Political Polls

January 10, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 2
Will their accuracy improve in 2020?
By Holly Rosenkrantz


John King (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Victor Stefanchik)
John King, CNN's chief national correspondent, was left speechless last year when a poll showed that a majority of Republicans thought Donald Trump was a better president than Abraham Lincoln. (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Victor Stefanchik)

President Trump's victory in the 2016 election shocked many institutions, but none may have been more shaken than the polling industry. While polls correctly forecast that Hillary Clinton would prevail in the national popular vote, they failed to predict Trump's wins in several crucial states that tipped the Electoral College in his favor. These failures underscore the structural challenges facing pollsters as they head into the 2020 election. Researchers find it increasingly difficult to reach respondents through telephone surveys and have turned to less tested methods, such as text messages and conducting polls online. While doubts about polls' accuracy and concern that they influence election outcomes have increased, the use and influence of polls has only grown. Media coverage is fueled by an assortment of polling results, and surveys on topics such as Trump's impeachment and climate change regularly make news. Polls are used by candidates when deciding whether to run for office and by political parties in deciding who should be on a debate stage.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jan. 10, 2020  Political Polls Updated
Feb. 06, 2015  Political Polling
Jul. 15, 1994  Foreign Policy and Public Opinion
Sep. 16, 1988  Benefits and Dangers of Opinion Polls
Mar. 05, 1976  Public Opinion Polling
Jul. 26, 1968  Polls in Election Campaigns
Oct. 12, 1960  Political Polls
Nov. 08, 1940  Measurement of Public Opinion
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Supreme Court History and Decisions
Telecommunications and Wireless Technologies