Ask most people how they feel about polling this week, as the future presidency remains in the balance, and you’ll get an earful.
“We need a rehabilitation of the entire system,” said Sumaira Ahmed of Brookline.
“I just think they’re too unpredictable,” said Tracy Bindel of Jamaica Plain.
That’s because the vast majority of polls leading up to Tuesday’s presidential election showed Joe Biden ahead in almost every battleground.
It happened before. In 2016, polls showed Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump, leaving Democrats crushed when the votes were tallied.
“I believe in stats, but it’s also undeniable that the polls have been off for two presidential contests and they’ve been off in the same direction: undercounting Donald Trump,” UMass Boston professor Erin O’Brien said.
She doesn’t think Trump supporters are lying to pollsters, she said. “Rather, I think that Trump supporters view pollsters in the same realm as elites.”
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Andy Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center said that isn't surprising.
“For the last five years, Trump has been talking about fake news and fake polls,” he said.
The industry is going through a paradigm shift, according to Smith, moving away from polling by phone to web-based surveys.
“And in this election, our poll was dead on in predicting Biden and Trump support here in New Hampshire,” he noted.
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David Paleologos, of Suffolk University‘s Political Research Center, said he's hoping that's good for polling.
“That shakes out pollsters who are just in it for the attention and not in it for the research,” he said.
Now, the industry is working to figure it out, according to Paleologos. “I’m trying to get my fellow pollsters to consider doing just rural ... voters to get into the mindset ... if in fact they are under-counted.”
Most pollsters are confident polling will remain relevant, because journalists, academics and the general public have become so reliant on it.