Election Postmortem: The Polls Were Right

The country has elected Barack Obama as president and broken the recent cycle of close contests decided by one state.  The Democrats have expanded their margins in the House and Senate but with less of a landslide than many predicted and have thus been denied the fabled “filibuster-proof” majority.

Barack Obama victory speech family photo. (AFP/Getty Images)

Barack Obama victory speech family photo. (AFP/Getty Images)

The pre-election polls, once again, were right.  There were no great surprises, with the only mystery coming in a handful of states that were too close to call in the late polls.

  • Indiana:  RCP calls it for Obama at 50-49 with 99% in.  CNN says it’s too close to call.  RCP had McCain winning by 1.4 with two of the five polls tied, one with an Obama +1.  [UPDATE 12:51 –  CNN has called it.  Obama won by 22,000 votes out of 2.7 million cast.]
  • Missouri:  Still too close to call, although McCain leads with 100% of precincts in.  Presumably, we’re waiting to count the absentee ballots.  RCP had McCain winning by 0.7 and 4 of the 6 polls in the average had a tie. Truly a dead heat.
  • North Carolina:  Neither RCP nor CNN are calling it, although Obama’s got a slight lead.  RCP had McCain winning by 0.4.  Again, a dead heat.

Every other state — including the key battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (a Blue state that somehow became a “battleground” because it was the McCain camp’s only hope to eek out a win) — went as predicted.

Can we finally kill the meme about skewed polls?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Can we finally kill the meme about skewed polls?

    Man, you’d like to think so, wouldn’t you?

    However. my guess is not.

  2. James Joyner says:

    My guess is that you’re right.

  3. Billy says:

    Missouri: Still too close to call, although McCain leads with 100% of precincts in. Presumably, we’re waiting to count the absentee ballots. RCP had McCain winning by 0.7 and 4 of the 6 polls in the average had a tie. Truly a dead heat.

    Anecdotally, many, many people in Missouri used absentee voting as a de facto early voting vehicle. The numbers could easily swing the very small margin McCain has right now.

  4. Jamie says:

    I doubt anyone will seriously speak of a Bradley Effect in any subsequent election, either.

  5. Steven Donegal says:

    So was McInturff just spinning or was his polling data wrong?

  6. James Joyner says:

    So was McInturff just spinning or was his polling data wrong?

    I didn’t get a chance to talk to him last night, as he was in Arizona. My understanding is that he was showing the race tightening — which it indeed seems to have done, given the results in Georgia, North Dakota, Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina, etc. — and arguing that undecideds were going to break overwhelmingly for McCain. The latter, it seems, didn’t happen.

    My guess is that this was part spin and part art vs. science of forecasting behavior from opinion surveys.

  7. I doubt anyone will seriously speak of a Bradley Effect in any subsequent election, either.

    I certainly hope so.

  8. RW Rogers says:

    Given that the press is reporting a record turnout of 130 million, it will be interesting to see if the final popular vote totals add up to that. At the moment, with 97% of precincts reporting, the two major candidates combined have almost 2 million votes less than the two major candidates combined in 2004.

  9. Steve Verdon says:

    Can we finally kill the meme about skewed polls?

    That Law of Large Numbers thing, what a load of crap! It is just so that geeks can confuse real people like Joe the Plumber and make themselves feel good.

  10. tom p says:

    what a load of crap! It is just so that geeks can confuse real people like Joe the Plumber and make themselves feel good.

    Steve… hee hee, I love it when you get sarcastic…”real people like Joe the Plumber”…

    What a hoot!

  11. James M. says:

    I have to admit in the past I have been very skeptical of the polls since most news groups sway to one way or another but, this time it was almost dead on. I hope this trend continues.