Op-Ed

Dick Morris: 40% of Election Polls Were Wrong

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The polling in the 2018 election was terrible. Four out of ten polls in the hotly contested Senate and governor races that played out throughout the country were wrong (predicted the wrong winner).

And 60 percent got the final numbers were wrong by three points or more (even if they picked the right winner).

A more or less 50/50 verdict on their accuracy makes the surveys, according to the law of chance, about as likely as random selection to pick the winner.

Now that the ballots are all cast — and mostly counted — it’s time to assess which polling firms had it right and which wrong. We can also figure out which had the most pronounced Democratic bias and which were more Republican in their skew.

Overall, there were 40 final polls taken in the key statewide races around the country. Thirty of the 40 showed Democrats doing better than they actually performed. Only 10 showed Republicans doing better.

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Of the nine major polling firms, eight showed Democrats doing better than they actually did and only one — Trafalgar — showed Republicans doing better than it turned out.

Overall, the most accurate polling firm was Quinnipiac that, on average, overrated Democratic performance by 2.0 percent. Next came Gavis and Emerson.

The least accurate, and the most biased toward Democrats, was NBC/Marist and, surprisingly, Fox News. NBC overestimated Democratic vote totals by an average of 6.8 percent and Fox did so by 5 percent.

Here are the rankings of the polling firms by their accuracy and their partisan bias:

  • Quinnipiac: Average Error: Pro-Democrat 2.0
  • Gavis: Average Error: Pro-Democrat 2.5
  • Trafalgar: Average Error: Pro-Republican 2.7
  • Emerson: Average Error: Pro-Democrat 2.8
  • CNN: Average Error: Pro-Democrat 3.0
  • Harris: Average Error: Pro-Democrat 3.5
  • CBS: Average Error: Pro-Democrat 4.0
  • Fox News: Average Error: Pro-Democrat 5.0
  • NBC/Marist: Average Error: Pro-Democrat 6.8

This list is compiled by comparing the final polls by each company in each race with the actual outcome and then averaging their margin of actual error.

It is time for the pollsters to clean up their act and get it right. That the media who publish these polls do not reprimand or punish their contractors for these inaccurate polls simply enables them to continue to get it wrong.

Why are most of the wrong calls in favor of Democrats? Legitimately, Democratic voter turnout is harder predict than Republican with so many of the variables in harder-to-poll groups like minorities and young people.

But, particularly at firms like NBC, the possibility of editorial bias cannot be discounted.

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As for why Fox News was almost as pro-Democratic in its bias, it’s hard to guess.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Dick Morris is a former adviser to President Bill Clinton as well as a political author, pollster and consultant. His most recent book, "50 Shades of Politics," was written with his wife, Eileen McGann.




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