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Articles on Polling

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A voter exits a polling location on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Election polls in 2020 produced ‘error of unusual magnitude,’ expert panel finds, without pinpointing cause

A task force of polling experts found surveys notably understated support for Donald Trump, both nationally and at the state level. Here’s what may have gone wrong, according to a polling historian.
Biden supporters in Philadelphia celebrate when his win – with a much smaller margin than predicted by polls – was projected by news outlets on Nov. 7, 2020. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Survey experts have yet to figure out what caused the most significant polling error in 40 years in Trump-Biden race

Stung by their failure to accurately predict the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, pollsters collectively went off to figure out what went wrong. They have yet to figure out what or why.
Pollsters predicted a much higher vote for Joe Biden, including in Florida, where workers at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office in Largo process voters’ ballots on Nov. 3. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

In its troubled hour, polling could use an irreverent figure to reset expectations

Pollster Bud Roper once said of his field that “a good deal more than half is art and … less than half is science.” After the 2020 polls got a lot wrong, is it time for more candor from pollsters?
Watching the presidential election returns on election night in retirement community of The Villages, Florida. Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

An embarrassing failure for election pollsters

Polls predicted a ‘blue wave’ that didn’t materialize.
Voters wait to cast their ballots Tuesday at Johnston Elementary School in the Wilkinsburg neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

A Q&A with a historian of presidential polls

An expert on the history of polling has a first take on how pollsters did this year.
Supporters on election night 2016 at a Hillary Clinton party, when it became clear poll-based forecasts had been off target. Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Why Americans are so enamored with election polls

Polling is an imperfect attempt at providing insight and explanation. But the public’s desire for insight and explanation about elections never ends, so polls endure despite their flaws and failures.
Legendary New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin, right, ready to do shoe-leather journalistic research in a bar, said preelection polls were “monstrous frauds.” Michael Brennan/Getty Images

When noted journalists bashed political polls as nothing more than ‘a fragmentary snapshot’ of a moment in time

There was a time when well-known journalists resented preelection polls and didn’t mind saying so. One even said he felt “secret glee and relief when the polls go wrong.” Why did they feel this way?

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