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How Polling Works

This is how polling works. You conduct the poll, make sure your methods are sound, and the result is the result.

Releasing "weird" results is the sign of an honest pollster.

But what about consistently weird like Rasmussen and Trafalgar? 

What to Make of Wisconsin?

Please consider What To Make Of That New Wisconsin Poll That Has Biden Way Ahead

Once in a blue moon, you see a poll that makes you blink twice to make sure you’re not seeing things. This morning’s ABC News/The Washington Post survey of Wisconsin was just such a poll. It showed Joe Biden 17 points (not a typo) ahead of President Trump, 57 percent to 40 percent, among likely voters. To put it mildly, this is a stunning margin in what is supposed to be one of the most competitive swing states in the country — a place that Trump carried by less than 1 percentage point in 2016.

And this is not an easy poll to disregard. ABC News/Washington Post adheres to what we consider the gold-standard methodology (meaning they use live phone interviewers, call cell phones as well as landlines and participate in the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Transparency Initiative or the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archive) and earns an A+ grade in FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings database.1 The poll single-handedly increased Biden’s lead in our polling average of Wisconsin from 7.1 points to 9.0 points, and it is currently the most influential poll in our forecast of Wisconsin, where Biden’s chances of winning the state have reached a new high as a result — 93 in 100.

Not Isolated Actually

Nate Silver goes on to explain recent trends. This move in Wisconsin is not isolated.

  • RABA Research was out with a poll yesterday showing Biden at 50 percent and Trump at 46 percent in Iowa. Last week, the A+ pollsters Monmouth University and Siena College/The New York Times Upshot found similar margins. Iowa, remember, is a fairly red state that Trump carried by 9 points in 2016. And for the first time, our forecast now gives Biden a better chance than Trump of winning the state, although it’s still basically a coin flip (Biden’s odds are 51 in 100).
  • Yesterday, Gravis Marketing released a survey of Minnesota in which Biden led Trump by 14 points. Biden’s chances of winning Minnesota have now reached an all-time high of 94 in 100.
  • On Sunday, we also got a Gravis poll of Michigan that gave Biden a 13-point lead. That’s on top of last week’s Fox News poll of Michigan showing Biden 12 points ahead. And this morning, ABC News/Washington Post also released a Michigan poll giving Biden a smaller 7-point lead. Overall, our forecast gives Biden a 94 in 100 chance of winning the Wolverine State.

Late Momentum

This surge in momentum for Biden was expected in this corner. 

We see it in Georgia as well where A+ rated pollster Monmouth University has Biden +3. 

My Fearless Election Forecast and Range of Outcomes

My Fearless Election Forecast October 13

On October 13, I posted My Fearless Election Forecast and Range of Outcomes

I moved Iowa, Ohio, and Georgia into Biden's camp expecting momentum to go in Biden's favor.

I expect all three to break for Biden unless he makes a major gaffe in the next debate, catches Covid, or some other unexpected event happens. ... Even Texas is in play for Biden.  

Spotlight Iowa

On October 21 I commented Spotlight Iowa: Monmouth University Has Biden 4 Points Ahead.

I expected the polls to change for Biden, and Iowa just did.

Silver waits for the polls, I will take a reasonable shot when I see one. I expected the Monmouth poll and there it is. 

Confidence Level 

Q: How confident am I of Iowa, Ohio, and Georgia? 

A: Not very and neither is Silver.  

Silver has Iowa 54-46 Trump, Georgia as 52-48 Trump, and Ohio as 50-50. 

I have all three as 55-45 Biden

Despite the Monmouth poll, my odds did not change because I already expected such a result by a high quality pollster.

If we see further momentum in Biden's favor, expect to see Nate Silver at something like 55-45 Biden for Iowa, Georgia, and Ohio as well.

Ohio is not going as planned but Georgia and Iowa are.

Silver is now 53-47 on Georgia and 50-50 on Iowa up from 54-46 Trump. 

Scroll to Continue


Silver has Ohio 60-40 Trump. I will wait for more polls and reassess Ohio.


"Given Biden's strong polling in Iowa lately I suspect that our model is lowballing him in NE-2, in fact. Getting another nonpartisan poll there before the election would be one of the more helpful things right now."

Reasonable Shots

Some people wait for polls others are willing to go out on a limb and take a stab at anticipating them.

Let me reiterate my October 21 comment: "Silver waits for the polls, I will take a reasonable shot when I see one."

A couple of friends questioned my statement.

But if all I do is wait for and parrot Silver, I may as well be Silver. 

I strongly disagreed with Silver in 2016 regarding Trump's odds of winning. 

Flashback November 2, 2016

Mish in 2016: Assessing Trump’s Chances With Six Days Remaining

Without a doubt, the decision by FBI director James Comey to announce the discovery of new emails related to the Hillary Clinton has seriously damaged Hillary’s election chances.

This may hand Trump the victory.

I disagree with Silver on Nevada and North Carolina. Earlier today Silver flipped on Florida, and before his flip, I disagreed with Silver on Florida.

Mentally place those states in Trump’s column, and we are pretty much where we were heading into the first debate: with Trump needing one more state.


In the end, I expected Trump to fall one state short. But in real time I accurately assessed momentum swung to Trump and that Comey was a huge factor.

 When momentum breaks hard, it is a mistake to average polls especially when there is a dearth of them. Stale polls play too big a role.

In 2016, there were not enough quality state level polls and they undersampled low-education white voters as well.

Then because of a dearth of polls at the state level, the Comey effect did not show in the states that mattered.

Eight Reasons This is Not 2016

Believe what you want but there are "At Least" Eight Reasons This is Not 2016.

  1. There are far fewer undecided voters this year. For discussion please see Who are the Undecided Voters and How Many Remain?
  2. There is no last minute Comey Bombshell (sorry Trump fans, the Hunter Biden Story is Irrelevant)
  3. Hillary was 2-3% ahead nationally in 2016 but Biden is 8-12% ahead.
  4. There are more state polls this time.
  5. In 2016, the state pollsters underweighted uneducated white voters.
  6. It's likely that pollsters overcompensated for the education gap this time thereby underestimating Biden's lead.
  7. Hillary was more despised than Trump. Now, Trump is far more despised than Biden.
  8. The massive amount of early voting is Democratic. These are not "likely voters". They are 100% guaranteed voters. The pollsters are underweighting "guaranteed" voters as "likely" voters. In 2016 a big chunk of these voters sat out the election.

Bonus Reasons

Those who expect a "Bonus Reason" I just happen to have one: Covid Records Shattered In The US and Europe