Two groups of people should be hanging their heads in shame this morning, the day after the awful day before.
One are the pollsters who got the result so badly wrong that in the future polls should either be ignored or only consumed with a large chunks of rock salt. This is not the first time the pollsters have screwed up recently in important votes; the Brexit vote was totally missed as was the outcome of the last British general election.
There is clearly something badly awry with the way the polling questions and/or the samples are chosen.
One standout exception was the Los Angeles Times/USC polling which consistently had Trump leading Clinton in the days leading up to November 8th, much to the derision of commentators. On Monday, for instance, the day before the election, the LAT/USC poll had Trump ahead by five points; with one exception every other poll on the general election recorded by RealClearPolitics that day had Clinton winning.
It would be interesting to discover what it was that the LAT/USC did that the other pollsters did not.
One big factor totally missed by the pollsters was the unwillingness of those being polled to reveal their true intentions to the guy with the clipboard. Whether this was because some voters did not want to admit they might vote for a racist cum mysogynist or that their anger and unwillingness to interact with the system stretched to the polling organisations is a matter for debate.
But the pollsters were not alone in missing this factor. The US media come out of this election with their credibility and professionalism in tatters. Quite simply they missed the story entirely, although there were some exceptions.
The media was consumed by horror at the idea of a Trump presidency and instead of trying to find out a) why he had won the GOP nomination and b) was giving Hillary a tough fight, even according to the mistaken polls, they sought evidence where none existed that Clinton’s attacks were doing him damage, for instance over his attitude towards women, or his criticism of the Muslim parents of a slain American soldier.
Because they, the media were appalled by Trump’s behaviour, they mistakenly assumed his grassroots would be also, when instead Trump’s people just saw the liberal media up to their usual lying tricks.
And so, they got the biggest story, arguably, in modern American politics completely wrong.
Had they got off their bums and went to the Ohio’s and Pennsylvania’s of America they would have discovered ample evidence of the alienation and anger that has propelled Donald Trump into the White House.
In fact the largely New York-based media didn’t have to go as far as Ohio or Michigan. They could have driven to upstate New York, to a town like Deposit, just three hours from Manhattan and there they would have found a town very typical of the sort of place where Trump’s message found a welcome audience.
The nearest city to Deposit is Binghamton, a place that was once a hub of industry and the home of America’s leather and shoe industry. IBM had its headquarters nearby and forty or so years ago the area around Binghamton was a place of some prosperity, which Deposit and surrounding small towns shared.
But no longer. The leather industry has disappeared entirely; there is just one cobbler left in the city. IBM uprooted itself years ago, forcing thousands into unemployment or migration. Binghamton itself is a visibly fading city, frozen in the 1950’s almost, and hanging grimly on while Deposit is full of once grand homes that are literally peeling to death.
The town’s people are cheerful and as hospitable as you could wish, but they look prematurely aged and unhealthy, the inevitable product of poverty, poor diets and inadequate health care. Driving or walking through the town you could be forgiven for thinking that you weren’t a mere 170 or so miles from the glittering skyline of New York city but had been spirited away to West Virginia.
Hillary Clinton was once the US Senator for this part of New York. When she was seeking the votes of people in Deposit and Binghamton in 2000, she promised to bring in 200,000 jobs. The people of Deposit and Binghamton are still waiting.
I haven’t yet seen the figures for Deposit but Donald Trump outpolled Hillary Clinton in Binghamton by nearly 50 per cent.
UPDATE: Figures for Deposit are not yet available but Sullivan County, where Deposit is situated, voted 55:41 for Trump.