If you listen to the Democrats, what’s coming this November is a so-called blue wave of tidal proportions that sweeps out all those riff-raffy Republicans and ushers in instead a marked majority of left-leaning liberals in both House and Senate — it’s a takeover they say is coming entirely as backlash to President Donald Trump.
Grain of salt, meet prognosticators.
These are the same Democrats, mind you, who predicted right up until the very last hour on election night 2016 that Hillary Clinton was to be Madame President.
And count on it — they’re using the same polls, to boot.
“NBC News/WSJ poll: Democrats hold the advantage in November’s elections,” screamed one NBC headline in September.
A second, from Vox in September: “3 new polls show Democrats really could flip the House in November.”
Another, again from NBC, in October: “Voter registration data suggests Democrats’ longed-for ‘blue wave’ will crash over Republicans in November.”
FiveThirtyEight, in an October 18 survey to determine which party people would support in the coming election — the generic ballot question — found 49.7 percent of respondents favored Democrats; 41.3 percent, Republicans.
RealClearPolitics, meanwhile, in recent numbers predicted 50 Senate seats to Republicans and 44 to Democrats, with six still as toss-ups; 198 House seats to Republicans, 206 to Democrats and 31 still undecided; and 23 gubernatorial races wrapping with Republican wins, compared to 19 for Dems and with eight still in the toss-up category.
Republicans, by the numbers, anyway, seem doomed.
But when don’t they? The problem with all these polls is that polling, with increasing frequency, proves problematic.
“Political prognostication has become increasingly unreliable,” wrote The Week in mid-2016. “Are polls really less accurate? There’s no doubt about it. In recent years, polls have been egregiously wrong.”
Let us count the ways.
There was the virtual tie that Gallup foresaw in 2012 for Mitt Romney in his race against Barack Obama — as well as the Romney victory predicted by several other polling outlets. The red-face moment came when Obama won with 51.1 percent of the vote to Romney’s 47.2 percent.
Then there was the “Republican wave in the 2014 midterms” that “pollsters vastly underestimated,” The Week wrote.
And then there was the 2017 nine-point victory of Democrat Ralph Northam in Virginia’s governor race, a margin that took many pollsters by surprise — as well as the wide pendulum swings of survey numbers in the Alabama Senate race that same year between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, National Affairs noted.
Let’s not forget that whole tea party thing that coursed through 2010 and, with lesser success, 2012 contests, upsetting the status quo on Capitol Hill while completely confounding those on the left, in the media, and in the elitist camps of the ideological right — pundits and pollsters both.
But the capper that just won’t quit: Trump’s White House victory — predicted by barely anybody.
The takeaway has to be this: Don’t believe the polls.
They’re short-sighted glimpses in time, inherently biased, influenced by the likes of how questions are worded, how questions are ordered, how many questions are asked, how many participants are reached — and a host of other factors. If that’s not scientifically shaky enough, then come the members of the media to report and interpret these numbers — members of the media whom we already know, from slews of surveys and studies, tend to vote Democratic and support progressive policies, even as they self-identify as independent.
So what’s coming this November at the ballot boxes?
An honest appraisal demands at the very least, an open mind. There’s just too much history showing polls are almost always wrong. And funny how it works: They’re always wrong in favor of the Democrats.
By that token, by historical truths, don’t be surprised when Republicans keep both House and Senate.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.