During the height of the presidential campaign, I got a polling email from what appeared to be a Democratic Party site. It went something to the effect of “Dear Stephanie: As a loyal Democratic voter we want to ensure your support for Joe Biden.”
I am not a Democrat and I am not Stephanie, so I decided to have some fun. Stephanie reiterated her support for Joe and hit “send.” Near immediately, Stephanie had hordes of new friends. She got emails from Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and a bunch of congressional candidates that she had never heard about before. Of course, all of them wanted money.
Stephanie dutifully answered each email with a polite explanation of why she could not contribute. It turns out that Stephanie was a congenital liar. Her reasons for not being able to help were varied. Depending on the request, she was spending all her money on: 1) trying to break her crack addiction; 2) saving up for her sex change operation; and 3) trying to make bail for the child molestation charge. At one point, the warden would not let her make political contributions.
Stephanie also answered questions about race and demographics dutifully. She was a biracial, bisexual millennial who was heavily into yoga and had adopted 50 cats (this was not on the questionnaire, but she volunteered it anyway). She was all for defunding the police, late-term abortions, and getting U.S. troops out of Canada (national security not being one of her strong points).
The Democrats did not seem to mind that Stephanie was an addict, a criminal and a pervert. However, they drew the line at the point when they realized that she could not or would not give them money. The emails stopped coming.
In truth, I did not give money to any Republicans either. I think paid advertising is a waste of money. It only reinforces preconceived notions. An undecided voter is an uninformed voter and is likely to be confused by the disinformation from both sides which consequently offset each other. The real tipping point for undecided voters is the ground game at the local level. Slick conventional media consultants and social media whiz kids denigrate retail politics, but the Republican victories in down ballot races show that politics really is still local.
I also received a few other poll inquiries, and some of these appeared legitimate. I lied to them, too. I was not trying to create my own “Operation Chaos,” but I believe that polls have become powers onto themselves and need to be delegitimized. Here, I think I disagree with President Trump. He seems to believe that the heavily loaded polls that showed Joe Biden ahead discouraged Republican voters. Conversely, it energized them.
Mr. Trump got more popular votes than he did in 2016, and the Republicans had a banner year in down-ballot wins. Many Democratic operatives were lulled into a false sense of security. This was not so much at the national level, but in congressional, state and local elections where the “blue wave” was a bust. The presidential election came down to a popularity contest regarding Donald Trump. Electoral College aside, even the Trump campaign will have to to admit that more American voters dislike him than like him.
It is obvious that many Republican voters either refused to answer polls or — like me — deliberately deceived them. Pollsters are perceived by many conservative voters to be part of the Washington establishment, and they are consequently considered to be enemies. They will likely not regain the confidence of a large portion of the electorate — Democrat or Republican — anytime soon. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
Most Americans not in major cities do not consider themselves to be herd animals. They do not like to be told what to do or think that they are being led. That does not mean that pollsters will not keep trying, but they have been badly discredited in the last two elections.
Stephanie is gone. She had a good run, and her legacy will continue to confound pollsters and political consultants in future races. Joe Biden has already used the word mandate; that is a mistake. Nearly half of the electorate voted for Donald Trump, and more than half voted against Democratic congressional candidates. If their taxes go up and money gets wasted on things like climate change, critical race theory and free college tuition, folks like Stephanie will be seeking payback in 2022.
• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the graduate level.
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