AAPOR Warns Against Rushing to Judgment on 2020 Election Polls


American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) cautions that sweeping judgments on polls’ overall performance before all ballots are counted are premature. Task force engaging in comprehensive evaluation of this year’s general election polls.

Within hours of the last precincts closing, early results from the 2020 elections are raising questions about how well public opinion polls described the voters’ views in advance of the election. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the nation’s largest organization of survey researchers, warns that hasty conclusions based on incomplete returns may be misleading.

Millions of votes are still being counted in the presidential election, which saw the highest turnout in more than a century. The explosion of early voting and voting by mail led to seesawing election results, surprising some and upsetting expectations for others.

The results of pre-election polls do vary from the current vote results in some battleground states. When all the votes are counted, some of the hundreds of polls conducted on this election will come close to the final vote percentages, but some will not. This has been the case in every election. The issue is how the polls collectively performed in describing the official results of the 2020 election.

It will take weeks for election officials to carefully count all early, absentee, in-person and provisional ballots. As such, it is premature to make sweeping judgments on the polls’ overall performance before all the ballots are counted. Patience is necessary.

AAPOR’s special task force on poll performance, comprising 19 highly regarded academic experts, pollsters and statisticians, has begun to analyze the general election polls.  Their analysis will be based on final official vote results in all states, which are not expected until December. All analyses of polls’ performance should be based on final data. The task force will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of how the polls performed and will explore recommendations for improvement, as did the AAPOR 2016 task force following that election.

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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.