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Polling for the Presidential Race

Airdate: November 9, 2016
Many polls predicted a Hillary Clinton win in the race for president, but Donald Trump ended up winning. Local pollster Mike O’Neil will talk about polling in the 2016 presidential race.

Guests:
  • Mike O'Neil - Local pollster
Category: Vote 2016

Keywords: Poll Predictions, Hillary Clinton,

View Transcript
TED SIMONS: LAST NIGHT'S PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS CAME AS A SHOCK TO THOSE FOLLOWING THE MANY POLLS THAT SHOWED DONALD TRUMP TRAILING HILLARY CLINTON IN IMPORTANT SWING STATES. THAT DISCONNECT DID NOT GO UNNOTICED BY REPUBLICANS.

HERE NOW TO TALK ABOUT WHY THE POLLING DATA WAS SO OFF-THE-MARK, IS LOCAL POLLSTER MIKE O'NEIL. APPARENTLY STILL EMPLOYED. THANKS FOR COMING IN. YOU HAVE A LOT OF EXPLAINING TO DO HERE. WHY DID SO MANY STATE POLLS -- THE NATIONAL POLLS WERE CLOSE. SHE GOT THE POPULAR VOTE. THE STATE POLLS WERE WAY OFF. WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?

MIKE O’NEIL: LET ME TELL YOU THE HONEST TRUTH, WE DON'T KNOW. ANYONE WITH A GLIB EXPLANATION AT THIS POINT, THAT'S SPECULATION. I CAN TELL YOU THE PROFESSION WILL GO THROUGH A WHOLE INVESTIGATION ON THIS WITH SERIOUS FOLKS. DON'T EXPECT AN ANSWER IN LESS THAN SIX MONTHS. I CAN THROW OUT SPECULATION. THE SHY VOTER THEORY. I DIDN'T NOTICE TRUMP BEING SHY.

TED SIMONS: TALK ABOUT THE SHY VOTE, WHAT IS THE SHY VOTE?

MIKE O’NEIL: SHY VOTE MEANS THAT PEOPLE WERE RELUCTANT TO ADMIT THEY WERE VOTING FOR TRUMP AND SAID OTHERWISE. THE BIG ONE I LOOK AT, A LONG TERM ONE, NOT SO SEXY. I HAVE BEEN POLLING FOR 40 YEARS. EVERY YEAR THERE IS 1 OR 2% LOWER RESPONSE RATE, THE PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE YOU CALL THAT ARE WILLING TO TALK TO YOU. CUMULATIVE OVER 40 YEAR, THAT'S DEVASTATING. WHAT THAT MEANS IS WE START OUT WITH A PROBABILITY SAMPLE, ITS UNCLEAR THE EXTENT WE END UP WITH A PROBABILITY SAMPLE AFTER YEARS AND YEARS, '08 IT WORKED. 2012 ON THE NOSE. THIS YEAR IN A LOT OF PLACES, IT DIDN'T WORK. IT MAY HAVE JUST CROSSED A THRESHOLD.

TED SIMONS: THE UNIVERSITY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA POLL GOT IT RIGHT. THEY WERE CLOSE TO GETTING IT RIGHT AS ANYONE. THEY USED ROBO CALLS, THE INTERNET AND ANONYMOUS INFORMATION SO SHY VOTERS OR JUST DIDN’T WANT TO TELL SOMEONE FACE TO FACE THAT I WOULD VOTE FOR TRUMP WOULD SPEAK HONESTLY. TALK ABOUT THAT?

MIKE O’NEIL: WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE ANONYMOUS ASPECT YET. THIS THEORY HAS BEEN TOUTED FOR YEARS. GO BACK TO THE BRADLEY EFFECT. USUALLY IT'S PROVEN NOT TO BE THE CASE. MAYBE THERE IS AN INSTANCE WHEN IT IS. THE L.A. TIMES POLL, THERE WAS A FLAW THAT GOT IT FATAL. SOMEONE CAN DO THE WRONG THING AND GUESS RIGHT. THEY WAITED TO A VARIABLE. ATTITUDES, AS OPPOSED TO A KNOWN PARAMETER LIKE SEX OR AGE OR PARTY REGISTRATION. NOT PARTY REFERENCE. PARTY PREFERENCE IS AN ATTITUDE THAT CHANGES AS THE CAMPAIGN EVOLVES. PARTY REGISTRATION IS A FIXED THING AT A GIVEN POINT IN TIME.

TED SIMONS: SO YOU ARE SKEWING TO GET AN HONEST REFLECTION.

MIKE O’NEIL: IF YOU HAVE A REGISTERED VOTER SAMPLE, YOU WANT DEMOCRATS AND OTHERS IN IDENTICAL TO THE KNOWN POPULATION BUT YOU HAVE A PARAMETER. WHICH PARTY DO YOU PREFER? WHICH IS WHAT THEY DID, YOU CAN'T WAIT FOR THAT BECAUSE IT'S SHIFTING SAND. IN A REPUBLICAN YEAR MORE PEOPLE CALL THEMSELVES REPUBLICANS EVEN THOUGH THEY DON'T CHANGE THEIR REGISTRATION.

TED SIMONS: PERHADS THE USC FORMATS FLAWED TO A CERTAIN EXTENT THEY GOT IT RIGHT BUT A LOT OF FOLKS DIDN'T. WHAT'S GOING TO BE DISCUSSED? WHAT IS GOING TO BE LOOKED AT?

MIKE O’NEIL: THE DETAILS. THIS IS THE KIND OF STUFF YOU HAVE WHOLE CONFERENCES AND PEOPLE SPEND YEARS DOING. A LOT OF STUFF THAT WOULD BE IN DOCUMENTS THIS THICK DISSECTING THIS. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN DO IN AN AFTERNOON BY RUNNING A COUPLE OF TABLES.

TED SIMONS: YOU MENTIONED THAT SOMETHING CHANGED THIS YEAR ON THE CUSP OF CHANGING IN PREVIOUS YEARS.

MIKE O’NEIL: INCREMENTALLY 40 YEAR, WORSE EVERY YEAR.

TED SIMONS: WHAT HAPPENS IN TWO YEARS? WHAT HAPPENS IN FOUR YEARS?

MIKE O’NEIL: THAT TREND, I DON'T THINK, GETS REVERSED. WE LEARNED SOMETHING THERE COULD BE A TWEAK. THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM IS THIS, YOU NEED TO START WITH A COMPREHENSIVE LIST PEOPLE IN THE UNIVERSE, A SAMPLING FRAME. YOU DO THAT WITH THE TELEPHONE AND REGISTERED VOTER LISTS. THERE IS NO LIST OF E-MAILS WITH EVERYONE IN THERE ONCE AND NOT MULTIPLE TIMES. THAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH COMPUTER STUFF. IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE PROBLEMS GETTING PEOPLE TO RESPOND TO YOU OVER THE PHONE, WHAT OF E-MAILS DO YOU SUPPOSE? A FRACTION OF WHAT YOU GET ON THE PHONE. WE HAVE A FLAWED METHOD ON THE ONE HAND AND EVERYWHERE ELSE WORSE.

TED SIMONS: IT'S A TOUGH PLACE AND SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE. PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW WHAT THE TRENDS ARE. NOT FOR POLITICS, GOOD TO KNOW BUT IN ALL MANNER OF THINGS, POLLING IS IMPORTANT.

MIKE O’NEIL: IF YOU ARE OFF BY 4%, FOR MOST THINGS, THAT'S NOT GOING TO MATTER. FOR ELECTIONS, IT'S CRITICAL. IF WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT GROUPS FEEL THIS WAY AND ARGUMENTS AND THINGS THEY ARE CONCERNED ABOUT, YOU CAN TOLERATE A LACK OF PRECISION. WHEN ASKING THE ATTITUDE QUESTION, VOTING IS A UNIQUE CASE. WHO ARE YOU GOING TO VOTE FOR IS A SIMPLE CONCEPT? HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NATIONAL DEFENSE SPENDING OR ABORTION, THOSE ARE ATTITUDES DIFFICULT TO PIN DOWN WHEN THERE IS A LOT OF SLIPPAGE IN THE MOVEMENT.

TED SIMONS: EVERYONE SAYS POLITICS HAS CHANGED MAYBE FOREVER BUT FOR NOW. HAS POLLING AS WE HAVE KNOWN POLLING CHANGED FOREVER?

MIKE O’NEIL: I THINK IT'S MORE EVOLUTIONARY THAN THAT. PEOPLE ARE RUNNING FOR OFFICE. THEY ARE GOING TO HIRE POLLSTERS NEXT TIME. THEY MIGHT NOT TAKE IT TO THE SECOND DECIMAL PLACE, BUT YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE THINGS MATTER. THAT'S NOT GOING TO SELL. THE ALTERNATIVE IS TALK TO THREE PEOPLE IN THE BAR AND MAKR CONCLUSIONS WITH THE PUBLIC.

MIKE, GOOD TO SEE YOU. THANKS FOR JOINING US. THURSDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON. A HORIZON "IN FOCUS" SPECIAL: WE'LL VISIT WITH RENOWNED ARCHITECT WILL BRUDER AS HE TALKS ABOUT HIS ART AND HIS CRAFT INSIDE ONE OF HIS OWN CREATIONS, THE BURTON BARR LIBRARY. WILL BRUDER, IN FOCUS, ON THE NEXT ARIZONA HORIZON. THEN FRIDAY, WE'LL HAVE A SPECIAL VETERAN'S DAY EDITION OF HORIZON. DON'T MISS THAT EITHER. I'M TED SIMONS. THANKS FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE HAVE A GREAT EVENING