Like a good little numbers-oriented liberal, I was all over the polls in the lead-up to November’s election. And election night came and I was crushed. I concluded that there really was something wrong with the polls and I wasn’t going to listen to them. Then I started hearing about how close the two Georgia Senate race polls were.
Unskew the Polls!
I thought, “Aha! I’m going to show how wrong the polls were in Georgia and how no one should listen to them for the run-off!” My idea was that I could do an estimate of these conservative freaks who aren’t showing up in the polls but who are showing up to vote. I was planning to do something like Dean Chambers’ Unskewed Polls.
Back in the 2012 election, conservatives claimed that the polls were all wrong because they didn’t have a high enough percentage of white people. It was a telling claim: the more white people vote the better Republicans do!
So Chambers “unskewed” the polls by adjusting them to have the “right” number of white people. And could you believe it?! Obama was only going to win 179 electoral votes!
But this was wrong. The country is becoming less white. So there were simply less whites as a percentage of the vote in 2012 than there had been in 2008. And when the votes were cast, that was exactly what they showed. Obama won 330 electoral votes — 151 more than Mr Chambers had predicted.
A Better Plan
But I had a better idea. I was going to look at how much better Trump did than the polls suggested he would. The Senate elections are only two months after the presidential election, so that ought to be valid. Off the top of my head, I figured the polls were off by about 4 percentage points.
But I was wrong. At least about Georgia.
The Georgia Polls
The FiveThirtyEight average of national polls gave Biden an 8.4 percentage point lead over Trump. The final results were that Biden won by 4.5 points. So they were off by 3.9 points. (Note that this isn’t actually that bad — especially in an unusual election like this one with huge turnout because of the pandemic.)
But in Georiga, FiveThirtyEight had Biden winning by 1.2 percentage points. And Biden won by 0.24 points. And Real Clear Politics had Trump winning by 1.0 points!
When it comes to the Senate polls, things are more complicated. I’ll start with the easy one: Perdue vs Ossoff. Real Clear Politics showed Ossoff winning by 0.7 percentage points. But he ended up losing by 1.8 points. That is mostly due to “undecided” voters all going for Perdue. (I really do think that a lot of Republicans don’t even like to admit to themselves that they support the people they do.) That’s off by 2.5 points but it isn’t unreasonable.
The Warnock race had a ridiculous number of people running. Obviously, we know about the two major Republicans: Loeffler and Collins. But the 6 candidates only garnered 90.3 percent of the vote. A full 9.7 percent of the vote went to 14 people who got less than 2 percent (7 got less than 0.6 percent).
RCP had Warnock winning by 15.7 percentage points and he won by only 7.0 points. But remember that the people supporting the minor candidates were not generally included in the polls. So that’s probably what most of the difference is.
The Run-Off Polls
The run-off polls show the two races even. Can we trust them? Kinda.
Generally what they show is the Republican candidate slightly ahead. But this is not always the case. And it is rare for any candidate to get to 50 percent.
What does this mean? I’d say it means that the most likely outcome will be two Republican victories. But it will all come down to turn-out.
The good news is that these appear to be competitive. And I didn’t think that was the case when I started writing this.
You can help out the campaigns. Here are their websites:
If you are going to give money, you might consider Stacey Abrams’ group Fair Fight Action. They are doing the kind of work that is most critical to turning Georgia blue.
I recommend doing what you can but not getting your hopes up. These are real possibilities for the Democrats but that’s all. But that’s better than it could be. And all the more reason to fight!