“How did everyone get it so wrong?” the Politico headline blared, followed by the subhead, “Polls and predictive models failed to predict Trump’s strength.” The Pew Research Center explained “Why 2016 election polls missed their mark.” USA Today questioned, “How did pollsters get Trump, Clinton election so wrong?” NPR suggested “4 Possible Reasons The Polls Got It So Wrong in 2016.” Atlantic asked, “What Went Wrong with the 2016 polls?” And that just scratches the surface of articles pointing out that all that data collection and analysis was obviously flawed, given the election outcome.
The perceived failure of the polls has also led to rampant speculation about the validity of polling and surveying for PR, marketing, and communications. For example, CyberAlert’s William Comcowich wrote, “Considering the pollsters’ massive miscalculation, many organizations will hesitate to believe surveys and other research related to their own brands, some say.” He quotes Powell Tate’s Pam Jenkins saying, “we will see a lot of introspection on how to assess public sentiment differently including, not just on elections, but policy issues for clients.” Communicator Mary Beth West wrote, “The challenge for polling and market researchers will be in understanding how they must integrate better, constantly-evolving systems of data-gathering to arrive at more accurate conclusions . . . and in so doing, how to alleviate technology hurdles, internal biases or “this is the way we used to do it and it worked then” presumptions that can skew outcomes.”
Others have simply argued that, in the wake of the election, polling is dead.
In this FIR Interview, Shel Holtz talks to two hard-core data geeks — Edison Research Vice President Tom Webster and SHIFT Communications Vice President Christopher S. Penn — about election polls and what communicators can learn from them, and how to ensure polls and surveys are used effectively in planning campaigns or using polls or surveys as elements of a campaign.
About our conversation partners
Christopher S. Penn — Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications — is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the “Marketing Over Coffee” marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero. Christopher is on Twitter at @cspenn.
Tom Webster — Vice President of Strategy and Marketing at Edison Research — is a results-driven marketing executive with a track record of leading successful, large-scale market research initiatives, introducing growth-producing marketing strategies, and expanding product and service offerings to capture new verticals. Tom has achieved proven success designing innovative qualitative and quantitative research projects and integrating leading-edge technologies to propel company visibility, capabilities, and business development opportunities. He is a strong communicator, public speaker, and mentor. Tom has an MBA and brings international business expertise to his assignments. He co-hosts the podcast, “The Marketing Companion,” with Mark Schaefer. Tom is on Twitter at @webby2001.