How Polls May Have Missed President Trump

10 Nov

The SC\LA Times Daybreak tracking poll was one of the few polls which predicted the outcome of the USA Presidential election correctly. The article available at the link below (by David Lauter) outlines the detail behind why this poll may have succeeded as opposed to just got lucky. The most intriguing aspect from my perspective was that the poll weighted for “undercover voters”.

Undercover voters are a variable not explored by the majority of polls, but where explored by the SC\LA Times Daybreak tracking poll. This group is a segment of the population who did not vote in 2012, but if they did vote in 2016, the question was asked- who would they vote for?

Undercover voters are also people who are not comfortable revealing their voting intentions to various groups of other people. For example, Trump voters were reported as being uncomfortable revealing their voting intentions during telephone surveys. If a poll weights for these and similar interrelations between variables- who didn’t vote in 2012 but could vote in 2016 and for who and, degree of discomfort in discussing voting intentions with a stranger, then the polling result starts to look different.

If we examine this relationship between Trump voting intentions and preparedness to admit voting intentions to a stranger, then it becomes easier to see how polls could be missing out on crucial data in the analysis.

The results illustrate the value of a broad perspective when analyzing data and drawing conclusions. Examining not just voter intention, but the relationship of the voter with their chosen candidate (is it a candidate they are comfortable discussing with strangers?) can potentially reveal more accurate polling results. This principle underpins so much of systems thinking in decision making. Knowledge of relationships and interactions can frequently beat sheer number of variables.


Link to Article by David Lauter

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