Polling for Georgia, once again, was a little off in the general election

If anything characterized this election year in Georgia, it was polling of the state’s major races that was very often not on the mark.

These were the actual election results: Gov. Nathan Deal defeated state Sen. Jason Carter in the governor’s race by 52.8 percent to 44.8 percent, with Libertarian Andrew Hunt pulling 2.4 percent of the vote.

Republican David Perdue finished ahead of Democrat Michelle Nunn by 52.9 percent to 45.2 percent in the Senate race, with Libertarian Amanda Swafford getting 1.9 percent of the vote.

Deal and Perdue won their races by margins of about 8 points, but almost none of the polls released in the last few days prior to Nov. 4 showed either of them with that large a lead and pollsters were speculating that one or both races would go to a runoff because neither candidate would reach 50 percent of the vote.

Most of the pollsters missed a late-breaking surge of voter support that delivered big victories for Republicans not just in Georgia but across the nation.

The inaccurate polling in Georgia and states like Virginia, where pollsters did not see the near-upset of Democratic Sen. Mark Warner by Republican operative Ed Gillespie, outraged experts like political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.

“I want an investigation of the polls in Virginia,” Sabato said after the election. “They were completely wrong, just as they were in Georgia. They were also way off in Illinois. And I could go on and on. Boy, is that an industry that needs some housecleaning.”

Republican consultant Joel McElhannon called Georgia’s polling “a national embarrassment.”

“If these supposed pollsters for media outlets had been employed by campaigns and had been so wrong so frequently, they would have been laughed out of the business,” McElhannon said in a post-election memo. “Importantly, the vacuum of legitimate public polling has been noticed, and it is my hope that this huge gap will be filled soon in our state. Stay tuned. It is long overdue and desperately needed.”

What went wrong in Georgia? Political consultant Rick Dent offered this analysis in a Facebook comment:

“Most public polls are cheaply done with deep flaws in their weighing. They cut corners. And they struggle with a proper makeup of the vote. The biggest problems with most of the polls: too high of a black vote. They thought there would be a higher black turnout in an off year than there would be to protect a black president. THAT defies logic. Most had too high a Libertarian vote, but that was based on history of a 4 percent vote. Those are all white people. They don’t vote lib, then they vote Republican . . . so there is a two point switch right there. And several of the polls had too many Democrats in the sample.”

A quick review of the late polls in Georgia showed that some were embarrassingly wrong, while a few were decently close.

Landmark Communications was one of the only polling firms that saw one of the Republicans breaking the 50 percent barrier. Their last poll for WSB-TV on Monday had Deal leading Carter by 50.8 to 44.5 percent, with Hunt at 2.5 percent, while Perdue bested Nunn by 49.8 percent to 45.6 percent.

On the other hand, Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic firm based in North Carolina with a fairly good record in past elections, released a Monday poll that had Perdue and Nunn in a 46-46 percent tie with Swafford at 4 percent. That was the most inaccurate of the late independent polls.

SurveyUSA, which polled frequently for WXIA-TV, released a Monday poll with Deal at 47-42 percent over Carter and Perdue ahead of Nunn by 47-44 percent. That was wrong both on the margin of victory and for failing to see that neither candidate would be pushed into a runoff

That final SurveyUSA poll had Republican Richard Woods up by 47-44 percent over Democrat Valarie Wilson in the race for state school superintendent – Woods won by 55.2 percent to 44.8 percent.

SurveyUSA saw Attorney General Sam Olens leading Greg Hecht by 51-39 percent in a race that Olens won by 57-43 percent. It had Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle by 54-38 percent over Democrat Connie Stokes when Cagle actually won by 58-41 percent, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp by 52-40 percent over Democrat Doreen Carter – Kemp won by 57.5 to 42.5 percent.

In its poll released on the day before the election, Morris News/Insider Advantage had Perdue ahead of Nunn by 48-45 percent (3 percent for Swafford) and Deal leading Carter by 47-44 percent (with 5 percent for Hunt). That one missed on the actual margin and failed to project either candidate winning without a runoff.

An NBC/Marist poll released Sunday had Perdue over Nunn, by 48-44 percent (Swafford at 3 percent) and Deal at 48-43 percent over Carter (Hunt at 3 percent). That poll understated the margin and failed to see an outright win on election day.

The Republican polling firm Vox Populi released a poll on Friday, Oct. 31, that had Perdue at 48-43 percent over Nunn (3 percent to Swafford) and Deal over Carter by 49-42 percent (3 percent to Hunt). It was close to getting the right margin on the governor’s race, but failed to pick up the outright wins on election day.

The last poll that Rasmussen, a Republican polling firm, released on Thursday had Deal with a 49-43 percent lead and Perdue tied with Nunn at 46 percent.

A poll released on the Wednesday before election day by Monmouth (N.J.) University was one of the few that seemed to detect the Republican surge early. That poll had Deal up by 48-42 percent over Carter (Hunt 5 percent) and Perdue over Nunn by 49-41 percent (3 percent to Swafford).

On Oct. 24, 11 days out from the election, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released its final poll by Abt SRBI: it had Deal with a 46-41 percent lead (Hunt at 5 percent) and Perdue at 44-42 percent over Nunn (Swafford at 6 percent). That poll seriously overstated the support for the Libertarian candidates.

Also on Oct. 24, CNN/ORC released a poll that had Nunn up by 47-44 percent over Perdue (5 percent to Swafford) and Carter with a 48-46 percent edge over Deal (Hunt at 6 percent). That, along with PPP’s final Senate poll, was among the worst of the late surveys.

At the congressional level, there were two late polls of the 12th Congressional District race between Rep. John Barrow and Republican Rick Allen.

Landmark Communications on Friday released a poll that showed Allen ahead of Barrow by 48-44 percent. Allen actually won by a 55-45 percent margin.

Landmark came very close on late polls of two other congressional races.

In the 1st Congressional District, Landmark’s final poll had state Sen. Buddy Carter with a 60-37 percent lead over Democrat Brian Reese. Carter won by 61-39 percent.

In the 10th Congressional District race, Landmark had Republican Jody Hice with a 60-32 percent lead over Democrat Ken Dious. Hice won by 66.5-33.5 percent

A “battleground tracking poll” conducted by the New York Times, CBS News and YouGov that was also released on Friday had Barrow leading Allen by 46-42 percent, but with a 14 percent margin of error. If you go to the other end of that 14 percent margin of error, you would arrive at Allen’s 10-point margin of victory.

YouGov released these polls of the other congressional races on Friday, all of which missed the final margin of victory by several points:

1st Congressional District: Carter over Reese by 56-38 percent. (Carter won by 61-39 percent.)

2nd Congressional District: Sanford Bishop 64-33 percent over Republican Greg Duke. (Bishop won by 59-41 percent.)

6th Congressional District: Tom Price 61-38 percent over Democrat Robert Montigel. (Price by 66-34 percent.)

7th Congressional District: Rob Woodall 59-37 percent over Democrat Thomas Wight. (Woodall won by 65.5-34.5 percent.)

9th Congressional District: Collins 74-19 percent over David Vogel. (Collins won by 81-19 percent.)

10th Congressional District: Jody Hice 51-30 percent over Ken Dious. (Hice won by 66.5-33.5 percent.)

Georgia’s polling problem was evident in the Senate GOP runoff between Rep. Jack Kingston and David Perdue. Independent polls released the week before the July 22 election showed Kingston leading Perdue by a margin ranging from 5 to 7 points, but Perdue won the runoff by two points.

“This survey indicates that Kingston has managed to retake momentum in the race with under a week to go,” wrote pollster Matt Towery after his Insider Advantage firm released a runoff poll for Fox 5 that gave Kingston a five-point lead.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

Tags: Georgia elections , Polls