Politics Podcast: How To Make Polls Better

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In the wake of the 2020 election, there’s been plenty of discussion about the accuracy and usefulness of polling. Nationally, the polling error was about four points, which is close to the average polling error dating back to 1972. But the polls were significantly off in the Midwest and in Florida, where we’ve repeatedly seen larger than average errors underestimating Republicans recently. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we hear from two A+ rated pollsters, J. Ann Selzer and Patrick Murray, about how they view the challenges of polling and what can be done about them.

Selzer conducts the Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register, which showed Trump leading Biden in the state by 7 points in late October. It was an outlier compared to the average, which showed a dead heat, but — as with a number of her outlier polls in the past — it proved correct. Murray, the founding director of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute, ran into many of the same challenges in the Midwest and Florida that other pollsters did.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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