In the closing days of the 2016 election cycle, much of the elite media created and promoted the illusion that then-candidate Donald Trump had little hope of winning the presidency, and would likely, in the words of GQ's Jim Nelson, "lose this election badly."
The media based this narrative on the consensus of nearly every national poll which showed Hillary Clinton with a comfortable lead throughout the campaign and into Election Day. However, as one of the two polls that which correctly predicted a win for now President-Elect Trump, the Investor's Business Daily/TIPP Poll was able to poke holes in the media's narrative on a daily basis by consistently showing a close race, and conveying with unimpeachable data Mr. Trump's winning momentum.
While most major polls displayed head-scratching fluidity in the election's final weeks, the IBD/TIPP Daily Tracking Poll, from its initial release on October 19th to its final installment on Election Day, persistently showed a stable and tight contest between now President-Elect Trump and his Democratic opponent.
In 13 of IBD/TIPP's 21 days of tracking, the race was either tied or separated by a mere point.
IBD/TIPP's Performance vs. Other Polls
Comparing our performance over time to the output of most other surveys during the same period demonstrates how misleading and self-defeating much of the polling industry was in propping up Mrs. Clinton's standing in the polls. For instance, in the first three installments of our poll, Mr. Trump held a one-point lead over Mrs. Clinton. As the days went by, the Democrat slowly gained ground on her challenger, peaking at a four-point advantage over Mr. Trump on October 29th.
However, momentum for Trump in the last week, an element that was mistakenly dismissed by much of the elite media and polling organizations, proved to be a real force as our final installment showed Mr. Trump with a 45.0% to 43.4% lead.
IBD/TIPP's assessment of the presidential race during its closing weeks stood in sharp contrast with the narrative championed by nearly every other major poll.
For example, released just days after the first installment of the IBD/TIPP Daily Tracking Poll, which showed Mr. Trump with a slight one-point advantage, the October 23rd edition of the reputable ABC News/Washington Post Poll had Mrs. Clinton ahead of her opponent by an astounding 12 points.
Around the same time, a poll conducted by the Associated Press gave Clinton a 14 point lead. Further, on the day of our first release, the RealClearPolitics average of polls yielded an advantage of 6.2 points in favor of Mrs. Clinton.
While these stunning leads provided the news media with an opportunity to crown Mrs. Clinton America's next president weeks before Election Day, polls giving the former secretary of state such a commanding advantage at this point in the race actually hurt her chances of winning the White House. In subsequent ABC News/Washington Post Polls, for instance, Mrs. Clinton's seemingly insurmountable 12-point lead quickly deteriorated, dropping at first to a nine point lead and then, in the next release, falling to a margin of six points.
In the next installment, released on October 28th, the Democrat's advantage declined again, to four points, followed by another two-point drop in the proceeding release. By the start of November, the race was basically a dead heat, with Mr. Trump taking a slight one-point lead in the poll.
Thus, the establishment media's premature coronation of Hillary Clinton and discussion over her potential cabinet picks suddenly gave way to alarm over the Democratic candidate's dramatic loss of support.
However, as our poll consistently confirmed, the presidential race was always close. In fact, in our 21 days of tracking the contest, neither candidate enjoyed a lead of more than four points. Hence, polls that greatly exaggerated Mrs. Clinton's advantage over then-candidate Trump actually backfired against the Democrat as they showed an equally unrealistic steep decline in her support.
In the closing days of the election, however, the media elite's fluid polls restored Mrs. Clinton to her position as the presumed winner, as they again showed her solidifying a comfortable lead over Mr. Trump.
Coincidentally, by Election Day, six polls tracking a four-way presidential race, including the ABC News/Washington Post Poll, all converged at predicting a Clinton victory by a margin of four points. The final Monmouth University Poll gave Mrs. Clinton a six point advantage over Mr. Trump, while the overall RealClearPolitics average of polls placed the Democrat 3.3 points ahead of her opponent. Moreover, nearly every final poll showed the Democrat winning by margins that were to the right of her current lead in the popular vote.
At the same time, the IBD/TIPP Poll, which had been labeled an "outlier" by the Washington Post for showing a stable and close race in October, proved to be the only poll to call now-President-Elect Donald J. Trump the winner in a four-way race.
Democratic Bias: The Root Cause Of Inaccuracy
Thus, the accurate performance of our poll sheds light on the fundamental reason why every other indicator misread the election: the elite media's bias in favor of the Democratic Party.
Throughout the campaign, many in the news media abandoned all pretense of objectivity, and set out to delegitimize Donald Trump's candidacy and portray him as a demagogue. In an article written back in August, New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg seemed to acknowledge the unprecedented opposition directed towards Mr. Trump from members of the press: "If you view a Trump presidency as something that's potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you've ever been to being oppositional."
Accordingly, with the news media being so antagonistic in their coverage of Mr. Trump, it should not be surprising that their own polls would be more favorable to his opponent. In order to create a feeling of malaise among Trump supporters, and to discourage them from voting, the media used their polls to promote the narrative that Mr. Trump could not and would not win the presidency.
However, the media and polling powers, enclosed in a bubble of cosmopolitan elitism, failed to comprehend the high level of enthusiasm that was clearly evident among Trump supporters.
Many in the news media belittled and dismissed Mr. Trump's ardent supporters as "deplorable," when in fact they represented the forgotten working-class in Middle America struggling in an economic system that had failed them. While large crowd sizes at Trump's rallies, often numbering in the tens of thousands, should have been an indicator of high turnout for the Republican candidate, most in the mainstream media continuously claimed that there was little correlation between the size of campaign rallies and voter turnout on Election Day.
It's not surprising, therefore, that most media pundits and pollsters assumed that turnout would closely resemble the previous two elections. Leading up to Election Day, many in the media highlighted Mrs. Clinton's lead in the polls, as well as her significant ground game advantage over Mr. Trump, as evidence that high turnout among Democrats, especially within certain demographic groups like Hispanics, would ultimately deliver the White House to Mrs. Clinton.
In our polling, however, we experienced firsthand the surge in enthusiasm among Republicans for Mr. Trump, which was impossible to dismiss. Up until our last day of tracking the race, we consistently had more Republicans than Democrats willing to take part in surveys. In our twenty years in the public opinion research industry, we had never before experienced such a phenomenon. Hence, we correctly inferred that turnout among Republicans would more likely resemble turnout levels displayed in 2004 than the previous two elections.
In the end, Democrats failed to turnout at the high levels that most media pundits and pollsters had anticipated, while Republican turnout outperformed expectations.
Did Favorable Polls Hurt Clinton Campaign?
Ironically, the media and polling elite's confident presumption of a Clinton victory may have played a role in the lower turnout among Democrats. Expecting Mrs. Clinton to easily win the presidency, a significant number of Democrats may not have felt compelled to vote, and so stayed home on Election Day. Further, some have claimed that the Clinton campaign was undone by its confidence in the favorable polling numbers championed by the news media. In the final days of the campaign, Mrs. Clinton, expecting her famous "blue wall" to hold firm, and failing to take Mr. Trump's outreach to the Rust Belt states seriously, devoted little effort to states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, which would end up breaking for Mr. Trump.
Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh discussed such claims on the November 17th edition of his program, noting how the Clinton campaign "thought they had it in the bag, didn't even go to Wisconsin, didn't even take Trump seriously. They thought they were gonna win five or six points." The campaign, relying on the majority of polls that were giving Mrs. Clinton a comfortable lead, neglected states that they felt were already won. Hence, Mr. Limbaugh makes a great point in his ironic suggestion that "if I were Hillary, I might think of suing the media and their polling units."
Thus, in our determination to present the presidential race as it really was, without regard to political bias, the IBD/TIPP Poll acted as a much needed "truth serum" in the 2016 election, exposing the liberal leanings of many in the elite news media and polling organizations who were so certain that now President-Elect Donald J. Trump would lose the election.
As a result of Mr. Trump's upset win, the rest of the polling industry will be assessing why they gauged the election so incorrectly. Though a number of polling organizations may point to such issues as a failure in modeling or the "silent voter" theory to explain their poor performances, they risk future setbacks if they fail to recognize the systematic Democratic bias in their polling.
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