In the 1990s, a company called the Psychic Friends Network supplied fancy infomercials and a $3.99/minute 1-900 number to let Americans chat with “real psychics” on the phone. The company brought in well over $100 million a year before eventually going down in flames under charges of fraud and bankruptcy.
But for all of its faults, the Psychic Friends Network may have done a better job of predicting the future than our country’s national media pollsters.
In its last pre-election poll, Quinnipiac declared that Joe Biden would take Florida by 5 points. In fact, the opposite happened — President Trump won Florida by 3 points. A Monmouth University poll showed Biden ahead in Pennsylvania by 5 to 7 points. At the time of this writing, Biden is up over Trump 50 to 49 percent.
Less than a week before Election Day, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed Joe Biden ahead by 17 points in Wisconsin. Actually, Wisconsin is locked in a dead heat with less than a 1-percentage-point difference between the candidates.
In the past, news organizations have tried to stay away from any “new” information about elections the weekend before Election Day. Yet, on Nov. 1, NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd devoted an entire segment to the erroneous NBC/WSJ poll.
The RealClearPolitics summary of polls for the Maine U.S. Senate race did not have one pollster showing Republican Sen. Susan Collins poised to win re-election, and the October polls listed show victory margins ranging between 4 to 7 percent for her opponent. Ready for another shocker? With 89 percent of precincts reporting in Maine, Collins is ahead by nearly 8 points.
And don’t get me started on Fox News prematurely calling my home state of Arizona for Joe Biden with 900,000 votes left to be counted — the vast majority of which were cast on Election Day when Republicans overwhelmingly chose to vote in person.
Lest we forget, these same “professional” pollsters were off by similarly wide margins in 2016. What’s troubling is that so many in the media assured us they had “learned” from that debacle, when it’s clear they didn’t in the slightest.
Or maybe there is something else going on here?
These polls are supposedly used to measure public opinion. But it is increasingly clear that they are being used to shape public opinion by the media companies that finance them. The influence of these polls goes far beyond each outlet’s own audience and clientele. In reality, they are lumped together into the Real Clear Politics “poll of polls,” incorporated into Nate Silver’s calculations for FiveThirtyEight and used to inform other aggregate polling data.
Their results are spread far and wide by other media outlets and even further by social media. Their numbers are presented as de facto “truth,” true or not.
Based on the track record of these polling outfits, Facebook and Twitter, if they were acting in good faith, would block these polling companies for spreading “fake news,” or, at the very least, rate them as “unverifiable.”
It is not as if polling cannot be done right. For instance, the Trafalgar Group correctly called 2016, 2018 and, so far, has been the closest in their numbers for 2020. Incredibly, they were criticized and scorned by many of their more well-known competitors in the weeks leading up to this year’s election.
The campaign pollster for President Trump, John McLaughlin, was about dead right as well. Fellow pollster Frank Luntz called out McLaughlin before the election on Twitter for his polling results. Hilariously, Luntz is now apologizing to McLaughlin and saying the polling profession is in the midst of a “systemic” breakdown.
The Psychic Friends Network was fooling individual people; the national media pollsters are deceiving the entire nation and, most of all, the voting public.
Like the Psychic Friends Network, they likewise deserve to be exposed and prosecuted for fraud.
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