Statistician Warns Americans To "Ignore The Capricious Polls"

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Salil Mehta via Statistical Ideas blog,

Sea of faulty polls

In this article we cover the theoretical bases for two interconnected ideas that we've discussed recently:

(a) that the empirical polling results are not as dire as current landslide mainstream media projections make it out to be, and


(b) many polls are oscillating about impossibly low probabilities right now for Donald Trump

This year is genuinely unique in merging several fundamental aspects, with a largely disenfranchised voting base across the country (i.e., record undecideds), and pollsters unable or unwilling to properly assess the true probability for Mr. Trump (and their incoherent polls evidence this).  This is not a matter of apologizing for the ground-level odds currently shown by mainstream media, or that the average Hillary Clinton lead is merely unsustainably high.  This loses the forest through the trees, as we theoretically prove here.

Start by studying a sample of the general election polls below, taken in just the past couple days.  

Do you see anything wrong there?  If you don't, then you have no business being around polling data.

The average margin of error on these 7 spreads shown is only 3%.  Most polls should therefore be within a few percent of the 6% average spread that is advertised by media.  But instead most are not!

For example, the difference between the highest Ms. Clinton spread and the lowest Ms. Clinton spread is >14 percentage points!  And the standard deviation among these mainstream polls is 5%.  So both have to be added together, and each is already higher than 3%!  That's an unusual, impossible outcome through luck alone.  Therefore something is misrepresented in the polls. 

Also right now 2 of the 7 polls favor Donald (you just' don't hear about them), so double the 10-15% odds he is being given.  In the final analysis of this trinomial data, on November 9 we'll look back and see only one poll being correct and most were flat out wrong.  This evidence below is a breach of the probability theory behind proper polling, where most polls should see the correct spread within the margin of error interval (that's what the interval's definition must be!)  If the margins are therefore completely busted, then so too are the egregious spreads that are seen to be all over the place (and mostly untrustworthy).  Likely the correct expected spread right now is 4-5%, and the larger spreads are coming from pollsters that ironically also have the highest margin of errors (casting further suspicion on how close the election really is for Americans).  We stand by our long-running estimate that the current probability for a Donald Trump victory is about in the 20% range, or twice what mainstream media is projecting.  Of course that is low, but to some it's still a compelling 1 in 4 chance (and much different than some might expect given all the twists and turns this campaign season has brought us).  It's also a better reflection of the true odds, versus those dished out by the same inane talking heads who recently gave you the Brexit "remain" prediction, or the NeverTrump prediction!

So there you have it as clearly shown as possible.  If these margins of error are correct, then most polls would have the spreads located within a few percent of 6% (so 3%, to 9%).  Yet the majority of the polls are outside of this 3%, to 9%, interval.  Probabilistically impossible.  The idea that whatever the correct spread is determined to be on November 9, we will ultimately prove -shockingly we might add- that one poll was correct but also that most of these other polls were wrong.  Those polls (unsure right now which) are because there the correct spread will have been outside of their margin of error intervals.

The only correction anyone can make now to the failed margin of error is to enlarge it, in order to encapsulate most of the other intervals about the correct spread.  Without these overlaps, we can't discuss spreads in the media, since the data is from an entirely corrupt polling system!  The direction of unbiasing the data is also obvious.

To start with, the only correct expected value for the spread has to be reduced since that is the direction of asymmetric bias.  The largest polling spreads have become too extreme and must be brought in already.  Combined with larger margins of error.  The result of this combination is a correct spread that is lower at about 4-5%, and a margin of error that is roughly double what's been advertised (5-6%).  Implying Donald Trump's chances of winning is nearly twice what the mainstream media's been floating around.

How do we get a double of the margin of error, and the implications of it for where the expected spread should be?  The likelihood that we would get a result of one where 2/3 of the polling spreads are inside the margin of error interval and yet most don't fall outside of the interval, is only about 1/4 or so of the time (other possible outcomes are that all, or most spreads within all margin of error intervals, or that no spreads overlap at all).  In order to get that likelihood rebalanced back at majority, we need to have wider margins so the maximum likelihood outcome we expect to see at that time works out.

Note that these topics were discussed in a recently viral article that last weekend was on the top of ZeroHedge and reddit, and amassing 1/2 million reads and thousands of shares.  And we should note that a day after this article of ours noting the probability pricing arbitrage on gabling bets that Mr. Trump's spread would tighten, the largest bet ever was wagered for him.

Also the effect of wider margins is that the probability of Donald leading in the actual election doubles from the 10-15% or so that the current pollsters show (and he has not recently deteriorated from).  Hence arriving at an actual probability for him that must be greater than 20% or so.  Larger uncertainty therefore, given the undecideds for this candidate, and a more narrow spread.  This is what we have been saying all along.

The last topic here is that we can see that the higher Hillary spreads are coming from pollsters that have the higher margins of error, though we also showed above they those error intervals are still not wide enough.  It should be plain that between the highest spreads and the lowest spreads, the highest ones (those over 9% or so) should be the ones treated with the greatest reservation.  Completed by the same shamelessly ignorant and flawed pollsters who gave you #NeverTrump and the Brexit stay prediction, both not so long ago.

At this point it makes sense for Americans to ignore the capricious polls, and simply vote their conscious on Election Day.  The numbers in the polls don't add up to the significance the polling conclusions convey.  Both candidates have their strengths, and Americans are torn.  The video leak for Donald Trump was regrettable for all Americans, especially in these final weeks.  But it will not drive his support to zero.  Hillary Clinton for her part has not shown herself to be that much more of a transparent and flawless candidate (a true Scorpion).

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Bear's picture

All that matters is what happens the week before the election.

Rabbi Chaim Cohen's picture

"... ignore the capricious polls, and simply vote their conscience on Election Day..."

Typo fixed...

boattrash's picture

"... ignore the capricious polls, and simply vote their conscience on Election Day..."

I'd love to, but I have an innate problem ignoring corruption, and the polls are corrupt as hell.

Transformer's picture

The polls are BS.  Here's a poll that was on CNN, Hillary winning by 5%

This poll shows they polled 713 people,

413 Democrats

168 Republicans

132 Ind

And Hillary is only leading by 5%


The Saint's picture
The Saint (not verified) Transformer Oct 22, 2016 7:59 PM

"....probability for a Donald Trump victory is about in the 20% range, or twice what mainstream media is projecting.  Of course that is low, but to some it's still a compelling 1 in 4 chance...."

I don't know if this statatician's analyis is correct or not.  But, I do know that his math is faulty.  20%  in NOT a 1 in 4 chance.  It is a 1 in 5 chance.

Regardless, you've got to go vote or the MSM polls will be a self fulfilling proficy.

Supafly's picture

It's a ploy to justify the electoral college which will defy the popular vote to an extent never before seen.

toro's picture
toro (not verified) Supafly Oct 22, 2016 9:36 PM

Correct Supafly.

George H.W. Bush - Potus - CIA
Bill Clinton - Potus - CIA
George W. Bush - Potus - CIA
Barack Obama - Potus - CIA
Hillary Clinton - CIA

Is Trump toast or what?

philipat's picture

Hey toro, previously mofio then santafe then Aristotle of Greece then Gargoyle then bleu then oops then lance-a-lot then most recently Loftie. Looks like Loftie got banned or perhaps just completely outed. I shalln’t miss him! Let’s see how long toro survives, shall we? You need to create those new Account names more quickly toro. Would regular ZH contributors please take a moment to help me in my campaign against this idiot and report toro to

You are a serial spammer and a serial pain in the ass. Might I politely suggest that you go fuck yourself? And get a life.

PS. You might have noticed that my attempt to expose you for what you are is always the same. That’s because your Spam is always the same (Using fake links to your BS site which has no connection to your comments; which are deliberately dramatic to mislead people into responding or clicking on the fake link) so it seems only fair that my exposure of your crap should also always be the same. An eye for an eye.

Twee Surgeon's picture

Dear Sherlock Holmes,

I have travelled forth into the 21st Century (with Dr Zhivago.)  (On the Well's Time Machine.) As you advised, it is exactly as you said it would be Sir!

A Bunch of "No Good, know nothing, Halfwit Motherfuckers running the show", they are, as you said Sir, Nothing but a "Gang of Cunts" at the Helm.

How the future United States rids itself of this Plague is beyond me, they are so fouled in their own nets that one may only guess but I can say that the Spirit of the people is quite hot and will in some unknown way resolve the Insanity (as you said in your last letter.), I expect that much blood may be shed, as does my travelling companion Dr Zhivago.

It is unfortunate that Well's time machine will only go to this point or we might have better report.

Sincerely yours.

 Dr Watson.

P.S. You will not believe what is happening here, when I do report, please do not think me mad, tis all true, the Mad-House has nothing to compare with this grand delusion.

Everybodys All American's picture

Trump could have epic numbers in terms of vote totals compared to Hill rat and still lose the electoral badly.

beemasters's picture

It seems Trumps signs are outnumbering Hillary's everywhere too...though that may not mean much.

JRobby's picture

Thank you for putting this article out here. The bad polling was beginning to bother me. It seemed that real statisticians had gone on permanent holiday.

Omen IV's picture

We are all witnessing the greatest Coordinated Disinformation Pyramid Scheme in USA national history!


The combination of: 

The methodology of the Rigged Polls / 

Phony government statistics concerning UE Rate - Job Additions - Inflation - GDP Growth /

MSM air time focus of extraneous negative interpretative Talking Points rather than economic and social facts  and the concentration of time devoted to nonsense vs comparison of fundamentals of Policy /

Completely Ignoring Factual Pay for Play as disclosed by WikiLeaks by MSM /

Completely MSM ignoring Project Veritas and 300 meetings at White House 40+ with Obama by Felon CEO /

Comey Investigative Twilight Zone Methodology & Conclusions & Exclusion of obvious Facts /

EVEN - FOX  - has demonstrably shifted their focus to exclude favorable Trump facts other than Hannity to slanted coverage /

The Registering of illegals with drivers licenses and accelerated mass citizenship declaration of Latinos especially in Florida /

Ryan & the rest of Republican Leadership visibly playing games "against" the Presidential Ticket .........unprescedented /

ALL ALL ALL the money on the Right - Republican - is going for Hillary /


You have an coordinated Establishment in overdrive to overcome the citizen's momentum for TRUMP with.................. dirty tricks.

If She was "reallly" winning today this Level of Fraud would not be necessary.



RaceToTheBottom's picture

Another sign that America relishes their stupidity about numbers and math.


Maybe we need a H1B program for journalists?

Isn't a H1B program the solution to all our knowledge problems?

Jimmy Jimmereeno's picture

Despite the DNC spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars and the RNC failing to financially back their candidate, the best that
Clinton can do in a biased MSM CNN poll is +5%.  That fact speaks volumes about the eventual outcome of the general election ex voter fraud.

What happened to the voting?  Originally the site showed the percentage of straw voters for each of the presidential candidates.  Now that is missing.  All the site shows is it's potential for surveying public opinion.

RiverRoad's picture

Trump the lumberjack is out felling mighty oaks in the forest and we definitely do not need the MSM  or farcical polls to tell us whether they are making a noise or not.

asteroids's picture

Article proves that there are corrupted statisticians. Honest statisticians, can, and will correctly predict the winner a few days before the election. I've seen honest statisticians do this repeatedly. Amerikans have been lied to so often, (FED, BLS, etc) their moral outrage has been beaten out of them. Pity.

a Smudge by any other name's picture

Is now a good time to state that I took was groped by Trump? In Trump Tower NYC?


Well actually it was more like I ended up standing a few feet from him at a fund raiser but with a little sexing up it could be a great story. DNC is free to contact me directly (just ask somebody at NSA for my number) and we'll come to mutually beneficial terms.

philipat's picture

The polls are being abused by MSM for 3 reasons IMHO:

1. To attempt to shape opinion, not reflect it as an "opinion" poll should do.

2. To discourage Trump voters and most importantly potential Trump voters from turning out to vote because "it's a foregone conclusion; it's over".

3. So that after the vote is rigged, they can point to the polls to say "well it shouldn't come as any surprise; all the polls predicted a large Shitlery win".

Exit polls never lie, which explains why the MSM will NOT do exit polls this election. It's very important that as many independent exit polls as possible are conducted and that independent observers monitor as many polling stations as possible. Even then, as has now been demonstrated, the electronic voting machines cannot be trusted, especially in the hands of "Democrats".

zeronetwork's picture

That's what I'm saying from t he day one, Just go and vote for trump.

stantheman's picture

You guys are all wrong. The polls are most probably being rigged in preparate of the most probable real rigging on election day. Occam's razor.

All this talk about statistical probabilities is complete BS. 

Main_Sequence's picture
Main_Sequence (not verified) eforce Oct 22, 2016 6:10 PM

"There's lies.  Damned lies.  And statistics."

11b40's picture

Figures may not lie, but liars figure.

nc551's picture

Don't forget:  "There's lies.  Damned lies.  And the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics."

phatfawzi's picture

All these polls and no strippers, what a shame. 

AViewFromDublin's picture

O'Keeffe is going to release blockbusting smoking gun evidence that DIRECTLY implicates Hillary in manufacturing those violent riots at Trumps rallies.

If they don't at least charge her with what is a serious felony and a direct assault on your democracy then Trump can say that they are protecting her just as Comey protected her of any wrong doing.

That everything is rigged against not just himself, but the American people as well. Trump will need to make sure he makes a powerful ad emphasising this and keep hammering it home.

This should cause seriously problems for Hillarys campaign or even destroy her chances of ever winning the election. I still, however believe Trump is winning anyway but this should really seal it.


Takeaction2's picture
Takeaction2 (not verified) Bear Oct 22, 2016 6:16 PM

Every person I talk to is for TRUMP.  And when they talk about him they say it like we are at WAR.  They whisper...they say the Dems/Libs are violent.  They say they have lost friends and family due to them expressing how they are voting so they are not talking about it any more.  It is eerie...and weird.  I keep spreading the word...and it is simple to convert somebody on the fence or voting 3rd party....just say...

Well, it is either Hillary or Trump so don't throw your vote away.

A vote for anyone except Trump is a vote for Hillary.

Then I say "The next President is going to choose Supreme Court Justices that will sway the court for the rest of your LIFE"  That is how important it is.

You have to keep it short..and simple...and I always say "Do I agree with everything he says...NO, and I don't like how he delivers some messages, but that is what makes him unique..."

If you attack Hillary, it doesn't help...

TRUMP 2016   or Clinton/NUKE 2016 take your pick....pretty clear to me.   GOD I WISH TRUMP WOULD TALK TO PUTIN LIVE on TV.  What a burn that would be.

erkme73's picture

I agree with everything you say, BUT, this is all contingent on the voting machines actually working.  Even if you had 100% independent exit poling confirm that Trump won by 20 points, do you think that would get any exposure in the media?  What would the recourse be?  Every one of those pollers and those supporting them would be written off as an alt-right fring/conspiracy sore loser group.  

I still think there are A LOT of people who will vote for Trump, but are too scared to admit it publicly, or they simply don't want to defend their  position.  When asked, they state they're undecided or independent.  But once they have the secrecy of the voting booth, they're going for Trump. 

With CNN and the like proclaiming a 10 point lead for HRC, no one will suspect anything if the polls are rigged to reflect the estimates.  It sucks.  I could scream I'm so angry, and I don't know what to do.

Just look at how much traction the Project Veritas videos got on the MSM.  Then you have 5mil subscribers Casey Neistat blogging to vote for Hillary.  It's just so unfair not to have an unbiased media.

froze25's picture

CNN's own focus group destroyed the bs polling numbers they ate trying to push. Done after the last debate. Trump 2016

lakecity55's picture

Observation and common sense will tell all of us if we get ripped off.

That is when it's going to get very nasty.

National Strike by workers/taxpayers, with increasing civil disobedience and increasing intense opposition will happen. The Corruption is out of control, these crooks are even in your face laughing at you. Time to smash them.

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

Somewhere inside the Deep State, a team has made a calculation on how much tyranny the Americans getting tyrannized will take before the resistance becomes violent.  They have game-planned the response for when the resistance gets violent.  They've got 5000 MRAPS and a sizeable fraction of the 22 million us .gov workers to conscript into service.  I am sure they are feeling very confident.  That's how long bloody wars start.

RiverRoad's picture

The MSM has slit their own throats and dug their own graves.  No one believes their "news" or trusts them now, not Dems or Reps.  Ad revenue and subscriptions are plummeting:

Plummeting newspaper ad revenue sparks new wave of changes (

Only the internet now allows people the ability to read/reasearch both sides of any issue.

The MSM is dead.  Long live the freedom of the internet press.

stantheman's picture

You guys are all wrong. The polls are most probably being rigged in preparate of the most probable real rigging on election day. Occam's razor.

All this talk about statistical probabilities is complete BS. 

Ballin D's picture

That's what's terrifying. No Americans want to have to pick up their rifles to get the people's vote honored but I feel like its a coin toss whether that will happen or not

lakecity55's picture

That's about the 3rd or fourth duplicate post you have made.

You are a shill.

LaurieAnna's picture

Every person I talk to is for TRUMP.


So... how many Democrats did you talk to? Blacks? Hispanics? College educated women?

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

3 things you have to remember:

1. Figures lie, and liars do a lot of figuring.

2. Our Contempt, Disdain, and Disgust toward the NY and DC Establishment, and why we want the Swamp drained, can be summarized as...

"Because 'Fuck You!', that's why."

3. Just get out and VOTE!  Do it as your mode of Civic Duty and Civic Defiance.  VOTE!

Memorize 1-3.

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

I dont trust the integrity of any US election.  If you arent seeing justice but you are seeing corruption, prepare to 'knuckle up'.

MopWater's picture

I took two classes on statistics and probabilities in college...I was terrible at them.

But one thing it took is that any poll above a 3% margin of error is  statistical garbage. IIRC that's below 90% probability.

CHoward's picture

So what constitutes a LANDSLIDE?



Bay Area Guy's picture

If someone gets 271 electoral votes and beats Clinton, I'll thankfully take that as a landslide.  I don't care who it is or how it's accomplished.  I don't need there to be a landslide.  I just need Clinton to lose.

bugs_'s picture

They won't be able to ignore the capricious election results.

. . . _ _ _ . . .'s picture


Three chicks, one of them at least, a 'sex-worker', go up to a billionaire's hotel room and accuse him of sexual assault for kissing them? (Brought two friends for safety - yeah, right.$$$) To the 11th woman, don't go to France, you'll have to accuse everyone you meet.

Creative_Destruct's picture

Help us Obewan Undecideds you're our only hope....

Oh, that and some honest polling.

apberusdisvet's picture

When the traitors in the WH realize from their internal polling that Trump is way way ahead, Obama will cancel the election and claim that he did so due to "proven" Russian hacking.  That's when the shitshow begins.

HockeyFool's picture

That would be interesting. I wonder how many 0bama voters are prepared?