Election 2010: A Look At Polling in the Toss-Up States
National polling firms and others sorted out the many races for Senate and governor clearly identifying winners in most well before Election Day. However, seven Senate races and 11 governors’ races were still rated Toss-Ups by Real Clear Politics heading into the final day.
Of those 18 races, two or more national polling firms participated in 14. The results of these 14 races are summarized in tables below.
One interesting thing to note is that Democrats outperformed the polling average 71% of the time in these Toss-Up states (10 of 14). The averages were right on the money in two states and narrowly understated the Republicans in two others. Those figures included Democrats outperforming the polls in all seven of the Toss-Up Senate races.
An earlier article suggested that this may be because Democrats saw the threat coming and were able to concentrate resources in key states to build a firewall. Clearly, the biggest miss of the night for the polling industry came in the Nevada Senate race. This, as noted in another early article, is the second straight election in which Rasmussen Reports and all public pollsters understated the Democratic performance in Nevada.
After an election’s over, it’s natural for people to compare the pollsters to find out who did better in which race(s). We do it, too.
There are a couple of ways we analyze our election results. First, we look at the election in the most obvious way: We compare our final polling numbers with the actual voter results. We have publicly posted these comparisons for both the Senate races and governor races.
Then, we look at head-to-head match-ups between us and other polling organizations. For example, we’re pleased to note that in Toss-Up states where both Rasmussen Reports and Quinnipiac polled, the Rasmussen Reports final poll was closer to the mark every time (Pennsylvania Senate, Connecticut governor, Florida governor and Ohio governor). The two firms projected the same candidate to win every race but one. In Florida’s race for governor, Rasmussen correctly projected Republican Rick Scott would win, while Quinnipiac showed Democrat Alex Sink ahead. In fairness to Quinnipiac, a well-respected polling service, it’s appropriate to note that the difference in some cases was just a single percentage point. On top of that, Quinnipiac performed as well or better than some other firms in those same states.
If you expand the comparison to races that weren’t Toss-Ups, Quinnipiac and Rasmussen Reports both polled seven other races. Quinnipiac was closer in the Connecticut Senate race, the Ohio Senate race and the New York blowouts. Rasmussen Reports was closer in the Pennsylvania governor and Florida Senate races. Overall, that means Rasmussen Reports was closer on six races, Quinnipiac on five.
When examining the results of all the Election 2010 races and comparing them to all other public polling firms, Rasmussen Reports was closer to the final results in 17 Toss-Up races, further away in 17 other races and tied in 10.
Another way of looking at the data is to see which firms came closest to the mark. On this, three sets of polls were closest to the mark or tied for closest four times—Rasmussen Reports, CNN/Time and Fox News/Pulse*. Public Policy Polling and Survey USA were closest or tied three times and Mason-Dixon once.
In all comparisons, caution should be used because not all firms polled in all races and the results didn’t differ very much. Additionally, the numbers shift a little when you compare the average of all polls conducted by a firm in a race rather than just the final poll. Timing can affect the comparisons as well.
*Pulse Opinion Research licenses methodology developed by Scott Rasmussen and provides the field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys.
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