before the vote showed a win for Remain. But when the results came in, the Leave vote tipped ahead.
The results were enough of a surprise that British Polling Council (BPC) president John Curtice is holding a conference in December to investigate how and why the polls went wrong. And the misreading was all the more striking following on from the UK’s May 2015 General Election, where the polls were wildly off and an inquiry into the inaccuracies found “systemic” errors in survey methods.
Could the polls be wrong in the US? Clinton’s lead has narrowed to just 4.4%, while 15% of voters are currently undecided (compared to 5% at this stage in 2012.) A surprise Trump win looks unlikely, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Republican nominee Donald Trump recently suggested that many of his fans are keeping their support secret, so the polls aren’t an accurate reflection of his chances. The notion of “shy voters” was first described by the 20th century German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, who argued that voters who thought their choice was unpopular would be more likely to fall into a “spiral of silence” and keep quiet about their voting choice. “If you perceive that a particular voting choice is unfashionable, perhaps socially unacceptable, you may be reluctant to declare your views,” says Curtice.
Jonathan Mellon, sociology research fellow at Oxford University with a focus on polling data, says there’s some evidence that Republicans are less likely to respond to pollsters after a bad news day for their party, which fits in with “spiral of silence” theory. But, in fact, “shy voters” were not a significant source of error in the 2015 General Election or Referendum vote. In general, Trump voters seem proud of their candidate, and there’s no significant evidence that there are hordes of secret Trump fans keeping quiet.
An election unlike any other
But there are bigger potential sources of error at play. BPC president Curtice explains that in order to get a representative sample, pollsters must rely on knowledge from past elections about how much each demographic tends to vote. This was the key to errors in polling for the 2015 UK General Election, which ultimately overestimated the number of young people who would cast their vote, and was also a likely source of misunderstanding in predicting the Brexit vote.
“The question of whether different people may turn out to vote is a much trickier issue and one that has affected polls in a lot of countries in the past,” says Mellon. “If that question becomes miscalibrated, then that can certainly affect the results because you’re systematically excluding people at a higher rate than you should within certain groups, or you’re under-excluding them.”
The current US election is quite different from those in previous years, given the polarizing effect of both Clinton and Trump, and Trump’s disconnect from his own party. So there’s potential for pollsters to misjudge how each demographic is likely to vote.
“We’re talking about an election where the demographics of the vote is somewhat different from what you’d normally expect at a Democratic-Republican contest,” explains Curtice. “Given that the demographics of the Trump campaign has some similarities with the demographics of the Leave campaign, that’s a more interesting question [than “shy voters”]. Will it be the case that older white working class voters will come out in higher numbers than the polls anticipate because these folk are energized by Trump?” Meanwhile, “the Democrats are getting the suburban, white, college-educated vote who you’d normally expect to lead towards the Republicans on average.”
Low turnout and loyal Republicans
There’s also the question of how traditional Republican supporters are likely to vote. In general, most voters tend to stick with the same party. “The thing above all that best predicts how you’ll vote in the next election is how you voted in the last one,” says Curtice.
Michael Hanmer, politics professor at the University of Maryland says it will be “interesting” to see how Republicans behave in this election. He notes that 90% of those who strongly identify as Democrat say they’ll vote for Clinton, compared to just 80% of those who strongly identify as Republican and currently say they’ll vote for Trump.
“I think those who say they’re undecided now are genuinely conflicted,” he says. But when it comes to Election Day, they may skip the vote, go for a third party, or, “when they’re staring at the ballot, select the Republican ticket.”
It’s also extremely difficult to judge the level of turnout. Hanmer expects many Americans to stay at home—some because they dislike the candidates; others because they have a false sense of complacency from the polls. “It’s a tough situation to predict,” he adds. Most polls are predicting results based on “likely voters”, but “we don’t have a single agreed-upon definition of what that is in political science or among the media,” he says. Hanmer adds:
“Trying to get your head around who’s going to show up is particularly challenging this time. Voter models, like all models, are imperfect in the most predictable circumstances and this is probably one of the least predictable elections we’ve seen.”
Nobody knows what will happen
US polls do have more diverse methodology than those in the UK, and it’s unlikely that the pollsters will be drastically wrong. “Even if you’re really skeptical about the polls, at best Trump is hanging in there by his fingernails,” says Curtice. Yet all the polling experts I spoke to strongly warned against certainty.
Polls are “a reasonable best guess of what will happen,” says Mellon. It would take a “convergence of several forces of bad luck” for them to be wildly wrong, but an inaccurate prediction is certainly possible. After all, the candidates in this election are quite unlike those in previous years. “Because there are so many possible issues,” he says, “if they all converge in the same direction on Election Day, it could be enough to push it over.”
Carlos Danger may have opened Pandora’s Box for Huma and Hillary - 10/29/16ReplyDelete
Anthony Weiner may be looking at very hard time in prison over internet child sex crimes. How much does he know that could be used as a bargaining chip with federal prosecutors? More
Weiner best spill his guts about everything to try and avoid a severe rectum expansion program in prison.
Is this rectum expansion program another Big Government Giveaway?Delete
Former FBI Asst. Director: Final Bomb About to Drop on Hillary in Next 10 Days (VIDEO)ReplyDelete
James Kallstrom: I think there’s something happening. People are asking me what is this about. I think something big is going to happen. I don’t know what it is. It’s just my gut feeling. I think so.
Judge Jeanine: So he wouldn’t have come out unless he knew it was coming out?
James Kallstrom: Well, I think he couldn’t hold onto it any longer. OK. Because who knows? Maybe the locals would have stepped in on this.
Judge Jeanine: …I think he had to do it.
Bryan Suits on KFI (Podcast later this weekend)
1) New York FBI Office forced Comey's hand. Agents on Weiner case sent it to Washington office in September. Folder containing e-mails was designated "life insurance."
2) Russia has the e-mails.
3) Huma may be arrested.
Rumour circulating that Comey may resign.
Insomnia seems to bring out the Reflections Of My Life...ReplyDelete
How about you all?
I block out insomnia with podcasts and an occasional drink or two.Delete
During waking hours, daydreams flesh out the past in ever-increasing detail.
What a good idea!
Thinking of a whiskey coke :)
6 oz Beer, 4 oz wine.Delete
The sugar in the wine seems to help.
Coke should work too.
Carlos Danger may have opened Pandora’s Box for Huma and HillaryReplyDelete
The criminal investigation underway over Anthony Weiner’s alleged child s&x infraction has a couple of characteristics that make it especially awkward for Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin, the estranged wife of Weiner and close companion of Hillary.
Ed Timperlake points out to me that in an underage s&x investigation, all electronic communications of the investigative target are pursued.
This probably led to the grand jury that was announced 11 days ago issuing a subpoena for all of the devices in the possession of Weiner and his family, including Huma.
As Lucianne Goldberg quipped, they even seize the Speak & Spell toys in these cases. This grand jury is in New York, possibly less poltiically supervised than the first Hillary email investigation.
"It has been said and also demonstrated by his actions that Anthony Weiner is a real self-centered narcissist. If he remains true to his character, there is a possibility that he will consider cutting a deal for a lesser sentence in return for evidence and testimony against Clinton Inc.Delete
I bet he knows a lot.
Aside from his genitals, I don’t think Weiner has a reputation as a stand-up guy."
He was one of the democrats attack dogs.
The Weiner is the most powerful man in the world !Delete
The Weiner holds the keys to the Kingdom. !!
Join me in common knee bent prayer asking for wisdom and courage for The Weiner.....
The Weiner is the High Priest of the Church of the Rising Hard On.Delete
Shame on me for that tasteless comment
I believe I'll get some R&R in Heaven...ReplyDelete
Along that vein...Delete
Anybody here seen my old friend...
This is a prescription for your battle fatigue.
Find a Red Dirt Road and drive with your honey...
After you decompress,Delete
Who Says You Can't Go Home...
Skip to "Canine Update"ReplyDelete
In this incredibly wordy POS to get the good part where Jonah Goldberg gets his just deserts from a deer.
I've used up enough bandwidth now.ReplyDelete
DJ Saxum signing off.
Good morning and goodnight!
Breaking news or just BS?ReplyDelete
The Internet has begun roaring with postings from people all over the country, reporting multiple and very large military convoys on the move, National Guardsmen being called-up and ordered to report at 3:30 AM Saturday Morning, and tremendous amounts of unusual activity at almost every major US military installation in the 48 contiguous states. Some conspiracy-types believe there is a horrific “false flag attack” being prepared to divert the public’s attention from the disastrous news about Hillary Clinton today. If those Conspiracy Theorists are correct, what kind of false flag attack might divert the attention of the entire country for a week or two? Something huge!
3:30 Saturday morning...Delete
I'm going down on my knees in prayer now for the Wiener whether anyone joins me or not.ReplyDelete
Don't do that. He might get the wrong idea.
Justice demands that Hillary Clinton’s last moments on Planet earth should include the acrid smell of sisal rope.ReplyDelete
In 2011, Libya, then a modern state, was destroyed on the pretext that Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit genocide on his own people. That was the incessant news; and there was no evidence. It was a lie.
In fact, Britain, Europe and the United States wanted what they like to call “regime change” in Libya, the biggest oil producer in Africa. Gaddafi’s influence in the continent and, above all, his independence were intolerable.
So he was murdered with a knife in his rear by fanatics, backed by America, Britain and France. Hillary Clinton cheered his gruesome death for the camera, declaring, “We came, we saw, he died!”
The destruction of Libya was a media triumph. As the war drums were beaten, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian: “Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.”
Intervention — what a polite, benign, Guardian word, whose real meaning, for Libya, was death and destruction.
According to its own records, Nato launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. Look at the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. The Unicef report on the children killed says, “most [of them] under the age of ten”.
As a direct consequence, Sirte became the capital of ISIS.
Christians in Iraq would have been better off had Saddam Hussein not been hung, but at least he was hung.Delete
I didn't laugh.
Hillary cackled when Gaddafi was brutally tortured to death.
Nice Lady, or
Hillary Clinton is by any definition an international war criminal. Her only salvation is to stay in power or a presidential pardon. Will that be Barack Obama’s last ignominious act as a US President?ReplyDelete
I think she is going down.Delete
The gods have had it with her.
They are just playing with her for a while longer....
When it comes watch for landslide and very fast of some type....
Megyn thinks she can overcome rtanking popularity by wearing ever more outrageous clothing.....she is wrong.....Delete
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