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American Association for Public Opinion Research

AAPOR Convenes Task Force to Formally Examine Polling Performance During 2020 Presidential Election

CHICAGO, IL, February 13, 2020 – The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the nation’s largest organization of survey researchers, is launching a special task force to examine the performance of public opinion polls during the 2020 presidential election. This effort builds on the work of the 2016 task force that showed the national polls performed well.
“Our evaluation dispelled the widespread misinformation that polling in 2016 got it wrong,” said Nora Cate Schaeffer, president of AAPOR. “The polling profession works incredibly hard to measure the pulse of public sentiment, and we look forward to closely evaluating the polls this year, to help the public understand how the polls performed.
The task force -- comprising 19 academic experts, pollsters, and statisticians -- will evaluate the accuracy of 2020 pre-election polling for both the primaries and the general election on the presidential race and other races. Where it is needed and possible, AAPOR will examine why specific polls or methodologies failed to estimate support for the major party candidates correctly, whether at the national level or state level.
In keeping with AAPOR’s commitment to transparency, the task force will archive available polling information from 2020 and prior years for future AAPOR evaluations.
“We will take a measured look at the public polls, with special emphasis on the presidential race,” said Joshua Clinton, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University and chair of the 2020 task force. “We will not rush to judgment as others have in the past: we will gather the data and analyze it carefully so we can have the most complete characterization of poll performance possible.”
The task force will collect information on the polls continuously through 2020, but will not be issuing interim analyses during the primary season.
The final task force report is expected in early 2021 after the final, official vote totals are available from every state.
The 2016 AAPOR task force report found that the national presidential polls in the 2016 general election were quite accurate by historical standards, despite frequent mistaken claims to the contrary. Collectively, the national polls showed that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had about a 3-percentage point lead; she ultimately won the popular vote by 2 percentage points. State-level polls showed a competitive, uncertain contest but clearly under-estimated Trump’s support in the Upper Midwest. State-level polling was not as accurate in the 2016 general election (notably in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin), but it was reasonably accurate in the 2016 primary elections with some exceptions. The 2020 task force will examine the pre-primary polls in the presidential race in 2020 in addition to the November 2020 general election polls.
In the 2018 elections, the state-level general election polls for Senate and Governor were the most accurate in off-year elections since 2006.
Questions about polls can be sent to [email protected].

Task Force Members
Josh Clinton (Chair), Vanderbilt University
Jennifer Agiesta, CNN
Megan Brenan, Gallup
Camille Burge, Villanova University
Marjorie Connelly, AP-NORC Center
Ariel Edwards-Levy, Huffington Post
Bernard Fraga, Indiana University
Emily Guskin, Washington Post
Sunshine Hillygus, Duke University
Chris Jackson, Ipsos
Jeff Jones, Gallup
Scott Keeter, Pew
Kabir Khanna, CBS News
John Lapinski, University of Pennsylvania
Lydia Saad, Gallup
Daron Shaw, University of Texas
Andrew Smith, University of New Hampshire
David Wilson, University of Delaware
Christopher Wlezien, University of Texas
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The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) is the leading
professional organization of public opinion and survey research professionals in the U.S.,
with members from academia, media, government, the non-profit sector and private
industry. AAPOR members embrace the principle that public opinion research is
essential to a healthy democracy, providing information crucial to informed
policymaking and giving voice to the nation's beliefs, attitudes and desires. It promotes
a better public understanding of this role, as well as the sound and ethical conduct and use of public opinion research.