Unless you pay no attention to the world around you whatsoever, you’ve probably heard that a man named Donald J. Trump is going to be the 45th President of the United States. On Nov. 8, Trump sent shockwaves around the world when the networks finally admitted he’d emerge victorious from a hotly contested battle against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
So many people were shocked at the decisive Trump electoral victory because the mainstream media and pollsters had been telling the world for months that the business tycoon and reality TV star had virtually no chance of winning the presidency. The Huffington Post, for example, gave Clinton a 98.2% chance of victory. Taking that arrogance further, HuffPo went as far as criticizing Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight predictor site because it gave Clinton a mere 65% chance of winning. The New York Times—long considered “the paper of record” in the United States—gave Clinton an 85% chance of winning. You get the gist.
To be sure, there were a few prognosticators that said Trump had the race in the bag. Professor Allan Lichtman, Professor Helmut Norpoth, Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams and author and filmmaker Mike Cernovich were among those who predicted the correct outcome. But virtually all of the mainstream media failed to see how Trump could win the whole shebang.
There are many reasons for this disconnect between predictions and reality. For example, there’s been no shortage of accusations of media bias throughout the entire election cycle. Remember when Nate Silver gave Trump a 2% chance of winning the GOP primary? Or when The Huffington Post bravely announced it was covering Trump in its entertainment section?
Still, perhaps the most spectacular failures this election cycle came from the pollsters. Just like the pollsters failed to call Brexit, they failed to see any path for Trump to reach the White House. Consider the following final averages from aggregator RealClearPolitics:
- Polls: Hillary Clinton had a 3.4% lead in Michigan (16 electoral votes). Result: Trump won Michigan by 0.3%.
- Polls: Hillary Clinton had a 6.5% lead in Wisconsin (10 electoral votes). Result: Trump won Wisconsin by 1%.
- Polls: Hillary Clinton had a 1.9% lead in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes). Result: Trump won Pennsylvania by 1.2%.
Together, those three Rust Belt states represented a 92-point swing in the Electoral College, effectively giving Trump the presidency.
How the Pollsters Were So Wrong
How were so many pollsters so wrong?
For starters, new FCC rules make it illegal for pollsters to use automated dialers to call cell phones. Yes, pollsters can call cell phones; they just have to input the numbers manually. This, of course, takes time. Looking to reduce costs, it’s likely that pollsters used automated dialers to contact landlines—which represents other problems, too, since only 40% of U.S. households still have them.
What’s more, pollsters were likely using flawed models. Trump won the Rust Belt because a majority of disaffected white voters—whom pollsters considered unlikely to cast ballots—turned out in large numbers. It takes pollsters as many as 10 calls before they get one response; it’s unlikely that this bloc of voters engaged with pollsters even if they called.
Then there’s phenomenon of the shy Trump voter who was voting for The Donald all along but didn’t want to voice that opinion to anyone. (Once again, the mainstream media was wrong; three days before the election, Politico said there was no such thing as the shy Trump voter.) Here’s what The Los Angeles Times had to say on the matter:
Trump voters were notably less comfortable about telling a telephone pollster about their vote. Voters who backed a third-party candidate were even less comfortable responding to a poll. Women who said they backed Trump were particularly less likely to say they would be comfortable talking to a pollster about their vote.
A piece recently published on The Huffington Post bears this headline: “A Vote for Trump Was a Hate Crime.” Is it really that difficult to see why millions of voters hesitated to voice their support for Trump except in the voting booth?
Shattering America’s System of Closed Dialogue
It seems that a country that was founded on the beauty and power of free speech is becoming increasingly opposed to conflicting ideas.
Just look at the myriad of safe spaces that have popped up among America’s universities over the last few years, ostensibly designed to protect students from ideas that might offend them. Believe it or not, colleges across the country—including Yale!—actually canceled classes and tests to let students mourn the election results. Would this same thing happen if Clinton won the election? Is it safe to say there’s only one political viewpoint tolerated at America’s universities?
This closed communication trend is making inroads in the workplace, too. After the election, GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney, a Clinton supporter, emailed his employees and said anyone who supports Trump should resign immediately. (You don’t have to trade stocks to know how that affected share prices.) Considering half of the country voted for Trump, that’s probably not the most open-minded statement one can make, particularly coming from someone who claims he’s exceptionally tolerant.
Politics aside, progress is made through open dialogue and compromise. If America wishes to continue moving forward as a united country, it is critical that those on both sides of the aisle allow people to voice their opinions—in public or at the voting booth—without fear of being ridiculed, ostracized or worse.
It is okay to have different opinions so long as we are simply sharing ideas and not resorting to ridicule or violence.
Opening Communication in the Workplace
Enough about Trump and Clinton. Let’s hope everyone can agree we need to put this election in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible.
The good news is that the lessons from the Election of 2016 can spill over into our professional lives, too.
For example, when communication is closed, it’s impossible for two teams or two groups to work together. It is therefore imperative for anyone wishing to create a powerful business to embrace open communication and encourage employees to share their ideas freely.
This is not to say that politics should be a topic that comes up often or even ever at the workplace. We all know talking about politics and religion can do more harm than good.
But employees should be able to question decisions, within reason. Organizations need to be transparent about their goals, their objectives and the directions they’re heading in. That’s the ticket to a collaborative work environment where good ideas grow into even better ones and employees learn from one another—the way it should be in the office and in the country at large.