One of the recurring themes from the left about the election results is that they lost — or didn’t do as well as they had hoped — not because their ideas are terrible, but because about half of all Americans are racists or morons or illiterate or just plain bad people.
Whatever else it is, it is certainly a different approach to persuasion.
Part of the liberals’ problem is that they were misled by their own pollsters, who told them repeatedly in a variety of ways that most of America agreed with them on most issues. They were so convincing that donors (looking at you, Mike Bloomberg) were persuaded to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on races that were never really close.
I’ve already noted in this column that among the losers in this election cycle are opinion researchers. But the extent of the inaccuracy is worth examining.
Opinion researchers spent a lot of time talking about the “shy” Trump voter and they will blame those voters for missing the actual results so badly. But that’s nonsense. The real problem is that pollsters systematically oversampled Democrats because that’s who they thought would actually show up or because it made their numbers look “better.”
The bias-driven inaccuracy spread well beyond the presidential race. In the North Carolina Senate race, Real Clear Politics had Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham ahead of Sen. Thom Tillis in every survey leading up to election, with the average 2.6%. Mr. Tillis is ahead by a point.
In South Carolina, Ron Faucheux’s average of surveys had Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham up by 3 points; he won by 10. In Montana, Mr. Faucheux’s average had Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic challenger Steve Bullock even. Mr. Daines won by 10. In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was supposed to win by 10, while he won by 20. In Kansas, Republican Roger Marshall was supposed to win by 3; he won by 12.
You get the point. In every instance and at every turn in this campaign, the polling bias was in one direction and was based not only on a misapprehension of Trump voters, but also on a misapprehension of all voters.
The intellectual and moral collapse of opinion research was widespread and uniform.
The job of the opinion researchers in any campaign is to tell the truth, especially when it’s ugly. He or she is supposed to tell a candidate: “That’s a great idea, unfortunately, everyone hates it.”
In this cycle, few of those conversations happened. Consequently, folks on the left in places as diverse as MSNBC and The New York Times expressed their outrage or disgust at the election results and the idea that their countrymen might not be as woke as they had imagined or been told by their pollsters.
But really, they are angry because they were surprised and looked foolish because they expected something that was never going to happen — the mass acquiescence of ordinary Americans to the more daffy and dangerous parts of the liberal agenda.
That’s the risk when the one person in politics who is supposed to tell the truth — the researcher — becomes just another cog in the propaganda machine.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.