The left-leaning New York Times expressed skepticism over Democrats' improved showing in recent polls for November's midterms.
Although recent surveys indicate Democrats are expected to retain control of the Senate and lose control of the House – both narrowly – the Times suggested that polling might not give a true picture of the current landscape.
The newspaper based its concern on the 2020 election final polls, which overstated President Joe Biden's strength, especially in places such as North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio – states with key Senate races this year.
"One factor seems to be that Republican voters are more skeptical of mainstream institutions and are less willing to respond to a survey," Times senior writer David Leonhardt said Monday. "If that's true, polls will often understate Republican support, until pollsters figure out how to fix the problem."
The outlet said there's also uncertainty about how polls are affected by former President Donald Trump not being on the ballot, as he was in 2016 and 2020. YouGov's chief scientist Douglas Rivers told the Times that "there is something particular about Trump that complicates polling."
The Times, noting pollsters' challenge to find likely voters willing to respond to surveys, said "there are still some big mysteries about the polls' recent tendency to underestimate Republican support."
Times' chief political analyst Nate Cohn even suggested this year's surveys could be off due to pollsters "understating Democratic support this year by searching too hard for Republican voters in an effort to avoid repeating recent mistakes."
One issue in trying to assure survey accuracy nationwide is that not all states have produced questionable polling results.
For example, polls in states such as Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania have been fairly accurate in recent years.
The Times said the 2020 election "does have two dynamics" that might help Democrats – the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and Trump's continued influence on Republican supporters.
"As a result, this year's election may feel less like a referendum on the current president and more like a choice between two parties," the Times said.
Still, midterms usually hurt the party — especially in the House — of the sitting president.
Emphasizing that every election cycle is unique, the Times said, "there's always a way to spin up a rationale for why old rules won't apply."
"In the end, history usually prevails," Leonhardt said. "That's a good thing to keep in mind right now as Democrats show strength that seems entirely at odds with the long history of the struggles of the president's party in midterm elections.
"But this cycle, there really is something different — or at the very least, there is something different about the reasons this cycle might be different."
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