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Polling once again criticized during 2020 election

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Posted at 8:24 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 12:15:12-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Heading into Election Day, one poll had Joe Biden up five in Florida. He lost.

Another had him up double digits in Wisconsin. He narrowly won the state.

Just like in 2016, the polling leading up to the election is facing criticism. "The pollsters got it knowingly wrong. They got it knowingly wrong. We had polls that were so ridiculous, and everyone knew it," President Trump said Thursday night.

In Virginia, Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy was pretty close in predicting the results. A poll in late October said Biden was up by 12 in Virginia with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4. Biden is currently up 9.43%.

"It's pretty clear many polls were off, so I'd say broadly speaking this is a challenge with estimating what the true electorate is going to be for pollsters," said Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Research Director at the Wason Center.

Part of the challenge is the uniqueness of President Trump. "We have our likely voter models. We have our expectation about who is going to turn out to vote," Bromley-Trujillo said. "Certainly, President Trump has been a unique candidate who has brought out different types of people at higher numbers than is typical."

So, what needs to be fixed? Dr. Eric Claville, the Director of the Center for African American Public Policy at Norfolk State University, says more nuance is needed. He feels pollsters should concentrate on issues to help forecast why people vote a certain way.

"I think the polls have to ask themselves: What is it that really drives individuals to vote one way or another?" Claville said.

Reporters and campaigns could also provide more context, the experts said. "It would be better to present the margin of error. It would be better to say, 'If the electorate shifted this way, this is what it would look like,' so people understand this is what we expected based on past elections," said Bromley- Trujillo.

During this current election, it's clear it's a lot closer in key states than many polls had it with ballots still being counted.

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