How to read the polls in 2020 and avoid the mistakes of 2016

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On Oct. 28, 2016, Berwood Yost had just finished interviews for his last poll before the presidential election. The director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had asked voters in his state if they preferred Republican candidate Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Like many polls around the country at that moment, his results suggested Clinton could win the critical swing state. Most national polls were pegging Clinton’s lead over Trump anywhere between 1 and 7 percentage points in the close presidential race.

Hours later, FBI Director James Comey submitted a letter to Congress. With less than two weeks before Election Day, he had reopened an investigation into Clinton’s use of personal email for government business in what many now see as a seismic decision — the effects of which…

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