So how come we didn’t detect Trump’s impending victory?
First, it’s hard to see in real time. These Gallup findings were being released during the campaign, but much of the interpretation focused on the amount Americans had heard about each candidate rather than the substance. More often than not, that result was tilted in Trump’s favor, leading to more stories about Trump’s earned media and fewer about what people were actually hearing.
That conclusion seemed borne more of expectations than an objective read of the data. The poll result wasn't about news coverage, but what people were hearing from any source. That included news media, but also Facebook feeds and conversations with co-workers and around the dinner table at home.
Second, election analysts and poll interpreters made several assumptions that didn’t hold up:
--That the difference in perceived qualification for the job would outweigh ratings of honesty.
--That voter turnout patterns would yield an electorate that reflected the increasing diversity of American society.
--That the Democratic advantage in the “blue wall” states – those that had voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992 – would probably hold.
--That those voters who had unfavorable opinions of both candidates would kind of behave like your average undecided voter.
None of it was right.