Great news! Ken Welch leads his opponent for Mayor of St. Petersburg in a recent poll reported by Florida Politics! Or maybe it’s not such great news after all.
Pre-election polls have to figure out two things: who is going to vote and how they are going to vote. A mistake in either of these estimates will produce big errors, as we saw in 2016 when Hilary Clinton was predicted to beat Donald Trump, and again in 2020 when polls failed to predict the number of people who actually voted for Trump. In 2020, pre-election polls also predicted a “blue wave” in the U. S. Senate that did not materialize.
Vanderbilt University political scientists report that part of the problem occurs because polls tend to under-sample Republican and Republican-leaning NPA voters, both of whom are somewhat less likely to respond to polls than Democratic voters. In other words, polls do a pretty good job of predicting what Democrats are likely to do, but are less likely to give a completely accurate picture of the opposition.
So what does that mean for Democrats? Certainly Dems can become complacent and figure that they have a victory sewn up. “Why bother to vote? We’ve got this one in the bag!” But the Presidential election of 2016 and the razor thin margins in the U.S. Senate in 2020 tell us that’s a foolish and dangerous position.
We know that Ken Welch has great support among Democrats, a lot of NPAs, and even some Republicans. He should win if the people who support him actually show up to vote. And he will win if more of them show up than those who support his opponent. But we don’t really know what the other side is going to do, right? So all we can do is make sure that every single Democratic vote is cast and counted on November 2. If we rest on our laurels, we may discover that the laurels are, in fact, poison ivy.