Biggest Loser in Pennsylvania? Polling

That Conor Lamb squeaked out the narrowest of victories in a pre-midterm election is hardly surprising. Although Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton there by 20 points, the Western Pennsylvania district nevertheless has a Democratic registration advantage of 46 percent to 41 percent and is “ancestrally Democratic.”

Midterm elections nearly always go against the party in power. Since 1938, only twice has the president’s party gained seats (and one of those times was post-9/11) and in the pre-midterms, when a new president is finding his feet, the challenge is even more difficult.

That said, and remarkably, in the 11 congressional elections since Trump was elected the GOP has won nine and one of their two losses was the Alabama U.S. Senate fluke.

But the GOP was not the biggest loser with all the above taken into consideration. Rather the polls, or specifically the benighted Monmouth Poll performed disastrously, as did its cheerleader, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which has failed again and again in the age of Trump.

Patrick Murray’s Monmouth Polling was the worst of all the final polls at RealClearPolitics before the 2016 election, giving Hillary Clinton a six-point margin over Donald Trump. “The polls were largely bad— including our own” Murray wailed in an understatement at FiveThirtyEight’s post-election inquest.

Monmouth has come under severe criticism from The Conservative Treehouse: “Monmouth University Pollster Patrick Murray Busted, Manipulating Poll Data Then Lying About It.” Essentially, it turns out Murray’s outfit was not presenting an accurate polling picture, as “no weighting” was done by “region, age, race, or gender, only by party ID.”

Monmouth, which seems to have a penchant for six-point Democratic Party leads in its final polls, gave Democrat Lamb a six-point lead over Republican Rick Saccone in its final poll at RealClearPolitics. The final result, with no excuse for the usual “within the margin of error” get-out-of-jail-free card, was Lamb by less than 1 percent.

FiveThirtyEight, hubristically publishing “All You Need To Know,” cheered on Monmouth and gave it an “A Grade” in its polling-day analysis (there is no need to go into that site’s monumental failures on Trump, as they are well known). “Monmouth, the only FiveThirtyEight gold-standard pollster to look at the race, has Lamb ahead by 6 points,” the blog trumpeted. But they hedged their bets, as they are wont to do, also noting“even a runaway win by one of these candidates wouldn’t be that much of a shocker.” OK. So it was either going to be close, a six-point spread, or a runaway election. That’s helpful!

Polling is, at worst, pure partisan shilling. It offers some entertainment value for political junkies and the “pundits” who cater to them. The Trump election was thought to have killed off respect for polling, but political passions and page clicks from people looking for a crystal ball fix seem to have kept them alive.

In a just world, the Pennsylvania result would be the final nail in the coffin for the polls and “poll analysts,” if such a term has any meaning any more.

About M. Joseph Sheppard

M. Joseph Sheppard has been published in Time Out, American Journal, and numerous other venues. He is an Ambassador for The Leprosy Mission, and has worked in China's rural leprosy villages, assisting with outreach endeavors. He blogs at A Point of View.

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8 responses to “Biggest Loser in Pennsylvania? Polling”

    • Agree. Lots and lots of verbiage to try to obfuscate the plain fact that the GOP candidate did more than twenty percentage points worse this time around than its presidential candidate did sixteen months ago.

      They don’t know to handle it. Treating the Democratic opposition like traitors and Communists and Deplorables while pursuing a totally non-compromising far-right agenda may be emotionally satisfying, but doesn’t seem as though it’s going to keep winning them elections.

      A lot of Americans are just tired of extremism whether it comes from the left or the right.

      • The left is very extreme not so much the right. The Democrat Party will not even allow prolife, pro business low tax moderate Democrats into their tent. It was the left that calls the right Deplorables. The right does NOT HAVE a far right agenda. As a matter of fact, it more or less mirrors JFK.

      • Would beg to disagree. I personally know plenty of very reasonable conservatives, but most of those I interact with online – presumably the more motivated, “engaged” kind – are quite far right in their views. Interestingly, the ones I interact with in real life almost universally disapprove of this administration, insofar as I can tell a large part of the reason being that Congress and the President and are perceived among them as well as among most independent voters as quite visibly pushing a far-right agenda that a majority of the country’s voters disagree with, and not just because of the President’s abrasive manner and personality.

        Most voters don’t support the administration’s goal of repealing Obamacare and simply reverting to the kind of free-for-all health care system we had before the ACA was enacted. Most voters also favor mandatory universal background checks for gun sales, which are opposed by this administration. Tax cuts that mainly favor the already-wealthy and balloon the federal deficit are also increasingly unpopular, as Mr. Lamb’s ability to capitalize on that point during his recent campaign demonstrated. Most voters favor some sort of a solution that allows Dreamers to stay in the country even while tightening immigration in certain other respects, but Congress and the President seem unable to get their act together and reach some sort of compromise with Democrats on this issue. Maintaining some leeway with regard to the abortion issue is also favored by a majority of voters, whilst the GOP seems to feel it should be made illegal in all circumstances everywhere all the time.

        Bottom line, Trumpism at this point seems to represent a minority of the country’s voters trying to govern unilaterally on behalf of an increasingly restive and energized majority, and Democrats are obviously going to be able to capitalize on that. The name of the game in such an evenly divided electoral environment would seem to be legislative compromise, but I see absolutely no evidence that Republicans see it that way.

        I know you’re going to tell me the polls I rely on are all wrong but at this point that argument is getting stale, particularly in light of several recent elections where the polls accurately predicted that Democrats would win. I do not mind, however, if you continue to believe it.

      • The American Unfordable Act is too expensive. Most people were lied to by the Obama administration if we want to keep our plan or doctor’s we can: NOT! I and a lot of other Americans DO NOT want socialized medicine here. Mr. Lamb used Trump’s campaign tactics to get in: Democrats will say and do ANYTHING TO GET IN. There are a lot of fickle voters in America anyway so I don’t get it how they vote especially in a heavily Republican district. This fall, when people do go to the polls, the phrase; “It’s the economy stupid” will sink in and the voters will vote accordingly. Keep in mind NOT A SINGLE Democrat voted for this tax cut and the voters will remember this, but the Democrats or the opposing party does have history on their side. Tax cuts ain’t for the wealthy but for us, even Nancy Pelosi finally acknowledged it. As far as universal back ground checks, they are already in place. When I went with my son to purchase a firearm, the first thing the store DID was do a background check with the FBI. I saw this done on others attempting to purchase a firearm as well in that same store. OH! One was rejected so he could not purchase a firearm. My co-worker who is retired from the military had one done on him as well so the laws are already in effect. NOTE: Background checks are done at gun shows too. Hate to tell you , but the “news” media is NOT telling the truth, especially when it comes to FBI being notified and local police about this lunatic: Too Late now but it ain’t the NRA’s fault. The DACA or “Dreamers” Act was done illegally by the Obama administration and Trump is letting Congress figure this out. It ain’t Trump’s and most of the Republican’s fault on this and I would even go on the limb that some of the Democrats are against DACA as well.

        AS the economy roars on and even improves, Trumpism will grow. Oh, by the way: Since President Trump was inaugurated, it’s Republicans: 9, Democrats: 2.

      • You’re certainly entitled to your opinion but I don’t get the impression you’re right about all that many things. Trump got in because he promised voters government-sponsored health care if they needed it, not because he promised the opposite. Please don’t dispute that, because there are videotaped recordings of him saying exactly that which I can use to respond. At this point polling shows that more than half of Americans want the ACA to be fixed as opposed to a flat repeal. Not entirely surprising given that pretty much everyone on the left feels that way along with a sizable portion of independents and even Trump voters as well.

        You can also go ahead and continue to argue that all the polling for years on end showing that 80+ percent of the public wants universal background checks is some sort of liberal conspiracy, in the end it won’t wash. And no, you’re not correct in stating that it’s a requirement for every gun sale to currently undergo a background check. Most is not the same thing as all, and yet a majority of voters have clearly indicated their desire for “all”. And the momentum to achieve that seems to be mounting rather than fading in light of the repeated massacres.

        As for tax cuts, working class voters aren’t necessarily averse to the idea of having their own taxes cut, but they’re generally against the idea of seeing ever huger tax cuts given to the already-wealthy. You may personally not agree but there’s a feeling out there that rich people have done well enough over the past few decades and that tax cuts should, for now at least, be confined to the less well-off. I’m a member of the well-off group myself but even I don’t feel that I deserved a tax cut at this particular point in time, so you can take it that the extra cash in my pocket isn’t going to be persuading me to vote for today’s fiscally irresponsible GOP. And so it goes for a lot of voters, regardless of whether you personally think that makes sense or not.

        And as for immigration, like a lot of voters on both sides of the fence I’m totally OK with things like E-Verify and speeding deportation of illegal adults, but I also concur with a majority of Americans that it’s pure and unnecessary asshole-ishness to ruin the lives of young people who were brought to this country as children who’ve never known any other home.

        I don’t think the Trumpists really sense what a slender margin of victory they really had when it came to the 2016 presidential election. 80,000 votes distributed in three states in the context of a negative balance of 3 million when it comes to the popular vote is now used by them as an argument to justify governing entirely from the far right with not the slightest attempt at compromise with their demographically and electorally disadvantaged opposition who, on top of everything else, are ceaselessly berated by the New Trumpist Elite as representing nothing more than an unpatriotic, “socialist” minority. Honestly, it never ceases to amaze me me how folks who previously felt demonized themselves as “Deplorables” would fail to see that tarring their opponents with even worse language wouldn’t fail to energize and motivate the latter to vote accordingly.

        And when they do, it turns out they aren’t really so much of a “minority” after all.

        I’ve concluded that the reason why we seem to get all these “wave elections” one after another is because a majority of ordinary voters are actually desperately trying to get politicians to find the middle, not because they actually prefer the extreme right or the extreme left the way pundits seem to think. To many voters, the “Swamp” actually consists of politicians who don’t seem to listen to ever listen to them and who seem unable to ever reach consensus on anything, with the result that DC is locked in an endless partisan gridlock.

        I’ve personally voted for Democrats as well as for Republicans in my lifetime but the guiding principles in my case have always been to search for politicians who seem to value fiscal prudence along with a willingness to talk to the opposition, an understanding that the ultimate political goal is to build consensus rather than winner-take-all victories, and that the term “general welfare” should refer to the broader working public rather than special interest groups including the already well-off. Today’s GOP strikes me as exemplifying none of these things.

    • Dream on. Before Trump came out for the Republican the candidate was down by ~10 points. After, he was neck and neck.