NY Times Can’t Wait to Crown Biden, Still Puzzled By Pro-Trump Pollster

November 5th, 2020 11:22 PM

The New York Times tried to hurry the vote-counting process along and declare Joe Biden the winner on Thursday’s front page in a story by White House reporters Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, “Win or Lose, Trump’s Clout Will Not Fade.” The lead: “If President Trump loses his bid for re-election, as looked increasingly likely on Wednesday, it would be the first defeat of an incumbent president in 28 years. But one thing seemed certain: Win or lose, he will not go quietly away.”

Annie Karni teamed with Haberman on Trump’s reaction to Fox News perhaps prematurely calling Arizona for Biden: “Vision of Victory Started to Slip When Fox News Called Arizona for Biden.” They saw Trump celebrating a “mirage of victory” (even though ballots were still being counted in several states):

With Florida looking red early on Tuesday night, President Trump and his advisers thought they were witnessing a repeat of election night 2016, when a victory in Florida foreshadowed a victory over all.


That mirage of victory was pierced when Fox News called Arizona for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at 11:20 p.m., with just 73 percent of the state’s vote counted.

The Trafalgar Group pollster Robert Canady, who has virtually alone called the last two elections for Trump (at least one successfully so far), was dismissed by the paper on Tuesday, but on Thursday he received backhanded, slightly puzzled compliments from reporter Giovanni Russonello in “Questions Mount, Again, After Pollsters Overestimated Democratic Strength” (click “expand”):

As the results rolled in on Tuesday night, so did a strong sense of déjà vu. Pre-election polls, it appeared, had been misleading once again.

While the nation awaits final results from Pennsylvania, Arizona and other key states, it is already clear -- no matter who ends up winning -- that the industry failed to fully account for the missteps that led it to underestimate Donald J. Trump’s support four years ago. And it raises the question of whether the polling industry, which has become a national fixation in an era of data journalism and statistical forecasting, can survive yet another crisis of confidence.

The Times leaned toward sinister explanations like voter suppression.

It is also possible, said Patrick Murray, the polling director at Monmouth University, that Republicans’ efforts to prevent certain populations from voting easily had a sizable impact -- a factor that pollsters knew would be immeasurable in their surveys.


But what is now clear based on the ballots that have been counted (and in almost all states, a majority have been) is that there was an overestimation of Mr. Biden’s support across the board — particularly with white voters and with men, preliminary exit polls indicate.

This seemed like an important sociological detail -- that the paper won’t be following up on. 

And if there is a tendency for polls to underrepresent Mr. Trump’s support, it does not only affect college-educated voters, as “shy Trump” theorists have often suggested. Some studies had posited that highly educated Trump supporters might be more likely to say they preferred his opponent because of social pressure….

With cancel culture on the march, that's not a paranoid way to think.

Russonello reluctantly addressed the one pollster who has been most accurate in the last two presidential elections (click “expand”):

Inevitably, Robert Cahaly and his mysterious Trafalgar Group -- which projected a number of close races in the battlegrounds -- will also get another look from curious commentators wondering why his polls have been so close to accurate, both in 2016 and this year.

The firm was among the only pollsters to show Mr. Trump’s strength in the Midwest and Pennsylvania four years ago, and while its polls this fall may end up being a little on the rosy-red side, they appear to have gotten closer to the final horse-race results in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada than did other pollsters, by not giving short shrift to Mr. Trump’s strengths.

There were bits of the paper’s standard labeling bias in the special Election 2020 section, with correspondent Isabella Grullon Paz calling Alabama “this deeply conservative state.” In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was “a conservative icon and one of the most divisive figures in politics,” from a “deeply red state.” Matt Stevens called Nebraska an “overwhelmingly conservative state,” and Jon Hurdle found Pennsylvania’s “deeply conservative interior.” No similar “deep” or “divisive” terminology was spotted describing Democrats.