Polls ahead of Election Day calling into question public policy decisions

Updated: Nov. 6, 2020 at 2:16 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - One thing both Democrats and Republicans can agree on is that the polls ahead of the election were yet again off. Maybe not as bad as 2016, but it’s raising questions about how those polls shape public policy.

“This time they got it wrong not just in swing states but nationally,” said Larry Sabato, UVa Center for Politics Executive Director.

Post election, political analysts say the polling was bad and it was bad everywhere. Here in Virginia, at times, various polls had democrat Joe Biden with a 15-point margin. Sabato points out, it didn’t work out that way. Biden will likely take the state by about 10-points. The same goes for some of the state’s congressional races.

“We hit our numbers precisely here in the Biden campaign here in the commonwealth but around the country, I would agree with you, Henry, they were off everywhere by 10 or 20 points,” said Terry McAuliffe, (D) Former Virginia Governor.

While not as off as 2016, Sabato says he still has issues with the margin errors adding that polling data is often used by elected-leaders to shape public policy.

“We need public opinion polling because it helps policy makers to take public opinion into account but it doesn’t help when the polls are wrong because it means public opinion is misrepresented,” said Sabato.

“It seems to me they just don’t have a grasp of what’s going on in the country and who they’re talking to and what the issues are,” said McAuliffe.

After 2016, pollsters promised things would be better and Sabato says those are clearly broken promises. He hopes something changes moving forward.

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