2016 election forecasters — how did they do?

 2016 election forecasters — how did they do?
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Prior to an election, Americans can get a measurement of the political temperature from election forecasters. In the 2016 presidential election, a vast majority of the signs — polls, forecasting sites, media data analysts and pundits — predicted a victory for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But the surprising winner was now-President-elect Donald Trump.

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, for example, gave Clinton a 71.4% chance of winning to Trump's 28.6%. Similarly, the election models of the New York Times' data visualization blog the Upshot predicted Trump's odds of victory to be 16% only to later update the numbers to give the Republican nominee the lead. A handful of other outlets — the Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, ABC, the Washington Post, CBS News and Fox News — got it wrong as well.

Why did so many people predict the election incorrectly?

The Pew Research Center, which notes there are "no clear answers," has three hypotheses: the people surveyed were not truthful, the way pollsters reached out to potential voters was flawed and nonresponse bias may be at play. The latter occurs when a particular demographic abstains from responding to surveys and, in turn, the validity of the data set is skewed.

That's not to say all polls were wrong — the USC/Los Angeles Times Daybreak tracking poll and the the IBD/TIPP tracking polls repeatedly predicted Trump as the victor. The former used a thorough variation of a process called "weighting" that calibrates a poll's data to best reflect a population.

"Late in this process we were getting notes suggesting we were crazy because our numbers were a long way from the rest of the polls," Terry Jones, Investor's Business Daily's editorial page editor told the Wall Street Journal. "But we went back and continually retested our data and as things began to tighten we started feeling far more confident about our numbers."

While the majority of election forecasters got the president-elect incorrect, their predictions are accurate when looking at the winner of the most popular votes. At the time of publication, Clinton attained 59,943,017 votes compared to Trump's 59,705,048 votes. According to Reuters, this disconnect is largely due to the way national surveys are conducted: people look at voting trends of the nation's citizens as a whole and not the Electoral College of Washington D.C. and the 50 states.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

MORE FROM

Hundreds rally in Times Square to protest Donald Trump’s transgender military ban

“I’m out here to support my trans brothers and sisters who have been serving our military for years and years and years."

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

How many transgender people serve in the U.S. military?

There's no exact number, but here's what research shows.

Hundreds rally in Times Square to protest Donald Trump’s transgender military ban

“I’m out here to support my trans brothers and sisters who have been serving our military for years and years and years."

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

How many transgender people serve in the U.S. military?

There's no exact number, but here's what research shows.