Are the Polls Accurate

“Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” So said the late comedian, Chico Marx in the 1933 comedy classic, Duck Soup. This line has been quoted (and misquoted) often in the intervening years. In any event, I think it accurately describes what is occurring in the 2020 presidential election campaign.

On the one hand, we have the polls, which have been consistently reporting Biden leading both in the overall vote and in most of the battleground states. If we believe these polls Biden will be elected by a landslide.

On the other hand, night after night we see massive turnouts for Mr. Trump’s rallies and the tremendous enthusiasm these crowds are generating. By contrast, Biden’s crowds are significantly smaller and less enthusiastic. The media has been trying to disguise this fact, but we can see it on tv with our own eyes.

This inconsistency causes one to doubt the validity of the polls. We saw the same thing in 2016, and we all know how that election turned out. I am not an expert on the science of polling, but various pundits have put forth theories as to why the polls seem at odds with what we are actually seeing. Some of them are the following:

  1. The sampling, itself, is flawed in that pollsters interview proportionally a higher percentage of Democrats than Republicans.
  2. Some Trump supporters are reluctant to admit it to a pollster.
  3. It is difficult to quantify the impact of this higher level of enthusiasm among Trump supporters. Many pollsters believe enthusiastic supporters are more likely to actually vote, but the effect of that likelihood is subjective.
  4. According to various reports, the GOP is ahead of the Dems in registering new voters, and new voters are generally more motivated to vote.

Meanwhile, Biden continues to commit gaffes. In just the last few days:

  1. He referred to Mr. Trump as having won Ohio “two times,” as if he (Trump) were running for the third time.
  2. He couldn’t recall Mitt Romney’s name, referring to him as “that Mormon.”
  3. He confused former Senators Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy. One would be hard-pressed to find two Senators more unalike than them.
  4. In answering a reporter’s question he referred to voters as having “poor memory,” a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black!


All the various polls I have been monitoring are consistently predicting Biden as the winner. For example, the Guardian has him leading 52% – 42% nationally. Moreover, according to the same poll he is leading in six of the eight battleground states (FL, PA, MI, NC, AZ and WI) by between 2% and 8%. Trump has a 2% lead in Ohio, and Iowa is dead even. The other polls are reporting similar results. So, Biden will win in a landslide, right?

Not so fast. These polls are eerily similar to those of 2016. We all remember how that turned out. For the reasons cited above I expect a very close election, at least in electoral votes.

Also, it is noteworthy that a recent Gallup Poll disclosed that 56% of voters think they are better off today than they were four years ago. That is one of the highest percentages ever recorded, and it is all the more remarkable when you consider that we are in the midst of a pandemic.

It’s a timeworn cliche, but the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day.



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