On conservatives, polling, and political correctness

For the last round of United States Senate elections, the polls predicted the conservative Republicans barely gaining some ground but probably failing in several state contests.  Iowa was thought to be very tight.  The Democrat incumbents in Arkansas, North Carolina, Alaska, and Colorado were thought to be gaining enough ground to hold their seats.  It was thought that Michelle Nunn might win Georgia for the Democrats and that Kay Hagan would hold North Carolina for them.

In the end, the GOP won every single one of those races.  Joni Ernst won a huge (9-point) victory in Iowa, and so did Tom Cotton in Arkansas, beating Democrat incumbent Mark Pryor by 17 points.  David Perdue beat Michelle Nunn by 8 points, and Pat Roberts – whom the polls consigned to the waste heap – beat his Democrat opponent in Kansas by 9 points.  Republican Thom Tillis won North Carolina, Dan Sullivan won Alaska, Cory Gardner won Colorado, and the Republicans almost shocked themselves when Ed Gillespie came within a point of beating Mark Warner in Virginia, even though polls had Warner ten points ahead. 

Question: How does one explain the polls being so wrong, so underestimating the conservative GOP vote and so overestimating the liberal Democrats?

Half a year later, during the run-up to the recent Israeli elections, the left-socialist Israeli Labor Party was thought by pollsters to be in the lead, with the more conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being ousted from office.  A broad range of polls had the Obama White House salivating as Bibi’s political demise was at hand.  Yet, in shocking contrast from all polls and surveys, Bibi’s conservative Likud actually won a remarkable 30 seats in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset, with philosophically allied parties winning additional seats to assure the most conservative political coalition that ever has ruled Israel.  On the other side of the aisle, Israel’s Labor Party and its erstwhile ally, outgoing cabinet member Tzipi Livni, were driven into disarray.  Beyond their discomfiture, the even-more-leftist Meretz Party was driven so far down that its leader resigned her post. 

Question: How does one explain the polls being so wrong, so underestimating the conservative Likud and other conservative Israeli voters and so overestimating the liberal-socialist Labor Party’s turnout?

Now the British voters have re-elected their Conservative Party, giving it a small but outright parliamentary majority, better than the party had last time when it had to enter into a coalition with Nick Clegg’s center-left Liberal Democrats.  The results are described as shocking, with Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, resigning his leadership position.  Meanwhile, Clegg’s Liberal Democrats were virtually wiped out overnight, dropping from 57 seats to 5 seats, alongside Labour sustaining a devastating blow and losing almost all of Scotland.  Yet the polls had the race being so tight that it was thought that Labour might win or form a coalition.  In the words of one Reuters news report: 

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron won a stunning election victory on Friday, confounding forecasts that the vote would be the closest in decades and winning a clear majority that left his Labour opponents in tatters. The sterling currency, bonds and shares surged on a result that reversed near-universal expectations of an inconclusive ‘hung parliament,’ in which Cameron would have had to jockey for power with Labour rival Ed Miliband.

Question: How does one explain the polls being so wrong, so underestimating the Conservative Party and so overestimating the liberal-socialist Labor Party?

Here are two hypotheses:

1.  Journalism – the “mainstream media” – in America, Israel, and Britain has deviated so far to the left, so far away from  objective reporting, that it may be that those in mainstream journalism do not even realize anymore how they skew their own data.  In a survey, a poll, obviously they cannot interview and count everybody, or it would not be a poll; it would be an election.  Ultimately, they get data from various samples based on regions, districts, ethnic groups, gender, and other voting blocs, and they gauge how many of each group actually will show up at the polls.  Are they being a bit wistful in those projections, wistfully expecting people on their side to vote in larger numbers than should be expected, and wistfully gauging that more conservative voters will vote in fewer numbers?  Are they actually, in their surveying, pushing and wishing people of their ilk to be “probable voters”?  I dunno.

2.  In an era of political correctness gone wild, we no longer are in the 1980s and 1990s, when political correctness was starting to dominate academia, journalism, and entertainment.  We now are in the next stage, where political correctness is so dominant that the left wields its dominance in those areas to punish and exile those whose religious and political consciences and personal beliefs lie out of synch with Left ideology.

Conservatives cannot get tenure in most college liberal arts departments or in law schools, except that outliers with beyond extraordinary credentials get positioned as token conservatives on each faculty.  Conservatives cannot get jobs and roles in entertainment, except for outliers with such a body of proven work and success, compiled during their early years while they kept their political or religious beliefs silent, that they cannot be denied – e.g., Jon Voigt, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood.  (And the past season’s drama over American Sniper shows that Hollywood and academia do everything they can to suppress, ranging from withholding awards of recognition to imposing bans on campuses.)

Could it be, in this environment of P.C.-directed punishment and professional exile, that some few conservative people across the board, even lower down the employment totem poles and even outside academia, journalism, and entertainment – are afraid to reveal to surveyors and pollsters that they are voting for Tom Cotton, Bibi Netanyahu, David Cameron?  Not huge numbers, but just a few fearful and intimidated respondents?  Just enough to cause a 5% skew in polls and surveys?

I think so.

Rabbi Dov Fischer is author of General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine (Steimatzky: 1985).  His political commentaries have appeared on the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review, the Los Angeles  Times, and other major American publications.  He formerly was chief articles editor of the UCLA Law Review, is an adjunct professor of law at two prominent American law schools, and is Rav of Young  Israel  of  Orange County, California.  He is author of Jews for Nothing (Feldheim: 1983) and is in his fifth year as a member of the National Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.  His writings can be found at RabbiDov.com.  As with all of Rabbi Prof. Fischer’s writings, this commentary expresses his own views.