Once again the pollsters’ data about the US Presidential election were inaccurate.
The polls that were held just days before the election day were giving Biden an average lead of 10 points. However, all of these evaporated in thin air on the election day itself as Trump is narrowing the lead in swing states – the same scenario four years ago, when Hillary Clinton was widely predicted to win, yet lost to Trump.
Among the most inaccurate poll was the one conducted by ABC-Washington Post who gave Joe Biden a 17 point lead in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is now tied with Trump in this state with 49.3% of the vote to 49%.
Quinnipiac poll also gave Joe Biden a five-point lead over President Trump in Florida and four-point in Ohio. However, President Trump won both of these states by 3 points and 8 points respectively.
The same scenario has happened in the last 2016 election where Trump was helped by “shy” voters who showed up on election day but does not speak who will they vote for when asked by pollsters.
On the other hand, experts and supporters of President Trump blamed this polling error in the increasing unwillingness of the public to voice out their support for the Republican nominee.
Fox election analyst, Steve Hilton stated, “Because of the incredible degree of hate that’s been directed to President Trump and his supporters by nearly all the media, you’ve got this situation… where people didn’t necessarily want to admit to pollsters who they were supporting because it was socially embarrassing to do so.”
Hilton further added that if you hear day in and day out from the news that Trump is a racist monster, an evil, then chances are, people, will less likely to admit their support for him. He added that this factor was not taken into account by the polls.
“Social desirability bias” and how it affects the polls
Social desirability bias is the name coined by some pollsters to the effect that keeps the supporters of President Trump quiet whenever they were asked who they are voting for.
What it means is that, people had the tendency to give answer that they think the person who’s asking them would want to hear rather than what they actually prefer.
Although this case can be true to any circumstance, social desirability bias is emphasized in the case of President Trump because of the abuse that his supporters are often subjected to.
Robert Cahaly, a pollster from the Trafalgar Group stated that the abuse had worsened between 2016 up to this year. “In 2016, the worst being said about Trump voters is that they were “deplorable”,” he said.
Our @trafalgar_group findings featured in this @Newsweek article by @meghan_roos “Pollster who called 2016 correctly says Trump win likely as "shy voters" shun shutdowns https://t.co/MbjXZcAYFl
— Robert C. Cahaly (@RobertCahaly) November 3, 2020
Cahaly further added that nowadays, people are getting beaten up for wearing the wrong hat, people are getting harassed for putting a sticker on their car. That is why most opt not to say anything.
The effect of “shy voters” are also known as “social desirability bias” among pollsters.
This effect was further explained by Nate Silver in article which was published before election that explained in detail as to why Trump could still win reelection.
Silver stated that, “people, when confronted by a stranger on the phone asking them what they think, are more likely to give the answer that they think that person wants to hear – rather than their true opinion.”
And in general, people are hesistant to say that they will vote for Trump.
Jim Lee, another analyst from Susquehanna told WFMZ this week that “There are a lot of voters out there that don’t want to admit they are vo.ting for a guy that has been called a racist,”
Lee further added that the submerged Trump factor is real and they were able to capture how it works. However, there are a lot of pollsters who have been rejecting the idea that voters of Trump are hiding.