How a Data Scientist Would Autopsy the 2016 Election Polls

In the wreckage the 2016 election unleashed on polls, a few things have quickly become clear. The entire country was working with incomplete or biased data. Past polling methods are flawed, but the question now as polling firms try to reestablish their reputations is how to adapt to the new paradigm.

A good start is FiveThirtyEight, which aggregates major polls into a predictive model. In their election postmortem, their conclusion is that Clinton’s lead was overstated in state polls by an average of 3.7 points (in either direction). In the average state won by Trump, the polls missed by 7.4 points. The polls’ most impactful miss was voter turnout, especially in swing states.

Author: Isabelle Guis


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