No, polls do not show Donald Trump is winning the election: Or How to Manipulate Polls

Image result for usc la times tracking poll

Despite the fact that almost all major national polls show Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by at least 4 points, until very recently one consistent outlier has been the USC/LA Times poll. This poll showed Donald Trump ahead up until the past few days. In the past, this poll has been regularly cited by the Trump campaign and conservatives as evidence of Trump’s success in the election and his popularity with the American public. Except as the New York Times recently wrote, it doesn’t show those things at all.

The article gets a bit technical in terms of exactly how the USC/LA Times poll is biased (unintentionally) towards Trump, sample sizes, demographic weights, usage of past votes, panel data, etc. However, in order to understand the basics of why this one poll has consistently, until recently, predicted a Donald Trump victory there are only a few key paragraphs:

“There is a 19-year-old black man in Illinois who has no idea of the role he is playing in this election.

“He is sure he is going to vote for Donald J. Trump.

“And he has been held up as proof by conservatives — including outlets like Breitbart News and The New York Post — that Mr. Trump is excelling among black voters. He has even played a modest role in shifting entire polling aggregates, like the Real Clear Politics average, toward Mr. Trump…

“Our Trump-supporting friend in Illinois is a surprisingly big part of the reason. In some polls, he’s weighted as much as 30 times more than the average respondent, and as much as 300 times more than the least-weighted respondent.\

“Alone, he has been enough to put Mr. Trump in double digits of support among black voters. He can improve Mr. Trump’s margin by 1 point in the survey, even though he is one of around 3,000 panelists.

“He is also the reason Mrs. Clinton took the lead in the U.S.C./LAT poll for the first time in a month on Wednesday. The poll includes only the last seven days of respondents, and he hasn’t taken the poll since Oct. 4. Mrs. Clinton surged once he was out of the sample for the first time in several weeks.”

So no, the USC/LA Times poll hasn’t been showing a Donald Trump victory. Not really. And now it really doesn’t.

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