Predicting 2020: Research on the Research

We missed it because we weren’t looking

Jdburrell
Jdburrell
Nov 2, 2020 · 7 min read

By David Burrell | CEO & Co-Founder of Wick

Wick is not a polling company for either political party. We exist to create technology and thought leadership that accelerates the market research industry’s journey to more speed, affordability, and accuracy. We withheld this article until the day before the election to limit the politicization of its data and insights for the media interests of either party.

For media inquiries please email us at info@wick.io

From the author:

We are predicting that Donald Trump is going to win re-election. In our most recent battleground polls in the 6 states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, and Ohio he is up by over 2% in all but Michigan (for those results scroll to the end of this article).

How did we know the polling was wrong?…

We will get into these symptoms further down, but prior to that, we think it’s important to create an understanding of why this isn’t just another non-response problem that will be easily cured.

  1. Identified symptoms that would suggest our sample isn’t truly representative
  2. Treated the systems we could with agile sampling and back end weighting
  3. Analyzed the results.
  4. And scrapped together this article as best we could to present the findings.

Wick’s 2020 battleground poll results and key findings

What were the symptoms that people with certain beliefs might be avoiding the pollster calls, texts, and emails?

Symptom 1: Too many respondents with post-graduate degrees.

In 2016, the breakdown of the education levels amongst survey respondent’s was a root cause of inaccurate polls. Most pollsters tried to adjust for this in 2020, but if a pollster is grouping people with graduate degrees with those who have post-graduate degrees in a “college grad or higher” value (like we were!), then there is still a big problem.

Symptom 2: Too many early voters taking our polls

Admittedly, there is not a historical model with which to compare the 2020 voter turnout. Still, early voters (and absentee ballot voters in particular) were extremely overrepresented after our first day of fielding our study. Respondents who answered they had “already voted” was on average 16% higher than the actual percentage of people that had voted early in their respective states. Across the 6 battleground states, 36.5% of this group reported they voted for Trump. Voting Early carried a strong correlation with voting for Biden, and in turn, it was a variable that left unaccounted for could heavily push projections towards Biden.

Symptom 3: A socioeconomic anomaly

This is a symptom that we couldn't treat, but was impossible to ignore. The raw responses of the battleground polls show nearly a 3x increase in African American support and a 2x increase in Hispanic support for Trump in 2020. A jump in support like this demanded attention. Looking past just the race of these respondents, we sought patterns among their other responses in the survey. What most traditional analysis identified as a gain in minority support, we choose to identify as gains with the working class abroad. It should follow that there is a counterpart of white voters with the same socioeconomic status as these African Americans and Hispanics whom Trump is doing well with, but they are not showing up in the polling.

So what’s going to happen?

  1. We have Trump winning FL (+2.9), NC (+2.2), OH (+2.9), & GA (+2.5). We have Michigan very close with Trump losing MI (-0.3).
  2. Trump is going to win a historic percentage of African American and Hispanic votes (which will probably be the go-to-explanation for why polls were wrong).
  3. Pollsters acknowledge this shift in minorities — and believe that this ground is covered by Biden’s gains with white voters in all demographics, but this ground is not covered. Those gains are with the white voters who are willing to take polls in 2020 (which should be the go-to-explanation for why polls were wrong).
  4. If Biden does win in a close race, after polls showed a blowout for months, we all (not just pollsters) need to ask why public opinion polling isn’t working in our democracy. The Public Opinion Research industry needs to and will improve. But it’s not going to be easy — its players are going to need to look hard to find the symptoms of where our polls might not be telling the whole story.

For media inquiries please email us at: info@wick.io

Wick Research

Market research made simple.

Wick Research

Wick exists to accelerate the market research industry’s journey to a faster, more affordable, and more accurate future. Through our technology and team we have empowered hundreds of companies to integrate research insights into their decision making.

Jdburrell

Written by

Jdburrell

Wick Research

Wick exists to accelerate the market research industry’s journey to a faster, more affordable, and more accurate future. Through our technology and team we have empowered hundreds of companies to integrate research insights into their decision making.