Pay No Attention to the Pollster Behind the Curtain

The dominant narrative of the Democrat-Media-Complex is that Joe Biden is coming back—look, his approval rating has risen above 40 percent! The “generic ballot” for the House shows Dems back in the lead! Democratic Senate candidates are leading their weakling Republican challengers in several red states! (Although in fact several recent polls reflect rising GOP Senate candidate strength in key races, but never mind.) Independent voters are breaking back to Democrats! Happy days are here again.

The Cook Political Report is already chilling the champagne for election night:

Democratic Senate candidates have been consistently outpolling Biden’s job approval ratings in their states. And, when it comes to the House, the share of voters who say they would vote for a Democrat for Congress is anywhere from 1 to 8 points higher than the percentage of voters who say they approve of the job Biden is doing. For example, the most recent Quinnipiac survey showed Biden’s job approval rating at 40 percent, yet 47 percent of voters said they were supporting a Democrat for Congress in November. In other words, many voters who are unhappy with Biden are nonetheless committed to supporting a Democratic candidate in November.

Not so fast, says Nate Cohn at the New York Times. He remembers the consistently pro-Dem polling errors of 2016 and 2020. And he has receipts. In fact he says the polls right now are in the “danger zone” for Democrats (cue Kenny Loggins): “Democratic Senate candidates are outrunning expectations in the same places where the polls overestimated Mr. Biden in 2020 and Mrs. Clinton in 2016.”

Start with this one:

The same pattern of polling “error,” by the way, showed up for the House in 2020, when Republicans picked up 13 seats despite all the polls and media expectations that Dems would gain 10 or more:

Cohn says this pattern can be seen in individual Senate races this year, and concludes:

It raises the possibility that the apparent Democratic strength in Wisconsin and elsewhere is a mirage — an artifact of persistent and unaddressed biases in survey research. If the polls are wrong yet again, it will not be hard to explain. Most pollsters haven’t made significant methodological changes since the last election. The major polling community post-mortem declared that it was “impossible” to definitively ascertain what went wrong in the 2020 election.

I have a hint: non-Democrat voters don’t trust pollsters, and don’t cooperate with them. Cohn comes close to admitting this:

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on abortion, some pollsters have said they’re seeing the familiar signs of nonresponse bias — when people who don’t respond to a poll are meaningfully different from those who participate — creeping back into their surveys.

Brian Stryker, a partner at Impact Research (Mr. Biden is a client), told me that his polling firm was getting “a ton of Democratic responses” in recent surveys, especially in “the familiar places” where the polls have erred in recent cycles.

My theory of the asymmetry in poll respondents by party is that liberals love to be polled because it flatters their inherent ideological narcissism, while conservatives are correctly distrustful of pollsters. On the few occasions when I’ve been reached by a pollster, I lie about my demographic profile and give massively contradictory answers on the individual questions to mess up their data set.

UPDATE: No sooner do I note this analysis than Echelon Insights comes out with these poll numbers:

I like a lot of the analytical work from Echelon Insights, but these numbers are nuts.

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