On Trafalgar’s Minnesota poll: Howard Root comments

I’m observing Rosh Hashanah today. My friend Howard Root is lending a hand to a few Republican campaigns this year. Yesterday I asked him if he would respond to my comments on Trafalgar’s Minnesota poll that I could schedule to post this morning. Howard offered these observations (and I thank him for helping me take the day off):

1. What I find so refreshing about Robert Cahaly and his Trafalgar poll is that he admits the substantial and increasing difficulty in accurate polling, including his own. As we’ve seen repeatedly (especially with Covid), too many experts elevate the credibility of their results beyond what is warranted.

Their errors derive in part from the self-selection. Working in a profession you must think it’s credible, but lately I think it’s even more of a “we know better” pushback against the growing anti-establishment spirit. So the experts spend their time defending their credibility instead of working to improve their work product.

Cahaly is a breath of fresh air since he admits that pollsters have a difficult time reaching all kinds of likely voters and the old methods don’t work anymore. He understands that voters the pollsters can reach today are not representative of those they can. He describes the phenomenon as shy or submerged voters, but I think it’s even broader and would call it “leave me alone” voters.

These are largely Republican and independent voters, but they are unlike voters that most pollsters reach. These “unpollable” voters also are prone to sitting home on election day if they don’t feel the love from the Republican candidates in that cycle.

Because Cahaly is the only pollster I’ve seen who freely admits these issues, he’s the only one trying to counter that problem. His polls are short (so people don’t just hang up), better calibrated (based on asking what neighbors think), and reported with a large degree of humility. No one can say that the governor’s race moved from Jensen being down 18 (as one of the Minnesota polls had it) to being down only 3 in just two weeks, so at least one of those two polls is wrong wrong and the margin of error has nothing to do with that discrepancy. I give the Trafalgar poll high marks for adjusting to the new world, but I still have little confidence in the accuracy of its results.

2. Your point about Jensen running as a populist while Walz is running as the establishment is spot on, and I think that is the most important aspect of this race. Jensen has very little monetary support from the Republican establishment (Minnesota or nationwide) so he has to try to win a statewide race by personally meeting as many voters as he can. He simply can’t compete with the funds that will be spent supporting Walz. Jensen is outstanding as a populist as we saw at the State Fair every day and every night that he’s been appeared at another grassroots event.

Walz instead showed up for a few photo ops at the fair and now relies on his television commercials running nonstop to deliver his message. Big money makes a candidate lazy and Walz is engaged in carpet bombing instead of targeting. I think the abortion ads supporting Walz were initially very effective and the Jensen campaign did a bad job countering them. By now everyone in Minnesota has seen the abortion ads many times and seeing them again is like pushing a button on the elevator hoping it will arrive sooner. The abortion ads don’t work anymore in swaying new voters’ minds to Walz and some voters are getting very annoyed with them.

A friend mentioned to me that when his daughter was trying to watch a YouTube video geared for kids, on came a Walz abortion ad. When crime is the number 1 issue in voters’ minds and another new crime story is on the local news every night (shootings at a suburban high school football game?), voters may think that Walz’s priorities are misplaced if they continue to be bombarded with abortion ads. That’s not to say that I predict a Jensen victory, but I do think he is in the game.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.