Polls were off in Wisconsin and nationwide, again

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- It appears Joe Biden won the state of Wisconsin, as polls projected, barring a recount.

But just as they did in 2016, polls drastically underestimated President Donald Trump's support.

The Marquette Law Poll, considered one of the most accurate in the state, was one of the most accurate yet again. But the final poll projected Biden to win by 5 points, and 4 points in a high-turnout election. Biden won by about .6 points in reality. The poll was a bit of an outlier, given that the result was within the margin of error.

"The margin of error for that poll was 4.4 percentage points," said Marquette Law Poll Director Charles Franklin. "So it's definitely a tighter race than what our 4 or 5 point margins had, but it's not far from that."

The margin in other polls was generally higher, sometimes as high as projecting Biden with a 17 point advantage.

"We did of course see other polling in the state with considerably bigger margins in the 8-10 or 11 point range," Franklin said.

Brandon Savage, who has worked as a consultant for Democratic campaigns across the state, said internal Democratic polling is also off, both in the presidential race, and for state lawmakers.

“Internal polling in the Democratic Party and with campaigns showed a lot of these races where people were supposed to win by 6, 7 points, and didn’t win at all,” Savage said.

There are theories as to why polls have been missing. One, is people don’t want to tell pollsters their opinion. Some believe there are so-called "shy Trump voters" who don't feel it is socially acceptable to tell pollsters their opinion, but will still vote for the president.

“Polls are only as good as the truth that people are telling the pollster," Savage said.

Another theory, is Democrats are missing potential voters Republican internal polls are finding.

“When you go into a lot of smaller towns, if you go into Delavan, or you go into Fond du Lac County, there’s a lot better of an ability for Republicans and Republican candidates to connect with those voters,” Savage said.

Marquette Political Science Professor Amber Wichowsky said one issue for public polls is society shifting away from polling methods.

“It used to be that pollsters would call on landlines, like on a phone," Wichowsky said. "Few Americans have landlines right now.”


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