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The importance of an “outlier” poll in explaining how and why Donald Trump could win

by | Nov 8, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

The headline suggests both the ambiguity and what the reporter might prefer: “The moment of truth arrives for the USC/L.A. Times tracking poll.”

The Los Angeles Times’ David Lauter is referring to his newspaper’s “USC/L.A. Times “Daybreak” tracking poll which, he defensively observes, “has consistently shown a better result for Donald Trump than other major surveys.”


I won’t go into the survey’s methodological intricacies. Doing so (as least for people like me) can be more confusing than helpful. The point is that more than any other survey, it has found pro-life Donald Trump with better results than, say, the Washington Post/ABC News or NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly.

Lauter links to an article written by Sean Trende for backup. Trende, senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, defends the “Daybreak” poll. Take a moment to read it.

Although it is an “outlier,” that doesn’t make it wrong. Its final margin has Trump up by three points.

So what, you might ask? Lauter’s explanation offers two notes of encouragement.

First, the Daybreak poll is important because it weighs (“adjusts a poll’s data to make sure it properly represents the diversity of the population”) differently, at least potentially a check on pollster groupthink.

Or, as Lauter observes, “Some of the worst failures of polling have come about because pollsters, whether deliberately or not, converged on a single view of an election, in what is often referred to as ‘herding.’”

Second, there is this very important contribution to the debate about a topic of immense controversy: the so-called “hidden” or “silent” Trump vote and whether it actually exists.

Lauter writes

One other thing the poll tells us might cause some last-minute anxiety among supporters of Hillary Clinton — and among pollsters.

The poll asked respondents whether they were comfortable talking to people about their vote. The survey found that Trump supporters reported themselves as being slightly more comfortable than Clinton voters in talking to family members and acquaintances about their choice.

But Trump voters were notably less comfortable about telling a telephone pollster about their vote. Voters who backed a third-party candidate were even less comfortable responding to a poll. Women who said they backed Trump were particularly less likely to say they would be comfortable talking to a pollster about their vote. [Underlining added.]

Stay tuned throughout the day. And if you or a pro-life family member or friend hasn’t voted, don’t delay.

Categories: Politics Polling