(FiveNation.com)- The 2016 race between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave people reason to doubt the accuracy of polls. That same year, polls in the United Kingdom suggested that the European Union membership referendum would result in a victory for “Remain,” but “Leave” won it 52% to 48%.
Since then, the accuracy of polls has come into question in every race in the Senate and for subsequent presidential elections. But is it the first time the polls got it so wrong?
Starting with that famous 2016 race, let’s take a look at three times the polls got things very, very wrong.
- Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton in 2016
If you were to believe the polls in 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was all set for the presidency. Huffington Post gave Clinton a 98% chance of winning, and polls showed her leading in swing states like Pennsylvania.
Ultimately, she lost – by quite a large margin. President Donald Trump took home 306 electoral college votes, and Clinton just 232. In the American presidential election system, candidates are made to reach out to as many voters across the country as possible through the electoral college system, meaning they cannot simply rely on the vote of the most populous states. That’s how Clinton lost.
However, the national polls in 2016 weren’t completely wrong. Many national polls had Clinton winning the election by 3%, and in the end, she won the popular vote by roughly 2%. Her downfall was underperforming in states like Pennsylvania, which ultimately lost her the presidency.
- Harry Truman vs. Thomas Dewey in 1948
This election was quite some time ago now, proving that the polls don’t necessarily get more accurate the longer people have to hone their skills and perfect the art. This election was perhaps one of the biggest surprises in American history.
Democratic candidate Harry Truman beat Republican Thomas Dewey by over four percent of the vote. Truman was widely considered to have no chance of winning, with Gallup predicting that Dewey would win with 50% of the popular vote.
It was considered such a safe bet that the Chicago Daily Tribune assumed Dewey would win, printing the following day’s newspapers with the headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
However, after printing hundreds of thousands of copies, the results started to suggest the race was closer than they thought. The headline was changed in the paper’s second edition, but Truman managed to find a copy of the original paper and held it while he posed for a famous photograph.
It just goes to show – people don’t always tell pollsters the truth!
- Al Gore vs. George W. Bush in 2000
Unlike many other unsuccessful presidential candidates who fade into insignificance, Al Gore is one of those big names everyone knows. Polls showed in that race that Gore had a huge 10% leader of George W. Bush, the Republican nominee. By October, however, Bush totally turned the popular vote around and gained an 11% lead over Gore.
But the polls were still wrong. Gallup predicted in their final poll that Bush would take 48% of the vote and Gore 46%, but Bush actually lost the popular vote by half a percentage point and still won the White House.
Not a single pollster got that one right!
So with every election, remember to take the polls with a pinch of salt. They aren’t always wrong, but in exceptional circumstances, they may just be.