Trump Slams ‘Fake Polling,’ Says Pollsters ‘Suppress the Numbers’

By Zachary Stieber

President Donald Trump took aim at the polls on June 12, calling them fake.

“The Fake News has never been more dishonest than it is today. Thank goodness we can fight back on Social Media,” he began in a missive posted on Twitter. “There [sic] new weapon of choice is Fake Polling, sometimes referred to as Suppression Polls (they suppress the numbers). Had it in 2016, but this is worse.”

“The Fake (Corrupt) News Media said they had a leak into polling done by my campaign which, by the way and despite the phony and never ending Witch Hunt, are the best numbers WE have ever had. They reported Fake numbers that they made up & don’t even exist. WE WILL WIN AGAIN!” he added.

The missive came as a number of polls claimed that Trump would lose against any of the top six Democratic presidential candidates in 2020. Most polls leading up to the 2016 presidential election had Trump losing to his opponent, former first lady and secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Media outlets and polling companies began pegging Trump’s odds at winning the presidency in 2015, with one claiming in mid-2015 that he only had a 1 percent chance to nab the Republican nomination, much less the general election.

After he won the GOP primary, Trump was repeatedly reported on as a longshot, with the New York Times, FiveThirtyEight, and other popular left-leaning outlets reporting that he had little chance of beating Clinton.

The openly liberal and anti-Trump New York Times reported on Oct. 18, 2016, that Clinton had a 91 percent chance of winning. On election day, it said Clinton had an 85 percent chance of winning. Princeton University professor Sam Wang, a top election forecaster, gave Clinton a 98 percent to 99 percent chance of winning.

Nate Silver’s 538, perhaps the most popular data-driven media outlet, had Clinton’s chance of winning at 71.4 percent and Trump’s chance at just 28.6 percent. It said there was just a 10 percent chance that Clinton would win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College, which is what happened. The forecast relied in part on polls from the openly anti-Trump HuffPost, the nonpartisan RealClearPolitics, and other polling firms.

“The polls were largely bad, including mine,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, told 538.

“It is real error and the public’s right to question polls is justified,” added Nick Gourevitch of Global Strategy Group.

Murray told the left-leaning Business Insider: “Polls might not be capable of predicting elections.”

Quanta writer Pradeep Mutalik said that prediction models can provide accurate forecasts “but they depend on a crucial assumption—that the data points are all independent.”

“This year we saw something different: Almost all the swing state polls overscored Clinton’s numbers by two to six percent. This error is called ‘systematic’ or ‘correlated error.’ Since it affected most or all polls, it was probably caused by some common disrupting factor or factors that were outside the well-established and hitherto reliable poll methodology itself. It was this correlated error that completely threw off the prediction models,” he wrote.

It wasn’t just polls, either. Outlets like CNN would report that Trump couldn’t win the office. For example, Maeve Reston wrote on Oct. 14, 2016, that “Trump’s path to the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency is looking more and more impossible by the day.” She used polling, a Republican pollster, and a former Barack Obama adviser to support her claim.