polls-work

How Well Did the Polls Work in 1980? Rush Limbaugh Chimes In

It seems that the polls work when people aren’t thinking about voting for a candidate the media hates.

How well did the polls work for Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter? As Rush Limbaugh reminded listeners yesterday, not well at all!

Polls showed Carter winning. What happened is that NBC called it for Reagan by 8:15 the night of the vote.

My main point here is that the polls didn’t predict any of this. All Reagan’s voters went to the polls despite being assured that he would lose. Each one had no evidence that his or her vote would be part of a landslide.

David Brinkley actually brought up the issue that night of how wildly inaccurate the polling had been. I couldn’t find a short video of the exchange, but here is that transcript courtesy of Rush Limbaugh:

BRINKLEY:  I’d like to ask a question of you folks.  We have here what I think reasonably could be called a landslide or certainly something approaching a landslide.  Where did it come from?  Nobody anticipated it.  No polls predicted it.  No one saw it coming.  How did that happen?  I don’t want to knock the polls, because I believe in them, and they generally do very good work.  One thing I wondered.  Have a lot of people — did a lot of people decide to vote for Reagan, but didn’t want to say so?

BROKAW:  Well, that’s always been a factor.  He’s an actor, after all.  A lot of people have made fun of him, and maybe I ought not be publicly in favor of him.

BRINKLEY:  Again, don’t want to pick on the polls, but there was none of this insight.

Limbaugh posted this under a heading that included “faulty polling.” But was it faulty? Or was it deliberate disinformation to discourage Reagan voters? Do polls work by predicting voter behavior or do polls work by manipulating it?

Remember, Wikileaks has shown us that producing inaccurate poll results was part of the strategy of the Clinton campaign.

Happily, what takes place in the voting booth is completely private. Media shaming reaches a limit to its effectiveness due to that fact. People resist and rebel against being bullied. In my opinion it is likely that some are going to vote for Trump simply because they don’t like the media shaming them to vote for Hillary Clinton.

People sometimes say that the government will grow so tyrannical that it will cancel elections. But why would they? The elections give them legitimacy (or so they believe). They can always change the rules. Imagine how this country would vote if you had to sign your ballot. Suddenly the media’s shaming would become a source of intimidation that wouldn’t stop at the polling booth.

The government would probably not have to do something so dramatic. I constantly hear liberals claim that it would be good to pass a law requiring people to vote. The enthusiasm gap is huge in elections because people who aren’t excited about a candidate tend not to bother to show up to vote. But if they are forced to show up, they’ll vote for their party’s candidate anyway. If Americans were required to vote, Hillary would have a much better chance of winning and polls might be more accurate.

Here’s Rush Limbaugh’s commentary:

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Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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