Intentional bias and unintentional undercount may be giving misleading portrait of presidential race

By Dave Andrusko

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

“Are the Polls Biased Against Trump?” read the headline yesterday on a website that is, shall we say, not the biggest fan of Donald Trump.

As it happens, no sooner had I written the first sentence about that post when I ran across one those jaw-dropping examples of double-standard media coverage that perfectly illustrates unquestioned, undeniable, and unfiltered bias.

I didn’t see it, so I have no idea if Trump’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper was the disaster the Washington Post’s Callum Borchers makes it out to be. But consider…

Borchers’ snarky point was that after yesterday Trump may not go on interview programs. But not a word about Hillary Clinton not holding a press conference in forever and a day or how she is treated with kid gloves whenever she is interviewed by friendly media types.

Back to “Are the Polls Biased Against Trump?

Jay Cost’s point is no—not intentionally—but they may be underestimating Trump’s support, based on the way polls are taken this far out from the November 8 election.

Cost cites two ways:

First, most polls are still of registered voters. Most registered voters ultimately vote in the presidential election, but many do not. If those non-voters are less disposed to Trump than actual voters, the polls right now may be understating his position. If this is a problem, it should begin to correct itself after Labor Day, when pollsters begin using likely voter screens.

Second, there could still be statistical bias in the polls. The challenge with polling is that it is taking a sample of voters, a population that does not actually exist until Election Day. Pollsters have to make guesses about what that population will look like. While well-informed, those guesses can be wrong.

To be clear, Cost argues this could cut both ways—Clinton’s support could be undercounted as well. That’s hard to believe for all the reasons we’ve discussed the last few days.

The point simply being (a) we will know a lot more about the real state of the election beginning next month, and (b) the media hostility toward Trump, already at a fever pitch, will pick up even more steam if it becomes clear this really is a competitive race.

By the way the latest USC Dornsife/LA Times Presidential Election Daybreak Poll shows Trump ahead of Clinton, 44.3% to 43.6%.