The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Public Program: “Aftermath: Polls, Predictions, and American Politics”

17W Public Program

Dean Lacy, chairman of the government department, and Harry Enten, a 2011 graduate and senior analyst at the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight. Photo by Hung Nguyen.

17W Public Program

The talk, titled “Aftermath: What the 2016 Election Taught Us About Polls, Predictions and American Politics,” drew a large crowd. Photo by Hung Nguyen.

17W Public Program

Public Program, “Aftermath: What the 2016 Election Taught Us About Polls, Predictions, and American Politics.”

Article Type 

The results of the latest presidential election cycle shocked many, and some would argue that the nation is still processing the results even now, after the inauguration. For months, countless polls were predicting a Clinton victory. Not only that, many claimed that a Trump presidency was not only unlikely, but unfeasible statistically. Clearly, these claims were incorrect, and the American public must come to terms with the supposed failure of our pollsters.

FiveThirtyEight is considered by many to be a forerunner in the field of political predictions. While they too believed that Secretary Clinton would beat President Trump in the election, FiveThirtyEight’s models showed a significantly higher chance of a Trump victory than did other pollsters.

On February 3, to a packed audience in Filene Auditorium in Moore Hall, Dean Lacy, chairman of the government department, and Harry Enten, a 2011 graduate and senior analyst at the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, spoke on how the polls could be so wrong, and if the polls were in fact wrong. Enten went through the statistics behind polling predictions, and discussed how the election went to Trump from a mathematics perspective. 

Harry Enten ’11 is a senior political analyst and writer for FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism site. He studies polling and demographic trends to try and tell readers who and why candidates and parties win and lose elections. Previously, he was a writer with The Guardian in New York. Harry graduated from Dartmouth College, where he was better known for providing snowfall forecasts to students via blitz.

This event was cosponsored by the Department of Government, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and the Program in Quantitative Social Science.

Submitted by Olivia Bewley ’19, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Public Programs

The views and opinions expressed and any materials presented during a public program are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.

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