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Politics Podcast: How To Make Polls Better

In the wake of the 2020 election, there’s been plenty of discussion about the accuracy and usefulness of polling. Nationally, the polling error was about 4 percentage points, which is close to the average polling error we’ve been seeing since 1972. But the polls were significantly off in the Midwest and Florida, where larger-than-average errors have repeatedly underestimated Republicans recently. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we hear from two A+ rated pollsters, J. Ann Selzer and Patrick Murray, about the challenges of polling and what can be done to meet those challenges.

Selzer conducts the Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register, which showed President Trump leading Joe Biden in the state by 7 points in late October. It was an outlier compared with the average, which showed a dead heat, but — as with a number of her outlier polls — it proved correct. Murray, the founding director of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute, ran into many of the same challenges in the Midwest and Florida that other pollsters did.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Galen Druke is FiveThirtyEight’s podcast producer and reporter.