Donald Trump shocked the world on Tuesday night to become president-elect of the U.S. in a stunning upset over Hillary Clinton, but it shouldn’t have seemed so shocking. America was duped by unreliable polls that didn’t come close to the actual results on Election Day.
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is supposed to specialize in data-based journalism but the site reported on Tuesday morning that Clinton had a 71.4 percent chance of winning the election. The site was wrong about the outcome inmajor battleground states including Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
“I’ve believed in data for 30 years in politics and data died tonight,” GOP strategist Mike Murphy tweeted. “I could not have been more wrong about this election.”
We live in world of supposedly perfect information, big data, but they got it wrong, bigly. So what the hell happened?
The Trump campaign has referred to the “monster vote,” representing politically disengaged Americans who typically don’t vote but would turn out for Trump. It was called the “monster vote” because of its unknown size and how scared it made political traditionalists. This strategy clearly came to fruition, as existing models of most polls don’t include people who haven’t voted in recent elections.
Another theory is that many Trump supporters were simply ashamed to admit that they were going to vote for the GOP nominee and lied to pollsters. Trump is one of the most polarizing figures in American history and many voters wouldn’t even admit it to a complete stranger looking to conduct a poll.
New York Times columnist Stephen Crowley thinks the “misfire” was about more than faulty polling.
“It was a failure to capture the boiling anger of a large portion of the American electorate that feels left behind by a selective recovery, betrayed by trade deals that they see as threats to their jobs and disrespected by establishment Washington, Wall Street and the mainstream media,” Crowley wrote before noting that his own paper gave Clinton an 84 percent chance of winning as recently as Tuesday evening.
One poll consistently had an accurate snapshot of the electorate — the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times “Daybreak” poll — but it was mocked by most political pundits and cable news talking heads as an outlier. But that poll had given Donald Trump a significant chance to win over the past four months.
The fact that the majority of mainstream media essentially loathes Trump probably didn’t help the situation. It’s fair to question if the polls would have received the same amount of attention if they had showed Trump winning.
Polls were also wrong regarding the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, so perhaps Murphy was accurate when he tweeted that data is dead.