While the final polling averages are usually proven correct within their own stated margin of error, individual polls are often proven wrong. It’s why responsible journalists try to stick to the polling averages as much as possible. And of course the worst of journalists make a point of playing up the most ridiculous of outlier polls, as if they were the only poll, because controversy and “shocking” numbers drive ratings.
This brings us to last night’s Fox News poll in the Virginia 2021 race for Governor. Here’s the thing. Fox News polls are usually proven to be pretty accurate; it’s one of the ways in which the network tries to establish “credibility” as cover for the fictional stories that its anchors routinely feature on air. But last night’s new Fox News poll was… well, let’s just say it’s not to be taken seriously.
This new Fox News poll claims that in a period of just about two weeks, the race has shifted from Democrat Terry McAuliffe having a six point lead, to Republican Glenn Youngkin now having a seven point lead. Let’s be clear here: it would be impossible for a statewide election to shift by thirteen points in just two weeks, without major news happening to change the minds of that many voters. For this to actually happen, McAuliffe would have had to repeatedly punch a baby on live national television. Anything short of that, there’s no possible way 13% of voters would have changed the minds overnight at the last minute. It just doesn’t work that way.
So what really happened? In instances like this, it’s always a result of a polling outlet changing up its methodology in an attempt at compensating for what it fears may be an inaccurate model. In this case the Fox poll had McAuliffe up by five points when most other polls had him up by just a couple points. The people running the Fox poll must have feared they had it wrong, and attempted to revise their polling model to produce a more accurate result. But instead the revised model turned out to be a massive overcorrection, and the result is this kind of laugh out loud shift that no serious person in politics would ever consider to be real.
Unfortunately, by giving the most attention to the most obviously flawed polls, the media has conditioned us to take the most flawed polls the most seriously. Liberal activists are predictably panicking over the Fox News poll, and insisting that it means Democratic candidate McAuliffe is doomed, and that all hope is lost.
This is the part where it gets dangerous, because the polling averages say that McAuliffe is slightly ahead, and that all liberal activists need to do is put in the work these final days in order to put him over the hump and secure the victory. But this laughably flawed new poll could instead trick liberal activists into giving up instead of putting in the work and securing the win. Now is the time to fight like you intend to win. Go help Terry McAuliffe here.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report