Trump Triumphs, Media Miscalculates: How the Polls and News got it Wrong

Against all of the odds, Trump has won the Electoral College despite every other political pundit swearing the candidate had limited paths to victory and the chances were not in his favor. In light of initially unfathomable results, the media has attempted to explain how Donald J. Trump secured the electoral college despite their predictions to the contrary.

In comparison to the 2012 presidential election, Hillary Clinton was unable to secure the millennial and minority vote as successfully as Barack Obama in 2008. CNN Senior Writer Tami Luhby believes that low voter turnout among these key demographics led to a Clinton loss, writing “African-American, Latino and younger voters failed to show up at the polls in sufficient numbers Tuesday to propel Clinton into the White House.

In a segment for CNBC, Chuck Todd reinforces this, explaining that the stagnant millennial and African-American turnout did nothing to counter “the surge in rural voters,” unlikely voters who participated in the 2016 election in unprecedented numbers.

New York Times Upshot’s Nate Cohn elaborates on the unexpected turnout of Trump supporting, white working-class voters through scrutiny of Clinton’s campaign strategy. “Clinton didn’t ignore the white, working-class vote, but to a certain extent, she didn’t focus much of her campaign there.” In contrast, he explains that Trump diverts many of his resources appealing to this demographic, one that “the Democrats were far more dependent on” than many believed.

Matt Walsh reconciles the conservative victory as a product of just how disconnected the liberal media is from white, working class, middle America in an article for The Blaze. Walsh “thinks part of [liberal’s] problem is that the liberal coalition consists largely — not entirely, but largely — of people who don’t really understand what it means to work for a living and pay their own way and feel the pain of the average, middle class American.”

Walsh also thinks the Donald Trump victory is a direct response to the insurgence of an American, politically correct culture: “In recent years you’ve fully embraced the mantra that all white people are inherently racist.” Walsh writes, “It became such a mainstream leftist idea that even Hillary Clinton publicly professed it. Well, it turns out that white people don’t like being called racists every second of the day.”

New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg suggests that the disparity in the polling versus the elections results in reality could possibly be due to unreliable polling techniques. “Can [public opinion polling] accurately capture public opinion when so many people are now so hard to reach on their unlisted cellphones?” Rutenberg contends that the media’s over reliance on inaccurate horse-race polling itself misrepresented the election. “Politics is not just about numbers,” he writes. “Data can’t always capture the human condition that is the blood of American politics.”

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias contributes the unexpected Trump victory to the media obsession with the resurgence of the Clinton email scandal. He argues that it unreasonably painted Hillary Clinton as a criminal to the general public and “the truth is that the email server scandal is and always was overhyped bullshit.”

Regardless of where these pundits fall on the political spectrum, everyone was shocked. Molly Ball, staff writer for the left leaning publication The Atlantic, attempts to voice the gravity of the unexpected bombshell in the political realm: “Trump’s victory decimated and demoralized the Democrats, who had put their faith in the destiny of demographics and the false god of campaign tactics, neither of which proved reliable. […] He broke the pollsters’ models. He redrew the electoral map. He smashed the smug certainties of the arrogant prognosticators.”

Ball also touches on the impacts of the bombshell not only on Democratic party lines, but among the journalistic community as well: “To say Trump’s election sent shockwaves through the American system would be an understatement.” Ball also touches on the media’s perception of Trump throughout the campaign, when she states, “When he began his campaign for the Republican nomination, he was regarded as a joke; when he entered the general election, he was seen as a sure loser.”

The media’s pre-deterministic dismissal of the Trump campaign arguably may have emboldened his supporters even more.

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan equates the shock to an urban, journalistic bubble that unconsciously disregarded the interests of middle America. She writes, “Although [journalists] touched down in the big red states for a few days, or interviewed some coal miners or unemployed autoworkers in the Rust Belt, we didn’t take them seriously. Or not seriously enough.”

In addition to the geographical divide between rural voters and urban journalists, Sullivan asserts that from the beginning, journalists had an interest to discount Trump with shaky polls because he had alienated them throughout the campaign. For journalists, a Trump victory “would be too horrible. So, therefore, according to some kind of magical thinking, it couldn’t happen.”

Rutenberg asserts that the media’s faulty predictions were “about a lot more than a failure in polling” but rather a failure to understand the interests behind the white, working class vote in an attempt to ignore the legitimate rise of an administration that would be dangerous to the media. “Journalists didn’t question the polling data when it confirmed their gut feeling that Mr. Trump could never in a million years pull it off. They portrayed Trump supporters who still believed he had a shot as being out of touch with reality. In the end, it was the other way around.”

No matter your opinion of the outcome of the general election, pollsters and political pundits alike are united in determining the cause behind such shocking disparities between the projections and the observable statistics in reality as well as developing more accurate surveying methods in the future.

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