Polling: A Look Back

The only one to believe is yourself

By Terry Troy

“There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics.”

That quote, generally attributed to Mark Twain, is used to describe the persuasive power of numbers, especially when it comes to bolstering a weak argument. For the past seven months, we as consumers and business people have been bombarded with the latest polls and insights into the coming election—whether we wanted them or not.

Regardless of who you are voting for today, or indeed who you might have already voted for, we thought that on this Election Day, it might be worth looking back to see what transpired four years ago.

It’s certainly no secret that the pollsters are far more wary today, or at least they should be, than they were four years ago when Trump won Ohio by 8 points, taking 80 out of the 88 counties in our state. But what exactly had the pollsters said just before the 2016 election?

According to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released just two weeks before the election in 2016, independent voters were likely to shift to Democrat Hillary Clinton, giving her an insurmountable lead over Republican Donald Trump in the critical swing states of Colorado, Florida and Pennsylvania. The same poll found that Clinton had moved into a virtual tie with then candidate Trump in Ohio.

The pollsters at Quinnipiac were extremely confident in their predictions:

“Secretary Clinton has held or increased her lead following the second debate,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, back in 2016 when the information was released. “Obviously the allegations by a number of women about Donald Trump’s behavior have taken a toll among some of those who had been in his column.” “Of particular importance are the Clinton leads in Florida and Pennsylvania. Trump probably can’t win if he loses one of them, and he’s toast if he loses both. In addition, Trump’s lead in Ohio, his best big swing state, is now gone.”

Unfortunately for the folks at Quinnipiac, Ohio voters didn’t stay away from the polls giving President Trump 2,833,537 votes versus 2,391,649 for Clinton. By the way, Trump also took both Pennsylvania and Florida.

Now four years later, we’re hearing the same story from pollsters, who (as I mentioned earlier), should at least be wary, judging from the predictions they made four years ago. According to Quinnipiac, the race for the White House in Ohio is once again tied, with likely voters favoring Biden 48% to 47%.

And once again, the folks at Quinnipiac are confident:

“Going down to the wire, it’s a nail biter in Ohio four years after the Buckeye State delivered a decisive win for Donald Trump. Joe Biden and Trump remain locked in a race that is too close to call, and the needle hasn’t budged with each candidate sitting exactly where they were in late September,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Mary Snow, when this information was released a few weeks back.

So, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” to quote another famous American: Yogi Berra.

Now, a new Quinnipiac Poll less than a week before Election Day 2020, shows that President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are locked in close races in Florida and Iowa, while Biden is slightly ahead in Ohio and maintains a lead over Trump in Pennsylvania, according to Quinnipiac University polls in those four states. But those polls are still within the margin of error.

The point is, no matter whose poll you examine, no matter whose word you take, there is only one poll that counts. That’s the one where you actually go in and cast your vote.

So remember as you head out today, no matter who you vote for, don’t listen to pundits, prognosticators, pollsters and the press. Vote your conscience. Vote your beliefs. Vote for the candidate who you think will help your business in the coming year.

But above all, vote!