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Good morning. It’s another record day for virus cases. Obama’s memoir gets a glowing review. And we look at why the polls were wrong.
Fool us once …
The polls were wrong again, and much of America wants to know why.
Dozens of pre-election polls suggested that Joe Biden would beat President Trump by a wide margin, but the race instead came down to one or two percentage points in a handful of states. Polls also indicated that Democrats would do much better than they did in congressional races.
So what happened? Here are six key points:
1. In the last few years, Republican voters seem to have become less willing to respond to polls. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising, given Trump’s attacks on the media, science and other institutions.
2. This phenomenon isn’t simply about working-class whites. Pollsters were careful to include more of these voters in their samples than four years ago, when the polls also missed, but it didn’t solve the problem. One likely reason: Even within demographic groups — say, independent, older, middle-income white women — people who responded to polls this year leaned more Democratic than people who did not.
3. It’s also not just about Trump. Polls missed in several Senate races even more than in the presidential race, which means they did an especially poor job of finding people who voted for Biden at the top and a Republican lower down the ballot.
4. Most of the easy solutions are probably not real solutions. Since Election Day, some campaign operatives have claimed their private polls were more accurate than the public polls. That seems more false than true. Biden, Trump and both parties campaigned as if their own polls matched the public polls, focusing on some states that were not really competitive and abandoning others that were close.
5. Polls have still been more accurate over the last four years than they were for most of the 20th century. As pollsters get more information about this year’s election and what went wrong, they will try to fix the problems, much as they did in the past. A new challenge: In the smartphone age, poll response rates are far lower than they used to be.
6. We journalists can do a better job of conveying the uncertainty in polls. Polls will never be perfect. Capturing the opinions of a large, diverse country is too difficult. And in today’s closely divided U.S., small polling errors can make underdogs look like favorites and vice versa. All of us — journalists, campaign strategists and the many Americans who have become obsessed with politics — shouldn’t forget this. We just got another reminder.
And my colleague Nate Cohn, who knows more about this subject than almost anybody, points out that a significant chunk of the error involved Hispanic voters. Nate has also discussed polling on episodes of “The Daily” and “The Argument” podcasts.
Elsewhere: Sarah Isgur of The Dispatch says the problem isn’t about Trump voters who lie about their preference. Charles Franklin of Marquette University suggests the pandemic may have affected turnout in surprising ways. Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster, notes that polls in many states will still be “incredibly close” to the final result.
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Broadway is closed. It’s also everywhere.
These are difficult times for live theater. The pandemic has shut down Broadway and many local theaters since March, leaving actors, stagehands and others out of work and fans missing the shows. But there is one way that theater is managing to thrive right now: Broadway has become a bigger source of televised entertainment.
An incomplete list of recent and upcoming releases includes “The Prom,” “The Boys in the Band,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “West Side Story” and “Wicked.” The film version of “Hamilton” was so popular that it contributed to a bump in sign-ups for Disney Plus, The Verge reports. And in a Broadway first, a musical focused on the life of Diana, Princess of Wales is set to debut on Netflix before the stage production opens.
Why is this happening now? One reason is streaming services’ “insatiable desire for content, even niche content,” Alexis Soloski writes in The Times. There’s also more mingling across theater, film and television than in the past. The playwright Jeremy O. Harris, who wrote “Slave Play,” signed a deal with HBO this year; Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who originally wrote and performed “Fleabag” as a one-woman play, signed one with Amazon.
Some critics worry that film versions will cannibalize live ticket sales. But no film can entirely reproduce the experience of a live show. Just look at social media’s horrified reaction to last year’s movie version of “Cats.”
The Times recommends: “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Heidi Schreck’s affecting play about the document’s impact on our daily lives.