Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Polling Problems, Again

 Politico Playbook:

As our polling guru Steve Shepard reports today, the competing firms — ALG Research, GBAO Strategies, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, Global Strategy Group and Normington Petts — banded together in an unusual collaboration after the election to conduct a self-autopsy of sorts. It acknowledged “major errors” and a failure “to live up to our own expectations” — yet, frustratingly, no easy solution to the problem of consistently overestimating how major Democratic candidates, including JOE BIDEN, would perform.

Among the culprits:
  • Deteriorating public trust in institutions, government, the news media and, yes, the polling industry — driven by DONALD TRUMP’S bashing of those very institutions. Essentially, Trump voters were less willing to participate in polls.
  • Pollsters again underestimated turnout among rural and white non-college-educated voters, who overwhelmingly backed Trump.
  • Failure to detect late movement toward Trump and Republican candidates in the run-up to the election.
  • Not accurately accounting for the fact that Democrats stayed home and answered their phones in greater numbers last year than Republicans who did not follow Covid-19 restrictions as closely.
Read the full story here. And read the memo here.
Pew Research Center is among the organizations examining its survey processes. The Center does not predict election results, nor does it apply the likely voter modeling needed to facilitate such predictions. Instead our focus is public opinion broadly defined, among nonvoters and voters alike and mostly on topics other than elections. Even so, presidential elections and how polls fare in covering them can be informative. As an analysis discussed, if recent election polling problems stem from flawed likely voter models, then non-election polls may be fine. If, however, the problem is fewer Republicans (or certain types of Republicans) participating in surveys, that could have implications for the field more broadly.

This report summarizes new research into the data quality of Pew Research Center’s U.S. polling. It builds on prior studies that have benchmarked the Center’s data against authoritative estimates for nonelectoral topics like smoking rates, employment rates or health care coverage. As context, the Center conducts surveys using its online panel, the American Trends Panel (ATP). The ATP is recruited offline via random national sampling of residential addresses. Each survey is statistically adjusted to match national estimates for political party identification and registered voter status in addition to demographics and other benchmarks.2 The analysis in this report probes whether the ATP is in any way underrepresenting Republicans, either by recruiting too few into the panel or by losing Republicans at a higher rate. Among the key findings:

  • Adults joining the ATP in recent years are less Republican than those joining in earlier years. 
  • Donald Trump voters were somewhat more likely than others to leave the panel (stop taking surveys) since 2016, though this is explained by their demographics. 
  • People living in the country’s most and least pro-Trump areas were somewhat less likely than others to join the panel in 2020.