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How Pollsters and Pundits Failed This Election

How Pollsters and Pundits Failed This Election

Suppoters listen to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during a campaign rally at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater November 6, 2016, in Sterling Heights, Michigan. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Friday, 11 November 2016 02:05 PM Current | Bio | Archive

So many pollsters and pundits analyzing the 2016 presidential election, on the left and the right, dismissed and missed voter enthusiasm for a Trump victory.

Why?

They made the classical branding blunder: not knowing the audience.

Larry Sabato, pollster and director of the vaunted Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, incorrectly predicted a Clinton win: "We heard for months from many of you, saying that we were underestimating the size of a potential hidden Trump vote and his ability to win. We didn’t believe it, and we were wrong."

If you don’t know the audience, you don’t know squat. Donald Trump knew the audience — the forgotten, neglected, frustrated, patriotic citizens — because he spent time with them at huge rallies, after they’d lined up for hours to see him.

Meanwhile, pollsters and pundits relied on models and calculations in their ivory towers.

This widespread detachment is a direct result of the culture of dependence on artificial social media. I’ve coined this condition "social mediapathy" and have written about it at MarcRudov.com.

Consequently, the "experts" poured lots of time and money into sterile data analyses but little into discerning real, incalculable human emotions.

Worse, there was and is massive disdain for Trump’s supporters — in media, business, academic, political, and entertainment circles.

Former Saturday Night Live star, Taran Killam, tweeted, "Rural = so stupid." Such invective is redolent of Hillary’s "basket of deplorables" barb.

Rural folks were among Trump’s most avid supporters. Yet, they’re apparently too stupid, racist, and misogynistic to grasp their own needs and views of the future, as well as which candidate is best-suited to address them.

Van Jones, a CNN political commentator, snarled thusly about Trump’s election victory: "This was a whitelash against a changing country. It was whitelash against a black president, in part."

Right, Mr. Jones. It had nothing to do with President Obama’s reign by fiat against the Constitution and the will of the people.

Cokie Roberts, a long-time analyst at ABC News, attributed Trump’s triumph to "a strong sentiment about not having a woman president."

In other words, Hillary’s prevarications about emails, foundation misdeeds, and American deaths in Benghazi are irrelevant, her disgraceful collusions with the mainstream media trivial, and her redistributionist ideology inconsequential.

The correct attitude: Hillary is a woman and "deserves" to be president. Anyone who would deny her this entitlement is hateful — even if the reasons are anemic economic growth, oppressive regulations, confiscatory taxes, failed Obamacare, illegal immigration, inadequate education, and disastrous foreign policy.

The audience in line with Hillary is the good audience. The one behind Trump is the bad audience. Solution: ignore the bad audience.

And, there you have it.

David Ogilvy, the father of advertising, once said: "Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals."

Research means gaining direct knowledge via personal interviews. It means testing unconventional hunches. It means verifying assumptions.

More Hispanics, women, blacks, and union members — especially in the Rust Belt — voted for Trump than pundits and pollsters had anticipated.

How’d that happen? They assumed. They didn’t interview. They didn’t verify.

Furthermore, many Trump acolytes were scared to admit it: the personal and professional reprisals awaiting them — from "tolerant" Hillary minions — were too severe.

To wit: Matt Maloney, the CEO of GrubHub, a Chicago-based online food-delivery service, cowardly ordered, via email, his Trump-supporting employees to resign: "They have no place here." Maloney continued, "We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team." Of course you don’t.

Pollsters and pundits missed this critical silent group, too.

Donald Trump’s voters were monumentally passionate about him. Hillary’s were excited about her gender and her endorsement of late-term abortion — but not about her personally. Another factor the pollsters and pundits ignored.

Bottom line: Not knowing your audience is the biggest branding blunder. But, refusing to know your audience, a la Larry Sabato, is even worse.

Marc Rudov is a branding adviser to CEOs, and is the author of "Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO's Guide to Branding." He is the founder of MarcRudov.com. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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So many pollsters and pundits analyzing the 2016 presidential election, on the left and the right, dismissed and missed voter enthusiasm for a Trump victory. Why? They made the classical branding blunder: not knowing the audience.
trump, pollster, pundit, audience, election
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2016-05-11
Friday, 11 November 2016 02:05 PM
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