Thoughts/Questions on Polling and Errors

Mid-Term election day is finally here.

I only have my own sneaking suspicions as to the outcome, mixed in with some wishful thinking and curiosity as to what will occur. Consistently accurate forecasting seems to be nearly impossible across all industries, but there have been some signs it is getting better. Still, I have lingering doubts about the consistency and accuracy of the polls.

My friend and ace statistician Salil Mehta believes that most of the mainstream polling has an error rate that is 2x what’s claimed. In which direction he does not day.

The Mid-term elections looks more like a Presidential election, and that means something unusual is going on in the country. Whenever I have no special insight into the outcome of a future event, I find it helpful to ask at least form questions about what might affect the process that determines the final results. What follows are some of those questions I have been thinking about recently:

Trump vs Hillary is a very different dynamic than Trump vs Everyone or perhaps even Trump vs Trump.

-Who is more motivated, Republican or Democratic voters? That is a key driver of outcome.

-Why didn’t the GOP focus on the Economy? Or Jobs? Or the Tax Cuts? What internal polling data did they see that shifted their focus?

-How effective are all of Trump’s “Distractions” ?

-A majority of suburban, college-educated women voted for Trump in 2016. They put him over the top in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Will they stay with him? How determinative will this group be this election?

-How secure are our election systems? Are we still vulnerable to hacks and other foreign influences?

-Who does polling track young people and those without landlines? What about those who are registered Independent?

-How significant will displaced Puerto Rican voters be in states like Florida and Texas?
(Related: Is there a national Hispanic Voter Bloc in America, or is it all local?)

-Supposedly, some people were embarrassed to admit supporting Trump to pollsters in 2016; anything similar this election? Might deep red states like Georgia, Arizona, and Texas also have shy voters who don’t want to admit they might cross party lines?

-Are Evangelicals sticking with the deal with the Devil they made?

-What is the takeaway of Nate Silver/538’s polling in 2016? Was this merely the low probability (but not impossible) event occurring? Or is there something fundamentally wrong with that model?

-Who is more motivated: Pro- or Anti-Trump voters? Do people want to retain the status quo (itself based on a change candidate) or do they want a different change? Is this a MAGA vs The Resistance election, or something else entirely?

-Have the social media networks been successful in thwarting Russian and other interference?

-Has polling gotten any better, or is it still a crap shoot?


There are lots more questions . . . guess we will find out some of the answers shortly . . .


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