An American Coup: (2002) Midterm Election Polls vs. Actuals

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Alastair Thompson / November 12, 2002

In the interests of further examining the question of whether the vote in some races in the U.S. midterm elections was fixed by electronic voting machines supplied by republican affiliated companies, Scoop has done some digging. How accurate were the pollsters in advance of the US mid-term elections?

Scoop's analysis shows that - according to the polls - the Republican Party experienced a pronounced last minute swing in its favour of between 4 and 16 points. Remarkably this last minute swing appears to have been concentrated in its effects in critical Senate races (Georgia and Minnesota) where it secured it's complete control of Congress.

Scoop has compared the results of final week polling in 19 races, with the actual results in those same races.

The full details of the Scoop analysis follow below. In summary Scoop found:

- 14 races showed a post opinion poll swing towards the Republican Party (by between 3 and 16 points);
- 2 races showed a post opinion poll swing towards the Democratic Party (by 2 and 4 points);
- In three races the pollsters were close to correct;
- The largest post opinion poll vote swings occurred in Minnesota and Georgia where pollsters got the final result wrong (see: Pollsters defend their surveys in wake of upsets for more coverage of this issue);

- All the post polling swings in favour of the democratic party were within the margin of error.
- Several of the post polling swings in favour of the republican party were well outside the margin of error.
- In the states where the senate races were critical and close the swing was predominantly towards the Republicans, with the exceptions of Arkansas and Missouri. The level of post-poll swing in these races in favour of the Republican Party in each race were: North Carolina 3, Colorado 4, Georgia 9-12, Minnesota 8-11, Texas 3-11, New Hampshire 1.
- The state where the biggest upset occurred, Georgia, is also the state that ran its election with the most electronic voting machines.


Overall Positioning Poll
Democrats hold a slight lead -- 49 percent to 46 percent -- in the latest nationwide Gallup poll, conducted Oct. 21-22, which asked likely voters nationwide whether they plan to vote for Democratic or Republican candidates for Congress. "Generic" polls of this kind have been reliable indicators in the past. Republicans held a seven-point advantage in the generic poll just before their big victory in 1994, when they gained 52 seats.

This "generic" poll published two days before the election was wrong. The swing went the other way towards the Republicans.

POST POLL SWING: Towards Republicans

Florida Governor
A survey released Thursday by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research showed Bush leading McBride 49 percent to 43 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
A statewide Mason-Dixon poll out today finds the race at the same, 8-point differential as the Times-Herald poll, giving Bush a 51 percent to 43 percent edge over McBride.
The smallest lead for Gov. Jeb in the final round of polls is 6 points, while Zogby places the Bush lead at 16 points. Incumbency, a massive GOP fundraising edge, and a lot of federal money, plus the president's post-Sept. 11 surge in popularity won this race in the end for brother Jeb.

Final Result: 56 to 43 to Bush (13 points)

Polls had 6, 8 and 9 and 16 point margins, Bush got 13 at the upper end of the range

On average towards Republican Party.

Florida Thurman (House)
(POLITICAL POLL) But it's not encouraging for the incumbent to see 40 percent, plus or minus 5.8 percent, while her main opponent gets 38 percent -- even in a party-funded survey, Gonzales said.

Final Result: 48 to 46 to Brown Wait (2 points)

HOW ACCURATE? A GOP poll gave Thurman 2 points, she lost by 2.

POST POLL SWING: 4 points towards Republican Party.

Florida (House)
Having sweated through veteran Rep. Clay Shaw's closest-in-the-nation (599 votes) two years ago, Republicans feel he will easily defeat Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol Roberts in the coastal 22nd District this year. A just-completed American Viewpoint poll showed Shaw leading Roberts by 56% to 30%

Final Result: 60 to 39 Shaw (21 points)

HOW ACCURATE? Poll showed 26 points, result showed 21.

POST POLL SWING: 4 points towards Democratic Party

North Carolina
The statewide poll conducted Monday and Tuesday found that 48percent of voters said they support Dole, 42 percent now support Bowles, 2 percent support Libertarian Sean Haugh, and 8 percent remain undecided.
In North Carolina, an MSNBC/Zogby poll shows Republican Elizabeth Dole ahead of Democrat Erskine Bowles, 52% to 46%. But Bowles has been gaining in recent polls and has put nearly $2.2 million of his own money into the campaign since Oct. 17.

Final Result: 54 to 45 to Dole (9 points)

HOW ACCURATE? Polls said 6, Dole got 9.

POST POLL SWING: 3 points towards Republican Party.

Minnesota Senate
Oct 30. Dramatic political developments since Sen. Paul Wellstone's death Friday have had little effect on voters' leanings in the U.S. Senate race, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll taken Monday night.Wellstone's likely replacement on the ballot, former Vice President Walter Mondale, leads Republican Norm Coleman by 47 to 39 percent -- close to where the race stood two weeks ago when Wellstone led Coleman 47 to 41 percent.
In Minnesota, a Minneapolis Star Tribune poll shows Democrat Walter Mondale ahead of Republican Norm Coleman, 46% to 41%. But a St. Paul Pioneer Press poll shows Coleman ahead, 47% to 41%.

Final Result: 50 to 47 Coleman (3 points)

HOW ACCURATE? Three polls gave Mondale 8,6 and 5 points, one poll have Coleman 6 points, Coleman got 3.

POST POLL SWING: (Excepting The Pioneer Press poll) Between 8 and 11 points to towards Republican Party.

Arkansas Senate
04 Nov 2002... In the Democrats' likeliest takeover contest, Pryor was ahead 51-43 in a CNN-USA
Today-Gallup poll ...
Democrats have a stronger lead in the fifth state, Arkansas. There, Democrat Mark Pryor enjoys an 8-percentage-point edge over GOP Sen. Tim Hutchinson.
By Monday, the latest Zogby poll showed Pryor with a 13-point edge, and even some in the Hutchinson camp seemed resigned to the inevitable.

Final Result: 54 to 46 to Pryor

HOW ACCURATE? Polls gave Pryor 9,8 and 13 points he got 9

POST POLL SWING: On average towards Republican Party.

Georgia Senate
Pollsters may have goofed in not picking up the Republican surge in Georgia, however, some pollsters said. In the Senate race, for instance, Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland by a margin of 53 to 46 percent. The Hotline, a political news service, recalled a series of polls Wednesday showing that Chambliss had been ahead in none of them. The closest was the most recent Zogby International poll that had showed Cleland leading 46 to 44 percent, within the plus or minus 4 point margin of error.
In Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Democratic Sen. Max Cleland with a 49%-to-44% lead over Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss.

Final Result: 53 to 46 percent Chambliss

HOW ACCURATE? Polls had Cleland winning by 2 and 5 points, he lost by 7

POST POLL SWING: 9 to 12 points towards Republican Party

Georgia Senate
Similarly, no polls predicted the upset victory in Georgia of Republican Sonny Perdue over incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes. Perdue won by a margin of 52 to 45 percent. The most recent Mason Dixon Poll had shown Barnes ahead 48 to 39 percent last month with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.

Final Result: 52 to 45 percent Perdue

HOW ACCURATE? Poll gave Barnes 9 points he lost by 7

POST POLL SWING: 16 points towards Republican Party

Alabama Governor
The latest public poll puts Riley 4 points up, but Republicans say the margin has widened.

Final Result: 49 to 49 Riley

HOW ACCURATE?: Poll had Riley by 4 points, the race was nearly a dead heat

POST POLL SWING: 4 points towards Republican Party.

Illinois Governor
In Illinois, Democratic congressman Rod Blagojevich has led Attorney General Jim Ryan handily in every poll except one. The last Zogby Poll has Ryan shaking off his association with outgoing Gov. George Ryan (no relation) and taking a slight lead. But no other poll has this race even close, so a GOP victory would still be a huge upset.
Zogby International polled 802 likely voters Wednesday through Friday and found each candidate was supported by just over 43 percent of respondents. The findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 points.

Final Result: 52 to 45 Blagojevich

HOW ACCURATE? Not an upset. Poll showed 43 points each, result a 7 point win to Blagojevich.

POST POLL SWING: 7 points towards Republican Party.

Illinois House
A recent Public Opinion Strategies poll showed Shimkus (R) leading Phelps by a handsome 51% to 38%.

Final Result: 55 to 44 Shimkus

HOW ACCURATE? Poll said 13 result was 11

POST POLL SWING: 2 points towards Democratic Party.

Texas Senate
Web Posted : 11/04/2002 11:43 AM As Texas? top two candidates for the U.S. Senate make their way today to San Antonio, the latest poll shows the race has tightened to a dead heat. An MSNBC/Zogby poll released Sunday showed Republican John Cornyn with 49 percent of the vote and Democrat Ron Kirk with 48 percent. The poll had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
Sunday, The Dallas Morning News had Cornyn with a 9-point lead in a poll that had a 3-point margin of error. The Houston Chronicle had Cornyn up by 6 points with nearly a 4-point margin of error.
In Texas, an MSNBC/Zogby International poll shows Republican John Cornyn's lead over Democrat Ron Kirk shrinking to 1 percentage point, 49% to 48%. Other polls give Cornyn a bigger lead.

Final Result: 55 to 43 Cornyn

HOW ACCURATE? Polls gave Cornyn 1, 6 and 9 points, he won by 12

POST POLL SWING: 3-11 points towards Republican Party.

Texas House
Democrats felt they had a chance at thwarting Hensarling with former jurist Ron Chapman, who has the same name as a popular disc jockey. But a Baseline poll shows Hensarling leading Chapman by 47% to 36%.

Final Result: 58 to 40 to Hensarling

HOW ACCURATE? Poll said 11 result was 18

POST POLL SWING: 7 points towards Republican Party.

Missouri Senate
A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll Sunday night had Talent at 48, Carnahan at 44, with a 4 percent margin of error.
Another poll released Sunday shows a 46%-46% tie. That poll was by Zogby International for the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Final Result: 50 to 49 Talent

HOW ACCURATE? One poll showed dead heat another gave Talent 4, he won by one


New Hampshire Senate
Write out -- The U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire between Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and GOP U.S. Rep. John Sununu is shaping up to be a real nail biter. An American Research Group poll of 600 likely voters taken over the weekend has Sununu at 48 percent, Shaheen at 44 percent and 8 percent not sure or undecided with a margin of error of percent.
The number of unaffiliated voters keeps rising year by year ? it is now 37 percent of the electorate ? and polls show the two candidates virtually even, with Mr. Sununu leading in latest survey by 48 percent to 46 percent, well within the four-percentage-point margin of sampling error.

Final Result: 51 to 47 Sununu

HOW ACCURATE? Polls said 2 & 4, he won by 4

POST POLL SWING: On average towards Republican Party.

New Jersey Senator
The Quinnipiac University poll released Monday gives Lautenberg a 50 to 39 percent lead among likely voters, a tally that includes likely voters who are leaning toward one of the candidates. The survey of 574 likely voters, taken from Oct. 28 to Nov. 3, has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In New Jersey, Democrat Frank Lautenberg leads Republican Doug Forrester, 42% to 37% with 8% undecided, in a poll by Gannett's daily newspapers there.

Final Result: 54 to 44 Lautenberg

HOW ACCURATE? Polls said Lautenberg by 5 and 11 points, he won by 10


South Dakota Senate
South Dakota: Republican Rep. John Thune holds a 48%-45% lead over Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat..
A poll by Zogby for MSNBC shows Johnson ahead, 52% to 47%. Two polls released late last week by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and KELO-TV also showed Johnson leading, by smaller margins.

Final Result: 50 to 49 Johnson

Polls show Thune ahead by 3 and Johnson by 5, he won by 1


Colorado Senate
Colorado: Republican Sen. Wayne Allard is virtually deadlocked with Democrat Tom Strickland in a rematch from 1996. The poll found Allard ahead 47% to 45%, with 8% undecided.

Final Result: 51 to 45 Allard

HOW ACCURATE? Poll Gave Allard 2 he won by 6

POST POLL SWING: 4 points towards Republican Party.

Tennessee Governor
A survey of 819 people last week conducted for a Memphis newspaper and television station now shows Hilleary with a 41-to-39 percent lead over democrat Phil Bredesen. 15 percent remain undecided. Margin of error is 3-point-five percent.
The race is a close one. A Mason-Dixon poll of registered voters conducted Oct. 21-23 showed Bredesen with 45 percent and Hilleary with 42 percent, well within the margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.

Final Result: 51 to 48 Bredesen

HOW ACCURATE? Poll gave Bredesen 3 he won by 3.