Nate Silver Reveals Polling Discrepancies In Alabama That Will Make You Livid


Who’s going to win Alabama’s special Senate election? Under normal circumstances, the answer would almost always be a Republican, but this year’s election is different. Republican Roy Moore has been accused of sexual assault against several women when they were under age. This has given Democrat Doug Jones some much-needed momentum though the race is still hard to predict and Donald Trump has thrown his support behind Moore.

To make matters more confusing, the  polls don’t seem to be helping.  There appears to be a wide range of results coming from the polls and 538’s Nate Silver has weighed in with an explanation.  Most of the polls which favor Moore rely are automated whereas many that favor Jones are manned by actual human beings. In his piece, Silver points out some problems with automatic polls which may mean good news for Democrats.

The first major issue is that the automated polls do not call cellphone users. Those who have landlines are more likely to be old and white which are demographics which favors Moore in Alabama.

“Issue No. 1, not calling cellphones, is potentially a major problem: The Fox News poll found Jones leading by 30 points among people who were interviewed by cellphone. Slightly more than half of American adults don’t have access to a landline, according to recent estimates by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also found a higher share of mobile-only households in the South than in other parts of the country. Moreover, voters with landline service are older than the voting population as a whole and are more likely to be white — characteristics that correlate strongly with voting Republican, especially in states such as Alabama.”

Silver did note that pollsters try to compensate for this by demographic weighting, but it isn’t a perfect system though it does help.

A second major issue regarding automatic polls are that they have a lower response rate due to the fact that people are less likely complete them. This makes them less representative as a whole.

That being said, Silver did mention that automatic polls may allow people to be more honest as they’re less worried about being judged by the person on the other end of the line.

However, Silver did stress that Moore was still heavily favored though there are ways for Jones to pull out a win.

“… Jones needs two things to go right for him: He needs a lopsided turnout in his favor, and he needs pretty much all of the swing voters in Alabama (and there aren’t all that many of them) to vote for him. Neither of these are all that implausible. But if either one goes wrong for Jones, Moore will probably win narrowly (and if both go wrong, Moore could still win in a landslide)”

Overall, Jones’ victory isn’t impossible, but its far from certain.

Featured image via Getty Images.