The day after Bernie Sanders won an amazing come-from-behind victory in the Michigan primary, what was the story on NPR? Not the political dynamics of this late surge in support for Bernie. No. It was all about why the polls did not get this right!
To me, this is equivalent to punters blaming the bookies for not calling a horse race correctly. Anyone involved the slightest in polling can imagine a wide array of reasons why polls might be off. But poll after poll had Clinton ten to twenty-two percentage points ahead of Sanders. Could they have been correct, and there was a true surge in support for the Sanders’ candidacy? Could the last debate have made a difference? Probably. However, instead of looking closely at the likely shift in voting intentions, the pundits wanted poor polling to be the story. The polls made them – the pundits – look bad, as they debated all evening thinking they knew the outcome of the contest. They did not.
A related observation was the degree that CNN kept failing to call the election, despite the margin for Sanders remaining very steady, around two percent. This was all the way up to nearly 90 percent or more of the actual vote. Why? They kept muttering that the Clinton polls have her winning but possibly by only a small percentage. So not only were the ‘journalists’ believing the polls over the actual vote tallies, but they were hanging on the predictions of one of the candidates’ handlers. We all know that polls can influence the voters, but now we see polls dangerously influencing the reporters.
The Bernie Sanders’ campaign pulled off a major upset in Michigan. It defied all the predictions of pollsters and pundits. His rise in voter support should be the story, and what it might mean for the coming primaries, and not hand-wringing over the accuracy of the pollsters.