Over a period of 24 hours, two national surveys were released documenting the results of a hypothetical two-person presidential contest between Donald Trump (Republican Party) and Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party).
Two different polls with two different results.
One, from ABC News/Washington Post, shows a two-point margin of victory for Trump, 44%-42% over Clinton (829 registered voters, margin of error 3.5 percentage points, full results here).
The other, from NBC News/Wall Street Journal, shows a Clinton victory over Trump by a margin of 46%-43% (1,000 registered voters, margin of error 3.1 percentage points, article here).
Both survey results are within the margin of error so both of these results are a statistical draw.
It is at this point in my posting that I would usually dive into the numbers to suss out any meaning from the figures and data buried within.
But not today.
This post is rant against the stupidity of nationwide presidential polling.
Polling the presidential preferences of one thousand people in the continental United States of America gives no clue as to who will win the White House.
An American presidential election is not one giant nationwide election.
An American presidential election is not a popularity contest.
An American presidential election is fifty-one separate and local elections.
The next occupant of the Oval Office is the person who can win 270 (or more) votes in the Electoral College. Period.
A sampling of 1,000 Americans who live in the lower-48 gives no indication as to how the citizens of Flordia, Ohio, Wisconsin, or Virginia will vote.
A sampling of 1,000 Floridians is an indication as to how the citizens of Florida will vote.
A sampling of 1,000 Ohioans is an indication as to how the citizens of Ohio will vote.
A sampling of 1,000 Wisconinites is an indication as to how the citizens of Wisconsin will vote.
A sampling of 1,000 Virginians is an indication as to how the citizens of Virginia will vote.
And so on.
The only purpose that nationwide polling serves is to act as click-bait and attention-grabbing headlines to make the presidential race seem closer than it is. Mentioning the close numbers documenting in national polling allows for writers to create headlines with words such as “nailbiter” and “neck-and-neck“.
Of course, writing about the “horse race” of the Trump-Clinton contest and how much of a “nailbiter” it is is tons more exciting than writing about the reality of the race. When one looks at each state and how it is leaning, the contest becomes less of a “nailbiter”. Larry Sabato has this political prediction map that shows a Democratic Party victory of 347-191 in the Electoral College.
The 270towin.com website has a map that shows how each state is leaning right now based on the current polling. As of this writing, it shows Clinton with a 207-35 lead in the Electoral College.
Electiongraphs.com has a state-by-state analysis that shows, at the moment, that the BEST case scenario for Trump is a Clinton victory of 308-230 in the Electoral College.
Polling on a national level is inane.
As an example, let me use history. In the 2012 election, President Barack Obama won 51.1% of the popular vote. His challenger, Mitt Romney, won 47.2% of the popular vote. This 3.9 percentage point margin of victory in 2012 in the popular vote translated into a 332-206 victory for Obama in the Electoral College. In percentage terms, Obama won 62% of the Electoral College vote to Romney’s 38%.
Just for the record, 62%-38% is not a “nailbiter”.
Also just for the record, nation-wide polling is a waste of time and effort and serious news organizations need to stop it.