The liberal bias of pollsters

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In a strained attempt to explain the failure of pollsters to predict the election results yesterday in Great Britain, pollsters and pundits seem unable to see the elephant in the room that explains their problems.

And what is that elephant? Take a look at this list of bad polling predictions provided by Nate Silver, the mainstream media’s big polling guru because he correctly predicted both Obama victories:

  • The final polls showed a close result in the Scottish independence referendum, with the “no” side projected to win by just 2 to 3 percentage points. In fact, “no” won by almost 11 percentage points.
  • Although polls correctly implied that Republicans were favored to win the Senate in the 2014 U.S. midterms, they nevertheless significantlyunderestimated the GOP’s performance. Republicans’ margins over Democrats were about 4 points better than the polls in the average Senate race.
  • Pre-election polls badly underestimated Likud’s performance in the Israeli legislative elections earlier this year, projecting the party to about 22 seats in the Knesset when it in fact won 30. (Exit polls on election night weren’t very good either.)

Does anyone notice a trend? I could also reference other elections that pollsters badly predicted, such as the Sandinista defeat in Nicaragua in 1994, the Republican victory in 1994, Bush’s victory over Kerry in 2004 and practically every vote for or against the European Union. And there are others. For a bunch of so-called intellectuals who claim to be experts in predicting human behavior, they seem very oblivious to the obvious.

The obvious is that almost every time pollsters have gotten it wrong, they have gotten it wrong by favoring the liberal side in the election. Sometimes they came close. Sometimes, like in 2006 and 2008, it turned out that their predictions were right and the left won handily. But in almost every case in the past three decades, polling has consistently over-estimated the liberal/leftwing vote and underestimated the conservative/rightwing vote.

The easy, cheap, and paranoid explanation is that most of the pollsters are liberal and that they are really doing push-polling for the left. By portraying the left as always in the lead, they hope to help the left win elections. Sometimes their push-polling is simply right. Sometimes this push-polling actually helps the left win. And sometimes, more often than not, the push-polling gets it spectacularly wrong.

While I do think this paranoid explanation actually applies to a large number of pollsters, who really are Democratic operatives in disguise, I also think it is not the main explanation. What I think is really happening as that most of these pollsters live in the modern cocoon-like leftwing intellectual community. No one they know is conservative. Nothing they read is conservative. They really have no idea that a large conservative majority exists that disagrees with them. As New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael supposedly said after Nixon won in 1972, “How could Nixon win? No one I know voted for him!” (The actual quote is different, but this inaccurate quote is considered so believable because it illustrates the point so well.)

The pollsters therefore are too easily prone to dismiss data that favors the right, and take seriously all data that favors the left. The result is that they are often caught with their pants down, surprised by election results that should not have surprised them.

As obvious as this is, they still refuse to see it however, based on the analysis at the linked article. Trapped in their liberal bubble, they seem to have a genetic imperative that prevents them from leaving that bubble to entertain different perspectives.

Expect them to get more elections wrong in the coming years.


  • mivenho

    The polls cited are so useless that one suspects that pollsters are receiving assistance from the CIA.

  • Cotour

    Unrelated but related:

    Talk about bias, the NFL can bring itself to suspend a top football quarter back for possibly letting it be known that he likes his footballs a little soft but no one in government who is a Democrat can see anything to investigate Hillary for?

  • Maurice Levie

    This is probably the last decade in which dead-tree publications have any sway left, with one notable exception: the ability to channel the depravity of our new entertainment elite. It started with the likes of Elvis and marilyn monroe as the new normal, and the C/Kardashians as the latest iteration. This is the only mass pull left, and the more bizarre the better. Checkout-counter rags, facebook, and the NY Times all cover the same niche now in order to peddle their ads and opines.
    Ten years ago Time magazine was to be feared, now the countdown clock to the end of its print edition must be at 2 minutes before midnight. Ten years from now, it will not only exist, but the wannabe legions of content providers/journalists it employed will at best be running specialist blogs like, and at worst be begging for change in the street.
    TV – Unfortunately, the lack of an organized and curated conservative online news source is again hindering us – there has to be a separate “Network” (not fox sorry) that has the resources to capture the eyeballs of voters. Every Clinton scandal that is brought up disappears out the MSM within 24 hours, but repubs become news item #1 no matter what. With a Conservative network news “channel” around to siphon ad money away, things would change – quickly.

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