Election 2014

The Senate Polls Were Wrong. They Favored Democrats By a Significant Margin.


In the runup to the election, a number of election analysts noted that, despite polls showing a likely Republican takeover of the Senate, Democrats could perhaps take hope in the possibility that the polls were wrong, systematically biased toward the GOP.

In The New Republic, for example, Sam Wang, co-founder of the Princeton Election Consortium, wrote in October that "although Republicans have the advantage in polls, Democrats' track record of outperforming polls works in the other direction. For the moment, there's a decent probability that polling nerds will be surprised on November 4." Worried Democrats could hold out hope that the polls were wrong. "When errors occur, the outcome tends to be more favorable to the Democrat," he wrote. 

As it turns out, the polls were wrong. They dramatically favored Democrats.

As polling guru Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight "the pre-election polling averages (not the FiveThirtyEight forecasts, which also account for other factors) in the 10 most competitive Senate races had a 6-percentage point Democratic bias as compared to the votes counted in each state so far." (This doesn't account for Alaska, which takes longer to report election returns.)

This shows the danger of putting one's faith in the hope that polling data is wrong, as many conservatives did in 2012 with Mitt Romney and as some liberals clearly did this year. Yes, of course, it could well be wrong. Polling isn't perfect, and it often misses important trends. But if it's possible that the polls are systematically wrong, then it's possible that the polls are systematically wrong in a way that doesn't favor the party you favor. And for Democrats, that seems to have been what happened last night. 

NEXT: Jacob Sullum on Kaci Hickox's Successful Ebola Quarantine Challenge

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Oversampling women

  2. But YARD SIGN POLL!!11!

    /Karl Rove

  3. The total objectivity of the media in politics is truly a wonder to behold.

  4. “This shows the danger of putting one’s faith in the hope that polling data is wrong”

    Danger? So, someone is disappointed after an election result. Big fucking whoop.

    A delicious tear stained whoop.

  5. I wonder if pollsters were using 2012-weighted turnout models? Of course getting the makeup of the voters is the most difficult part of polling, but why such a constant skew across several polling firms?

    1. If it ain’t fixed, break it. Maybe they used Gore’s modeling methods.

  6. The low information voters with their free Obamaphones and food stamps just don’t turn out in midterm elections. Half of them don’t even know that there is such a thing as midterm elections.

    That’s all it really boils down to, and that’s not exactly news; it has been known for a very long time now.

    1. Obviously the solution is to require midterm voting to receive one’s free Obamaphones and food stamps.

      1. Some Brazilian guy was proudly proclaiming that in Brazil you are forced to vote in every election. I said nothing says freedom like forcing people to do stuff. I love watching smug fade from people’s face.

        1. What’s the forcing mechanism?

          1. They cast the ballot for you?

            1. No. Forced Brazilian waxing of private areas.

          2. No idea. Banned from watching the next ms. Bum bum contest?

            1. Looks like a small fine according to the googles

        2. I’ve read American media types propose that, but they don’t pretend to believe in freedom except on abortion.

      2. No, the reverse: anyone who gets food stamps or an Onamaphone obviously wants the straight Obama ticket, so make it automatic. Put it in the fine print if you want to get all legalistic, but the current occupant-in-chief has never shown much need for that.


  8. Democratic voters found that a death certificate was not accepted as a valid ID at the polls?

    1. I giggled.

  9. Voters are moody bastards. I’d punch myself in the face if I had to poll average Americans on anything other than ghosts, the lord, and vapid sports obsessions.

  10. I wasn’t on the boards last night – were Weigel and Tony in rare form?

    1. I took a gander at the open thread, AmSoc’s tears were really yummy and sweet.

    2. They never showed up, being the gutless little turds that they are.

    3. Tony was around yesterday afternoon to tell us how the Republicans were only winning because RACISM. Typical.

    4. Palin’s Buttplug|11.4.14 @ 8:25PM|#

      I had predicted that NC would decide who takes the Senate but noe Hagan looks fairly safe so CO will decide instead.

      Nevertheless sweet gridlock is upon us.

      Never mind that the GOP didn’t need either NC or CO to take control.

      Palin’s Buttplug|11.4.14 @ 8:53PM|#

      BTW I am right again. I said Obamacare would not be a measurable factor tonight. Based on Hagan’s strong showing in NC I am calling victory.

      So, a marginal favorite turning into a marginal defeat represents a strong showing. And, Obamacare apparently only affects NC politics.

  11. Tulpa went nuts under his new sockpuppet and was entertainingly petulant as always.

  12. Didn’t Tony tell us that government is self-regulating because of elections? I’ll be that one gets memory-holed quickly.

    1. I doubt we’ll see much of ‘Tony’ today. He is likely weeping into his granola, to be followed by curling up into the fetal position and weeping in a darkened room.

      1. He’ll come in to corpse fuck one of the featured articles at some point. It’s his stock-in-trade nowadays.

        1. He does like to do that.

      2. I had the same thought about our trolls. No way they would show their face after such an embarrassing loss. OTOH, they have no shame and are certainly not known for making wise decisions.

        1. Weigel and Tony will both be here, saying it really wasn’t a wave or whatever – never mind the pick-ups in the House as well, and in Governorships. I mean, how can you lose deep blue MD and say it wasn’t that bad?

    2. And isn’t Tony always going on and on about how the majority should rule no matter what?

      1. He does indeed. He favors a more parliamentary approach – that way things could get done! Of course, should said parliament reflect views he doesn’t hold, well then that’s just ermagerd fascism!

        1. If we had a parliamentary system, last night would have been a vote of no confidence on Obama and he would be leaving office. I don’t think Tony would like that very much.

          1. Exactly, at which point he would only want people to vote who pass some sort of criteria first.

      2. Look for him to change that tune pretty damn quick.

        1. No, his reasoning now is that the majority of people voted Democrat, but the House is Republican – NOT FAIR! So, I guess he wants apportionment via the entire national result. How they choose the representatives is anyone’s guess.

  13. hey – anyone remember how Sam Brownback was supposed to lose because he cut taxes too much…

    1. Hopefully this signals the death knoll of the Kansas RINO’s spoil sport influence.

    2. PB was all over that. And now it’s all over for him.

  14. I find it interesting that the press, when observing a GOP rout, uses phrases such as “sour mood” or “angry,” but when the Dems surge, it’s all “optimism” and “change.”

    1. I like that they went immediately to will they work with the president. Sorry elections have consequences and we won works both ways.

      1. It does. But the public basically wants the creatures of Washington to stay out of their face and work together and do whatever it is they do. So they love to hear each side say “we are going to stop fighting and get things done”. Saying “fuck you I won” is about the worst thing you can do. So of course Obama did just that and will continue to say so even after his party just got killed in an election that was largely a referendum on him.

        1. Look for Obama and the media to walk back that the mid-terms were a referendum on Obama. “Obama was not on the ballot” etc. etc.

          1. They will. And Obama is going to go full retard and do Amnesty and a nuclear deal with Iran and God knows what else even though the country just voted to tell the Democrats to knock it off and put Obama on a leash for the next two years.

            I can’t see that working out well for the Democrats in 2016.

    2. Mandates are for our team and only for our team.

      1. It was an election about nothing. The fact that the Republicans ads consisted of “Obamacare sucks” and “my Democrat opponent voted for Obama 100% of the time” in no way indicates the election was a referendum on Obama. The election is just the result of the public being bored and angry because that is just how they are and liberals staying home because the Democrats are not fully appreciating how awesome Obama is.

        1. The People just don’t know what’s good for them.

  15. Hmmm.. sorry but, the 2012 election was a presidential election, far easier to steal and THATS JUST WHAT HAPPENED!

  16. I am SO sick of political polls… The only polls I will visit is WonderPolls.com from now on out. 🙂

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.