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Veteran pollster talks about why Wisconsin polls were off in 2016 and 2020

Posted at 6:51 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 11:30:22-05

MILWAUKEE — It's a question many are asking after the election. Why were the polls wrong about the presidential race in Wisconsin and around the country?

Veteran pollster Charles Franklin talks about what he missed and what it means during a virtual Newsmaker event with the Milwaukee Press Club.

Franklin concedes he's 0-2 in the 2016 and 2020 presidential races.

"It's still early to diagnose what went wrong," said Franklin.

But he does see a trend. Professor Franklin points out the Marquette Law School Poll was closer to representing voter support in Wisconsin for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden but missed the mark twice for Donald Trump.

"I think there is more evidence now than there was four years ago that we are missing a small but not trivial group of people who support Trump but are not strong Republicans and may not participate in elections outside the ones where President Trump is on the ballot," said Franklin.

Does that lead to voter suppression as President Trump tweeted? Professor Franklin says the data he has looked at with previous elections suggests no.

"There's not a systematic pattern of front runners falling short of the polls," said Franklin, "or trailing candidates falling short of exceeding their vote."

So why poll at all? Franklin says polls are part of the civic conversation. Marquette's poll often asks up to 40 questions on a range of current issues. He hopes public polls don't go away.
"We don't want polling only to be available to those who have a strong self-interest in paying for it," said Franklin.

Marquette's poll is funded by Alumni donors.

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