It’s still a close race for the White House, as evidenced by the steady stream of polls and surveys coming out after Monday’s debate.
Some say Hillary Clinton won their first faceoff. Others say it was Donald Trump’s night. So which poll should you believe? Political scientists at Stanford’s Hoover Institution are trying to make sense of it in a new podcast, called “Poll Position.”
Fellows Bill Whalen and David Brady say it’s all about the numbers.
“Mark Twain put it best: 'There are lies, damn lies and statistics.' But in politics it’s a little different – statistics don’t lie,” Whalen said.
In “Poll Position,” Whalen and Brady, along with Douglas Rivers, try to tap into what voters are really thinking.
“We have an orgy of polls coming out right now. A lot of these instant poll snapshots, a lot of them are silly, frankly. They’re internet polls. I mean, my god,” Whalen said in the podcast.
Brady says it may be better to wait till the weekend to see who gets the real post-debate bump in the polls, after things settle down.
“Be careful of the polls. Because in 2012 after the first debate, Romney went ahead,” Brady said. “So all of those polls, the best thing to do is to take an average of them. I just don’t think there’s more than one or two points in it.”
The two agreed that while Clinton won the debate, neither candidate did what they set out to do.
“Has she sealed the deal? No, I don’t think she has,” Brady said.
With YouGov, a Palo Alto-based polling firm, Brady has tracked the same group of Americans and their attitudes over several years. Five weeks ago, his team surveyed 1,500 Americans just on the topic of anger in America.
“It turns out 56 percent of Americans read or hear about something every day that makes them angry. At this late date in 2012, we only had 3 percent who said they were undecided. This day, we’re still finding up to 30 to 31 percent of voters will not choose between Trump and Mrs. Clinton,” Brady said, explaining race and success in life factor into the anger, but it seems to be mainly white males without college educations.
Whalen and Brady also laid out what has to happen in the next two debates.
“Trump really has to win the independents,” Brady said.
“[Clinton] is just going to have you believe that [Trump] is the biggest, largest walking scumbag on the planet,” Whalen joked.
Next Tuesday, political commentator Fred Barnes will join Whalen and Brady for the next episode of “Poll Position.” They will be talking about covering this election as a journalist.
To listen to this week’s episode, visit the podcast.