News & Politics

Trump Campaign Manager: Polling is Dead

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President Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, told CBS News that polling is no longer a reliable way to judge a race for political office.

“I just think the country is too complex now to call a couple hundred people and ask them what they think,” Brad Parscale told CBS News hours ahead of Trump’s event Tuesday evening in Orlando, Fla., to officially kick off his 2020 campaign.

“There are so many ways and different people who show up and vote now. The way turnout works now,” he said. “The abilities we have now to turn out voters. The polling can’t understand that. And that’s why the polling was so wrong in 2016. It was 100% wrong. Nobody got it right — not one public poll. The reason why — it’s not 1962 anymore.”

Truer words were never spoken.

It’s not that serious pollsters don’t understand this. They are as perplexed as ordinary people about how wrong the polls have been in many races. They are at a loss to explain it because they can’t put their finger on what is really screwing things up and skewing the numbers.

Parscale thinks it’s the process of polling — whom they call, how they get in touch with them, and. remarkably, finding enough people who will talk to them. Trump didn’t cause this revolution. The changes are largely technology-driven, but he has become the primary beneficiary. Because many times the polls have been inaccurate or just plain wrong, many people on both sides simply don’t believe them.

This is what’s driving the death of polls. Pollsters rely so much on their reputations for accuracy, that it only takes a few hiccups to cause people to seriously question their accuracy.

Chris Cillizza interviewed CNN’s polling expert Jennifer Agiesta back in January, who said essentially the same thing:

That all comes back to the economics of polling. It’s CRAZY expensive to do high-quality phone polling, even more expensive to do it every day. We’ve seen the effects of that as some news organizations have dialed back the amount of polling that they’re doing in response to the increased costs, and in the groups that have switched from conducting regular phone polls to those using online interviews or other methods that are less expensive. That trend seems unlikely to change, especially as the share of Americans reachable only by cell phone rises. The latest data on that shows at least 52% of American adults live in homes that are reachable only by cell phones, and two-thirds or more under age 45 fall into that category.

Also, if you’re reading, please pick up your phone when a pollster calls you. We really do want your opinions!

Polling is often misunderstood, especially “snapshot” polls that measure voter preference over several days. Also, there are so many more variables at work today, including the lightning speed of the news cycle, that daily tracking polls have become meaningless. That’s why Gallup gave it up. Only Rasmussen engages in tracking the president’s numbers on a daily basis and their methodology has been heavily criticized.

Is there any reason at all to give any credibility to public polls? As a very rough measurement of voter preference, probably not. But internal, private polls paid for by campaigns are a different story in that they extensively interview potential voters over several days or weeks. This way, they are able to catch subtle changes in voter attitudes. These polls are incredibly expensive but very valuable.

Parscale knows that Trump is behind, but the race hasn’t even begun yet. An opponent hasn’t even emerged for Trump yet, and when he/she does, those numbers are very likely to flip dramatically as Trump begins his attacks and the voters begin focusing on the radical nature of his likely foe.