How I Learned To Stop Trusting Polls
The year is 2009. I have been running a political blog for several months by this time that year, and the various Statewide elections for 2010 were beginning to heat up. I had already had a few runins with the campaign of then State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who was one of the earliest people to announce his candidacy for Governor. But at this time, polls had him at 38% of the vote – roughly 1 year before voters would actually go to the polls in July 2010. Even as late as just a week before the election, at least one poll still had Oxendine in the 30%+ range.
Now, by this point I have hosted the largest political event in the State of Georgia that campaign season in terms of number of Statewide candidates present. I’ve been immersed in this election, particularly this race, for a year. I’ve been following every nuance, reading every tea leaf, and at this point even I am convinced that the WORST John Oxendine does on election day is 2nd place and forcing a runoff.
And then election day happened.
John Oxendine finished the day in FOURTH place, with just 17% of the vote, behind a State Senator, a fellow Statewide office holder, and a former Congressman who had been named the most corrupt member of Congress and who had resigned rather than face an ethics investigation. (That Congressman is now the Governor of Georgia, by the way.)
Within about 6 months or so of this election, I would leave both political activism and even the State of Georgia. But I will NEVER forget that particular lesson John Oxendine taught me.
Never trust polls. The voters will do what the voters will do, and the pollsters are at best guessing.
Why am I writing this lesson now?
The “rise” of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders provide obvious parallels.