Who Needs Polls?
An economic forecast for the midterm elections.
Public opinion polls have been back and forth over the summer and into the fall in regard to voter preferences in this year’s midterm elections. Early in the summer, Republicans led Democrats in the national generic vote for Congress, but by September the same polls gave Democrats a slight edge, according to a running average of polls collected by Real Clear Politics. The polls then shifted again in the first week of October as Republicans accumulated a lead in the generic ballot, leading some to forecast a “red wave” in November’s congressional elections. As of October 22, roughly two weeks in advance of the election, Republicans led Democrats 48 to 45 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of thirteen separate polls taken over the previous two weeks. Yet that three-point advantage was still within the margin of error of most of these polls, and not yet large enough to forecast a Republican sweep.
In looking at these polls, it is not altogether clear if they are picking up a newly developing trend in favor of Republicans, or if the pollsters merely revamped their polling techniques to measure a Republican advantage that was there all along. Many observers have a sneaking suspicion that some pollsters rig their surveys to favor one or the other political party in the hope of shaping the eventual election outcome. That might be accomplished by publishing results that discourage some candidates while encouraging others such that candidates with the lead can appeal to donors for funds and newspapers can publish articles with the narrative that one party is destined to come out on top.
James Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
This piece originally appeared in The New Criterion