As the results rolled in on election night and the days afterwards, so did a strong sense of déjà vu. Pre-election polls, it appeared, had been misleading once again.
While the nation awaited final results from Pennsylvania, Nevada and other key states, it was clear that the polling industry failed to fully account for the missteps that led it to underestimate Donald Trump’s support four years ago. Polling didn’t just underestimate Trump’s support again this year — it also misread the support for many Republican senate candidates, both in and out of trump’s orbit.
“There’s no question that the state polls were poorly performing this year as they were 4 years ago. But since the professional pollsters did supposedly correct their sample for 2020, it is a big mystery why the state polls were so far off. The national polls were actually pretty good,” said Chris Bury, veteran ABC News correspondent.
Democrats remained in control of the House of Representatives, but struggled to gain new seats. After taking the House in 2018, Democrats had expected to carve much further into the suburbs once dominated by Republicans.
Meanwhile, control of the senate remains uncertain and could hinge on two runoff elections in Georgia. In Iowa, Senator Joni Ernst won a second term against challenger Theresa Greenfield despite being badly outspent by the democrat throughout the race. And in Maine, Senator Susan Collins easily won re-election despite polls showing she was behind.
“This is another situation where perhaps the polls were not good. In fact, the Iowa polls, many especially in the week before the election suggested that Biden was going to win Iowa. And then there was a very late poll from the Des Moines Register which had Trump really pulling ahead. The Democrats perhaps did not campaign hard enough in. Those are really the two big surprises that Ernst and Collins were re-elected,” said Bury.
According to Bury, Democrats may need to improve their outreach in the future.
Democrats are not going to change their policy on abortion or global warming or racial equality. Those are bedrocks of the party and so there’s no real need for them to change. Could they do more to explain their message to Trump voters, to white rural Americans? Absolutely. Biden also could have done a better job to suggest that he wasn’t a socialist as he was painted to be by the Trump campaign” said Bury.
House democrats lost seven seats in battleground districts, including in South Carolina, New Mexico and Iowa. Democrats also lost two seats in South Florida where many Cuban and Venezuelan expatriates live. Some feel they bought into Trump’s claims that the Democrats would bring socialism to some of the country’s policies.
Meanwhile, Some democrats say gop attacks on “law and order” also cost their party support in Trump country – including Latino voters.
“We’re also seeing that Democrats did not do as well this year in reaching out to Latino voters. In fact, the Trump margin of Latino voters is up significantly, especially in Florida over four years ago. You know for years, many Black Americans have felt that the Democratic party took them for granted. It may be true that Latino voters could make that same argument,” said Bury.
“Republicans still are much better than the Democrats about taking your campaign and addressing those issues that people have. And just to look down on those people and say all those are just Trump supporters. Well they are Trump supporters for a reason. They have problems and concerns and frankly get ignored by the democrats or get lied to by the Republicans and they are a very volatile group. Trump has made a very strong connection with them,” said Dr. Kent Redfield, an emeritus political science professor of the University of Illinois at Springfield
Trump is the first defeat of an incumbent president in 28 years. He commanded about 48 percent of the popular vote, meaning he retained the support of nearly half of the public despite four years of scandal, setbacks, impeachment and the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.