Pollster Conway, Gambler Mappin Got Donald Trump's Win Right

The vast majority of pollsters, forecasters and bettors got Election 2016 wrong, but not Kellyanne Conway. And now Donald Trump is President-elect.

Plenty of polling professionals and market experts are doing some soul searching in the wake of Tuesday's surprise victory by Trump, who has never held a political or military or public service office. "The polls clearly got it wrong this time," wrote the American Association of Public Opinion Research, issuing a mea culpa of sorts on Wednesday. U.K. bookmaker Paddy Power lost $4.5 million after paying out Hillary Clinton backers before the election results came in. One economist who predicted global markets would plunge on a Trump victory admitted he was "puzzled" by Wednesday's rally.

On the other hand, perhaps none other than Trump's own team can feel more vindicated by Tuesday's results.

"We knew that there would be a so-called undercover Trump voter, as Kellyanne calls them," said Adam Geller, one of Trump's top pollsters, referring to Conway. She began the election race working on a Ted Cruz super PAC, took over as Trump's campaign manager and now stands on the verge of significant political power as one of the next President's key advisers.

Trump's polling team, led by Conway and Republican pollster and strategist Tony Fabrizio, "loosened up" their models away from 2012. They framed their questioning differently than other pollsters in order to determine whether those shy Trump voters were out there.

"We were asking the right questions in the polling to try and determine if that was real or not, and every single survey that we did came back the same, that that was going to be a real phenomenon. And so we understood that beyond what most of the polls were showing, there were more votes out there," Geller said. "Kellyanne, to her credit, mentioned this plenty of times, and often times to a very hostile media. She stuck to her guns and she insisted that it was true, and she is validated. We all are."

David Rothschild, economist at Microsoft Research, noted that nationally the polls were only about 2% off, "well in the range of very reasonable." The problem, he said, was in the battleground states. "This is a question not of missing the average in America, this is a question about missing badly in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania," he said. 

An analysis from FiveThirtyEight showed Trump overperformed his polls by a wide margin in several swing states, beating the expectations by more than five points in Utah, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa.

"The polls missed Donald Trump's election," wrote FiveThirtyEight's Carl Bialik and Harry Enten.

Most, not all.

Republican consulting firm Strategic National released a poll last Friday showing Trump and Clinton tied in Michigan. A RealClearPolitics average of polls had Clinton with a 3.4-point edge in the state heading into Tuesday. Trump narrowly defeated Clinton by a 0.3% margin, or about 13,000 votes.

"We always assumed he would overperform polling because of this quiet turnout of nontraditional voters," said John Yob, CEO of Strategic National.

The firm was careful to include voters in their samples who had not voted in recent previous elections but said they planned to this time around. Yob, who worked on Rand Paul's campaign during the primaries, said they saw similar trends then, too.

"Donald Trump outperformed polling in the primaries by turning out people who hadn't voted in the past primaries," he said. "The main lesson learned is to make sure that you're properly taking a look at nontraditional voters."

It wasn't just many polls that missed Trump's victory -- the markets did, too.

Stocks climbed Monday and Tuesday on increased optimism that Clinton would win the presidency following FBI director James Comey's Sunday announcement that the agency had not changed its mind on not charging the former secretary of state over her email use. Prediction markets gave Clinton more than 80% odds at winning the White House.

The prediction markets, of course, got the outcome of the election wrong. Forecasts that markets would crash on a Trump victory were incorrect as well. Futures markets cratered overnight Tuesday, but after market open Wednesday, stocks climbed.

"Either markets change their minds very quickly, or prediction markets were not representing Wall Street sentiment," said Koleman Strumpf, professor of business economics at the University of Kansas and a prediction markets analyst.

Eric Zitzewitz, whose research on prediction market and stock movements during the campaign suggested a Trump victory would lead to a huge drop in global markets, said some of the positive reaction could be attributed to Trump's victory speech. The president-elect toned down his rhetoric, appeared grateful and spoke of a need for infrastructure spending. It appears to have appeased investors.

"People say that the speech he gave was very important," he said.

One person who got Trump right early on is John Mappin. The British media and technology investor who lives at Camelot Castle, a hotel in Cornwall, U.K., made a series of bets on Trump early on through London-based bookmaker William Hill.

"I was 1000% certain he was going to win," said Mappin, who is also a big Trump fan. He traveled with his family to Trump's new hotel in Washington, D.C. when it opened earlier this year.

Mappin won more than $120,000 when Trump was elected on Tuesday.

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