Bottom line: Polls are cooked because pollsters are human

Bottom line: Polls are cooked because pollsters are human
Image: FiveThirtyEight

[Ed. – This whole post is worth a read.  A very good piece on why most polls, but not all, got it wrong.  Every now and then reality drives up the cost of running with the herd in fantasy-land, and 2016 is one of those years.  But most of the time, they get away with it.]

Two major polls — the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll and the Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP poll — put Trump ahead. Critics tried to get the L.A. Times poll kicked off the prestigious RealClearPolitics average of polls because it was an outlier.

Dan Schnur, a former aide to GOP Gov. Pete Wilson, director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics and self-described “midwife” of the USC poll, endured his share of abuse. Many reporters, he believed, could not lash out at Trump, so they vented at his poll.

The pressure to conform must have been overwhelming. Schnur answered that his people “are very steadfast. They wouldn’t have changed the methodology even if I begged them to.”

During the panel, pollster Brown explained the phenomenon of “herding,” where pollsters decide to reconfigure their numbers so that they fit other polls. Clearly, there is an institutional bias that pushes pollsters to ignore their own findings and stick to the so-called narrative. Later I asked Brown: Aren’t pollsters nervous about pushing their data in the wrong direction? “It’s better to be wrong with everyone,” he replied.

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