Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden enjoys a significant lead over President Donald Trump in the battleground states of Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the most recent poll released before Tuesday’s debate.
That poll, ironically released by Trump-backed Fox News, was conducted among likely voters and showed Biden with an 11-point lead over the president in Nevada, where 52 percent of respondents said they want Biden elected.
In Pennsylvania, 51 percent supported Biden and 44 percent supported Trump. In Ohio, 50 percent supported Biden and 45 percent supported Trump.
Pundits noted that Trump’s 2016 victories in Pennsylvania and Ohio were critical to his electoral win that year. Nevada narrowly voted for then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
However, most voters may recall that at this time during the 2016 election, Clinton led in most – if not all – polls. The former secretary of state would eventually lose in electoral college voting despite easily capturing the popular vote.
That – and Democrat Al Gore’s controversial 2000 loss to Republican George W. Bush – has made many Americans skeptical of polls.
“I constantly hear that you can’t trust the polls based on how the election went in 2016 but the national polling in that race was actually spot-on,” said political activist and lawyer Jeffrey Johnson.
A managing editor at FreeAdvice.com, Johnson noted that Clinton was polling at about 2 percent better than Trump and won about 2 percent more of the popular vote.
“That the national popular vote isn’t what determines who becomes president doesn’t change the fact that the polls were pretty accurate,” Johnson observed.
Marketing expert Karen Condor warned that political polls should face severe scrutiny.
“You should scrutinize political polls the same way you do when choosing your life insurance,” she proclaimed.
“Don’t go all-in on the first thing you see. Be discerning. Do your research. Shop around. Get the full picture. Both insurance companies and pollsters each use multiple basic factors for their results, but no two are the same.”
Condor determined that the problem with political polls lies in the importance placed on them.
“They are reported as news. They give an illusion of knowledge, of control, of being able to predict the future,” Condor said.
“Their purported importance leads many politicians to become poll-chasers, adjusting their stances to follow the polls even if it leads them astray from their platform and principles. It eventually backfires on them and they are branded as flip-flops.”
Still, many news organizations and political watchers anxiously await post-debate polls, which generally provide a bounce to the candidate who performs best.
Logan Phillips, the editor-in-chief of RacetotheWH.com, a political news site that projects the winner of the presidential and senate elections, called polling the single most crucial element of his forecasting.
“When I tested it in past cycles, my model correctly predicted the winner of each state over 95 percent of the time,” Phillips proclaimed.
“Polls are the single most useful tool we have to understand the views of the electorate. However, we have to put them in their proper context. They are usually a snapshot in time of what people thought last week.”
Phillips noted that public opinion could, and often does, change over time. Additionally, he offered, no poll is ever perfect when it comes to predicting elections.
“They represent what pollsters believe the electorate will look like. Sometimes, like in Wisconsin in 2016, they can get that call wrong,” he stated.