How wrong were the polls this time?


Keri Kelly

Many polls were taken before the election in order to guess the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election.

By Randle Kinswa, Co-Managing Editor/Sports Editor

In 2016, President Trump’s election was surprising to many.

The outcome according to state and federal polls, was to be an electoral repeat of 2012.

However, President Trump won the election which was shocking to pollsters.

This year, there was anticipation amongst all the mega-cable networks that the polls would not be so inaccurate this year as they kept showing polling data, either from an in-house group, or an outside firm. Polling was once again reported and trusted this election cycle.

So, how did the polling do this year?

Well, despite the major networks calling the presidential race for Biden on Saturday, the Democrats performed well under the projections made by the polling industry.

In three swing states President Trump had won easily in 2016, the polls had suggested that he was in danger of these three states, that he would all win easily in 2020.

ASEWU President Dante Tyler responding to questions at the Media and Politics panel discussion on May 16. Tyler is graduating from EWU at the end of this school
year and will be attending law school at the University of Washington next fall. (Richard N. Clark IV)

In the final polls taken on Monday, November 2, President Biden held a lead in the state of Florida by 0.9 points. Biden would lose Florida to Trump on election night, by 3.4 points.

In the final polls for Ohio, Trump had a slight lead over Biden by one point. On election night, Trump would win the state by 8.2 points.

In the finals polls for Iowa, Trump held onto a slim lead of 1.2 points. He would go on to win the state by 8 points. 

There was also a notion that perhaps Texas, would flip blue this election season. In the final polls, Trump held a slim lead of 1.3 points. The polls would once again be wrong, and Trump won the Lone Star State by 5.8 points.

The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. So the final data in those states is for now, unknown. 

The presidential race map by the end of the night on November 3rd, 2020.

National polls had Biden winning by nearly nine points as of Friday, Oct. 30th. With the lawsuits in the states above pending, the total popular vote for both candidates is unknown. As of Saturday, November 7, the day the major networks called the presidential election to Biden, it appeared that Biden had won the popular vote by nearly 5%. Still very short of what had been predicted.

The polls had also shown senate candidates for the GOP that were projected to lose on election night that actually won in Maine, North and South Carolina.

Perhaps the most embarrassing poll this cycle, was the senate race in Maine between the incumbent Republican Suzane Collins and the Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon. Gideon was largely ahead the entire summer where she led by nearly 9 points. In the final weeks of October, Gideon’s lead narrowed to 6 points. By the time election night had come around, Collins would win the race not in a narrow upset, but electorally killed Gideon, by 8.8 points. 

The polling industry has now had two elections back-to-back, where polling was inaccurate and oftentimes egregiously inaccurate.