LUNCHTIME POLITICS: Can You Believe the Polls?

Your Daily Polling Update for Saturday, October 29, 2022

Same as yesterday

RON’S COMMENT: Today’s average is based on five polls, ranging from 39% (Reuters) to 45% (Economist). Biden’s disapproval rating averages 54% today (same as yesterday), putting him at 11 points net negative

(Average of most recent nationwide polls)
Republicans: +5.3 (up from +2.8 a week ago)
RON’S COMMENT: The DFP-D poll has Republicans leading by 9 points among independent voters, with 19% undecided…. Whites favor Republicans by 14 points, Blacks favor Democrats by 62 and Hispanics favor Democrats by 18…. Women pick Democrats by 1 point and men pick Republicans by 8…. College grads are voting Democratic by 7 points and non-college grads are voting Republican by 13. 

SENATE: 2022 
Among voters statewide


  • Walker leads the last three polls. Chuck Schumer may be right, it’s not looking good for Democrats in Georgia.
  • In New York, incumbent Schumer (D) leads, as expected. It’s notable, points out one Republican strategist, that his 13-point lead is much smaller than his winning margin six years ago, which was 43 points.


  • Herschel Walker (R) over Sen. Raphael Warnock (D): +3 (48-45-2) InsiderAdvantage
  • Average of recent polls: R +3.3  


  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) over Joe Pinion (R): +13 (53-40) Emerson
  • Average of recent polls: R +13  

Among voters statewide


  • Kemp maintains a steady lead in Georgia.
  • Hochul’s (D) keeps a narrowed lead in New York. Since the September Emerson pollHochul has held her support while Zeldin (R) has moved up by 9 points. 
  • Whitmer (D) keeps her lead in Michigan.


  • Gov. Brian Kemp (R) over Stacey Abrams (D): +9 (52-43-1) InsiderAdvantage
  • Average of recent polls: R +8.7


  • Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) over Lee Zeldin (R): +8 (52-44) Emerson
  • Average of recent polls: D +6


  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) over Tudor Dixon (R): +7 (51-44) Cygnal
  • Average of recent polls: D +3.3



by Ron Faucheux

Six years ago, the polling industry suffered a big blow to its reputation. Despite the accuracy of many individual surveys, the overall picture that polls painted of the 2016 election had Hillary Clinton winning and Donald Trump losing––and that picture was wrong. 

While polls were right that Clinton would win the popular vote, predictions were off that she’d also win the electoral vote. 

Two years ago, polling took another hit when surveys showed inflated margins for Joe Biden and predictions of a “blue wave” in House and Senate races didn’t pan out. 

How did the polls actually do?

All 21 of the final national polls showed Biden ahead––and he was ahead. He won by 7 million votes. Moreover, the average of the final polls came close to nailing Biden’s vote share: 51.5% in the polls versus 51.3% in the actual vote count. 

Poll averages also correctly indicated the right presidential winnerin seven of 10 swing states; they came within a point of actual vote margins in Nevada and Georgia and within a few points in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan. 

However, the final polls in 2020 notably underestimated Trump’s vote. They had him getting 43.3% of the popular vote, well below the 46.9% he actually received. 

In key U.S. Senate elections, we saw the same phenomenon: Two-thirds of the polling indicated the right winners, but a shocking number of surveys underestimated Republican strength. 

In Maine, final polls showed Republican Sen. Susan Collins losing by 4 points, but she won by nearly 9 points. In Montana, North Carolina, Iowa, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, South Carolina and Alabama, Republican candidates ran better––and in some cases, much better––than polling indicated.

The truth is that polling was biased against Republicans and sampling error was usually the culprit. 

College graduates––who tend to vote Democratic in federal elections––were often overpolled. Assumptions made about voter turnout were sometimes wrong. In the last two presidential elections, there was likely a small segment of Trump supporters who didn’t tell pollsters they were voting for him, making it harder to measure his full support. 

To show how pollster assumptions can vary, the recent Monmouth University poll in the Georgia Senate race reported five sets of findings based on different turnout models. Four models had Democrat Raphael Warnock ahead by 1 to 6 points and one model had Republican Herschel Walker ahead by 11 points. Here we see a swing of 17 points from the same poll in one state.

Legitimate pollsters make money by being right. That’s why deliberate bias is not common and technical mistakes are guarded against, especially in polls taken right before elections. But even pollsters with good reputations can make faulty assumptions and unwittingly allow partisan bias to skew questionnaires, sampling and analysis.

This year, we’re seeing more polls from Republican or conservative-oriented firms relative to those from national media organizations. Will that produce better results? Or will it create pro-Republican bias in some races? We’ll have to wait and see.

When discussing the accuracy of polls, let’s remember, too, that prognostications made by pundits, data modelers and betting markets are not polls, even if they’re based in part on polls. These predictions are really just educated guesses. But when they miss the mark, they make polls look bad.

It is important to keep in mind that polls don’t predict. They’re snapshots in time, not crystal balls. Whatever happens after the final poll is conducted won’t be measured. That’s why polls completed too early don’t catch late-breaking shifts––a problem in the 2016 presidential election––and seem wrong when, in fact, they’re not. 

Polling methods also change with the times. Once, pollsters conducted interviews door-to-door. Then, they called home telephones. Now, most live polling is done via cell phones, which is more time consuming and costly than calling landlines. Recently, there has been an explosion in other methods such as online polling and automated surveys.

Each method, or combination, has strengths and weaknesses. It is essential that pollsters carefully drive quality control throughout the entire survey process. Most do, but some don’t. Cutting corners saves money, but it produces bad numbers. 

That’s why when polls conflict with one another, we don’t always know which ones are painting the true picture. 

But one thing we do know: When reading election polls, never put too much stock in any one survey. Look at multiple polls for confirmation and always try to find the trends. Also delve into the internal numbers that are not usually reported by the media to see whether the horserace numbers are supported by other data. That’s something we try to do in Lunchtime Politics.

Despite limitations and margins of error, polls remain the best available measurement tool of public opinion. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many of them. ###

Presidential job rating average based on recent nationwide polls.

Publication schedule: Lunchtime Politics publishes when important new polling data is available, usually at least once a week. When we get closer to the next round of elections, we will resume daily publication. Thanks to all our readers and best of health, Ron

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