Miss underestimatedHow polls undercount centrists, not populists

The polling error in the French election was bigger than in the Brexit referendum

MARINE LE PEN trailed Emmanuel Macron in run-off polls by around 20 percentage points for the entire campaign. Nonetheless, punters and pundits, humbled by populist surprises in Britain and America, gave her a meaningful chance of winning. At first glance, Mr Macron’s landslide seems a win for pollsters. In fact, they underestimated his support by four points—a larger error than in Britain’s Brexit vote or Donald Trump’s election. Because the error reinforced the expected result rather than upending it, it has drawn less attention. It may reflect voters who abandoned Ms Le Pen the day before the election, when polls were banned, following her weak debate and a plagiarism scandal. But the French run-off further undermines the notion that pollsters miss “shy populists”. Nate Silver, a data journalist, notes that nationalists have fallen short of polling averages in the last six European elections. Shy globalists, anyone?


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