Washington polling insiders did not expect this to happen. After months of watching the media deny the reality of Donald Trump’s rising numbers in the primaries, it’s now the pollsters themselves who are questioning reality. With Trump catching up to Hillary Clinton in the national surveys, some experts are warning Americans not to give the numbers too much weight.
In an interview with The Hill, University of Connecticut pollster Jennifer Dineen said the biggest problem was measuring voter enthusiasm. “People’s feelings on Trump are pretty clear,” she said, “but we are not just trying to estimate support for Secretary Clinton, we are estimating opposition to him.”
Pollsters say there are other problems with recent polls that show Trump either ahead of Clinton or only a few points behind. Among them: He’s essentially wrapped up the Republican nomination while she’s still trying to finish off Bernie Sanders. They also claim that many Americans simply aren’t paying much attention to the election at this early stage in the game.
“There is a certain audience for primaries, then historically the conventions have produced another tier of the electorate coming in,” said Rutgers University polling expert Cliff Zukin.
Well, maybe, but this isn’t like any other year in modern memory. This election isn’t just being covered by the political press. If you are on social media, if you watch television of any kind – hell, if you are alive and breathing and conscious – you know what’s going on in the 2016 race. The average American may not be able to name 10 of the Republican candidates from the primaries, but they certainly know Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Pollsters are expecting Hillary to get a bump from securing the Democratic nomination. Maybe she will. On the other hand, her poll numbers might plummet once again as Bernie Sanders zealots finally see their hopes going up in smoke. And let’s not forget about a certain FBI investigation that could easily culminate in a federal indictment. What’s that going to do for Hillary’s poll numbers?
A month ago, when the first national poll out of the gate showed Hillary leading Trump by eight points, everyone was making grand historical statements about how Trump could never close the gap. When he closed that gap (in a week’s time), they began questioning the very integrity of the polls themselves.
Probably just a coincidence…