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Berkeley Talks: Nate Cohn on polling and the 2024 election

Follow Berkeley Talks, a Berkeley News podcast that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley. See all Berkeley Talks.

three people voting at booths with a giant American flag with an image of a bald eagle on the wall behind them
Voters cast their ballots under a giant mural at Robious Elementary school on Election Day in Midlothian, Virginia, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

AP Photo by Steve Helber

In Berkeley Talks episode 185, New York Times chief political analyst Nate Cohn discusses how polling works, the challenges facing pollsters today and where polling stands as we head into the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have a crisis of polling at the same time we have a crisis of democracy,” said Cohn, who gave UC Berkeley’s Citrin Award Lecture on Oct. 19.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Trump mobilized a so-called silent majority of voters who felt that they were unrepresented in our political system, and who turned out to be underrepresented in polls by an order of magnitude for decades.

“Just think about all of the choices that politicians made from the ’80s onward. That in each one of those decisions, they were doing it, in part, based on data that underrepresented the number of white working class Americans by tens of millions. I think it added up, and I think I’ll start by proving that to you, and I think it offers a nice launching point for where polling is today. Because although it’s tempting to think the problems in polling are recent to Trump, I think it’s probably fair to say that Trump exposed issues in polling that had existed for a very long time before that.”

The Citrin Award Lecture is an annual event of Berkeley’s Citrin Center for Public Opinion ResearchWatch a video of Cohn’s lecture on YouTube.