Bernie Sanders has just won the Michigan Democratic primary. Polling guru Nate Silver of 38degrees said that given that Sanders was behind by an average of 21.3% in all polls leading up to the vote, if Sanders won Michigan it would count among “the greatest polling errors in primary history.”
And it’s not just the pollsters who got it wrong. It’s a massive setback for Hillary Clinton’s predicted progress towards coronation, sedulously and and boringly promoted by the mainstream media. Silver’s methodology relies on aggregating all polls and adding some other variables, so he can’t be blamed. But the Washington Post should know better as the Young Turks point out here. Stuff has also been taking the Post feed.
It’s worth thinking about why the pundits and the pollsters got it so wrong. They will now have to recalibrate and backtrack, although some will now no doubt turn to attack Sanders in order to prove they were right all along.
I think they miss one very obvious and very important indicator foreshadowed in an earlier post. Google “Sanders rallies” and the headlines speak of overflow numbers in the thousands and an air of excitement. Google “Clinton Rallies” and likely as not you find a picture of Hillary with a mike to her mouth and a few people in the background, or a sermon from Bill to their volunteers. The feel is summarised here.
It’s worse in Britain. Don’t expect the Guardian or the Independent to follow where Jeremy Corbyn is actually meeting voters – for that you have to go to the local papers such as this description of a recent meeting in Wales.
I think the problem with the pundits, the media, and the SpAds is that they don’t know or recognise good political organising. Sanders’ approach is superb, as shown by the way he has been able to out-fundraise Hillary with small donations and use social media to activate and energise supporters so they become proselytisers. In no small part that is because Sanders is himself a superb communicator, and a much more effective campaigner than the Clinton campaign was expecting. It certainly helps that like Corbyn he doesn’t have to ask himself – or a pollster – what he thinks.
This American election campaign gets more fascinating by the day, and there is lots more to come. The old playbook is being thrown out, and the new one constantly being written and rewritten. A frmer colleague would say “watch this space” – to which I would add “look and learn.”