The Real Reason Michigan Polls Were Dead Wrong on the Democratic Primary

Source: AP, via Washington Post

Political pollsters, pundits, and prognosticators, including the exalted wizards at Five-Thirty-Eight, truly screwed the pooch by calling the Michigan Democratic primary for Hillary.

Those same pundits, now sporting an egg facial, have posited a number of possible factors for their error with wild suppositions — including a large number of cross-over voters, a late surge due to Bernie’s ground game, voter debate reactions…on-and-on

None of these theories are the likely cause of the staggering difference between the numerous polling results, with Hillary enjoying on-average a 20-point lead, versus the actual voter outcome. Especially in light of the fact that the Republican polling numbers were pretty much spot-on.

What gives?

The short answer is: angry white men and their landlines. The longer answer though, is a bit more nuanced.

First, new FCC rules which took effect nearly a year ago, placed limits on auto-dialing of cell phone numbers and the use of fully automated surveys on numbers listed as cells without express prior consent, thereby reducing the efficacy of telephone surveys and polls.

Below is the landline-skewed polling meta-data that the media and pundits used to come by their flawed Democratic, and their accurate GOP predictions:

Michigan polling meta data

Millennials don’t typically have landlines, and they are one of the key demographics that came-out in droves to vote for Sanders. Young adults and non-whites are increasingly likely to shun tethered phones altogether:

Pew on cell phones

While the angry old white guys of Michigan hit the pause button on Duck Dynasty to dutifully answer their landline surveys — pressing 1 for Trump, 2 for Cruz, and 3 for Kasich, (bing! bing! bing!), a swath of Democrats remained unmolested by pollsters — leaving Democratic party leadership to settle-in, believing they had it in the bag with an easy slide home for Hillary.

Yet, it wasn’t just the under-thirty crowd that helped Sanders sweep nine out of ten of Michigan’s counties. Also under the pollsters’ radars were outstate Democrats, even those with landlines — whose phones rang mostly from get-out-the-vote calls — no broad-spectrum, non-partisan polling up north, only the occasional conservative PAC push-poll to punctuate the desolate howls of coyotes and whistling wind.

Democrats in west and northwest Michigan, along with a hardy crew of Yoopers — groups traditionally marginalized in state politics — toothless hillbillies that we are, ruled the day in the primaries. This is no small thing. At long last, outstate voters had a seat at the grownups’ table. The shifting power of political demographics may have the potential to move the needle on important public policy issues — not the least of which would be equity in school funding.

Michigan is certainly experiencing a time of change — let’s hope it’s for the better, because it can’t get much worse.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

 

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3 Responses to The Real Reason Michigan Polls Were Dead Wrong on the Democratic Primary

  1. Gretchen says:

    Southwest Michigan boomers here.
    We voted Bernie because we remember vividly how we both starved through college and grad school. We would also like to see socialized medical care in the US, similar to what most countries have. Want to make America great again? Make it a bit easier to get a college education and have access to free (or affordable) medical care without having to choose between food and insurance premiums/prescription costs as we did. Yes, we made that all work. But that doesn’t mean others in the next generation should have to make the same choices.

  2. Jill Thurtell says:

    You totally hit the nail on the head with this one. Yhr government is so behind the times with social media, the exception being Bernie’s, who’s got overwhelming support from Millennials. They’re having easiest time translating Sanders’ messages into real-world, tangible solutions while the obstructionists continually try to dilute the water, Millennials aren’t fooled as easily by red herrings as the Manipulated Living.
    There may be hope yet, if the Millennials step up out of their manipulated life and step up now. Or else we’re all looking down the barrels of so many of history’s gun repeating shots in more horrific ways than recent historic memory.

  3. Nick Krieger says:

    Good article, Amy!
    (As interested as I am in politics, I’m kind of glad that I don’t have a landline. The last pollster I talked to kept me on the phone for almost 30 minutes. Haha.)

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