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Which Polling Company has the Most Accurate Political Polls in the 2012 Presidential Election?

Updated on August 17, 2012

Which poll will tell us who will win the Presidency in 2012?

Personally, I like to use ReaClearPolitics.com (RCP) averages to gauge how the election is going. I think the Battleground states like Ohio and Florida are more accurate than national polls.

However, to find out which polling organizations have historically been most accurate, it makes sense to start with past presidential races, comparing nationwide polls to the actual popular vote percentages.

The 2008 Presidential Race

According to Fordham University political scientist Costas Panagopoulos (citing pollster.com) the two most accurate polls in the 2008 Presidential Election were Rasmussen and Pew.

RealClearPolitics bares this out to the extent that both Rasmussen and Pew show percentages closely matching the national popular vote.

2008 Presidential Race - RealClearPolitics.com

Poll
Obama (D)
McCain (R)
Obama's Margin
General Election Results
52.9
45.6
7.3
RCP Average
52.1
44.5
7.6
Pew Research
52
46
6
Rasmussen Reports
52
46
6
Ipsos/McClatchy
53
46
7
CNN/Opinion Research
53
46
7
FOX News
50
43
7
Source: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/national.html

However, Ipsos/McClatchy, CNN/Opinion Research and FOX News all were close and were actually more accurate in terms of Mr. Obama's margin of victory.

The RCP average, essentially a poll of polls, was the most accurate poll in 2008 in terms of the spread between Obama and McCain.

The 2004 Presidential Race

In 2004, the most accurate poll belonged once again to Pew Research, this time tying Battleground/Terrace in terms of accuracy.

2004 Presidential Race - FreeRepublic.com

Poll
Bush (R)
Kerry (D)
Nader
Error
Final Results
51.0%
48.0%
0.4%
0%
Battleground/Tarrance
51.24
47.80
.5
0
Pew Research
51
48
1
1
CBS/NY Times
49
46
1
1
IBD/TIPP
50.14
8.0
1.1
1
CBS News
49
47
1
1
Rasmussen
50.2
48.5
--
1
RCP Average
48.9
47.4
--
1.5
Source: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1274530/posts

The 2000 Presidential Race

The 2012 presidential race is sizing up to be close. So looking at the 2000 election, the closest presidential race in US history, should be interesting.

2000 Presidential Race - National Council on Public Polls (nccp.org)

Poll
Gore (D)
Bush (R)
Nader
Undecided
General Election Results
48
48
3
--
Zogby
48
46
5
0
Harris (Phone)
47
47
5
0
Gallup/CNN/USA Today
46
48
4
0
IBD/TIPP
46
48
4
0
ABC/Washington Post
45
48
3
3
Pew Research
47
49
4
0
Rasmussen
49
40
4
--
Poll Averages
46
47
4
--
Source: http://www.ncpp.org/?q=node/20

In 2000, most polls (except Rasmussen) showed the race to be too close to call because they were within the polls statistical margins of error.

Zogby, Harris, Gallup, IBD/TIPP, ABC and (surprise, surprise) Pew Research all showed polling numbers which were very close to the actual popular vote result.

The polls averaged together also produce percentages close to the general election totals.

Vote 2012

Who will win the Presidency in 2012?

See results

Predicting 2012

In the last three presidential elections, Pew Research has been the most accurate national poll in that Pew's polling data most consistently mirror the national popular vote total

However, all polls predicative ability is limited by their sample size. The larger the number of people polled, the lower the margin of error and the more accurate the poll. For this reason looking at the averages of polls (setting aside differences in polling methods) should give very accurate results as well.

In close elections, nationwide polls will generally fail to definitively predict the outcome. Remember, Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral total after the Supreme Court stopped the counting of votes in 2000.


Polls of swings states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are very good gauges of where the election stands electorally. Few Democrats and No Republicans have won the presidency without also winning Ohio.

Looking at the polling averages in Ohio and other swing states seems to give me the best picture of where the election stands minute to minute.

Comments

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    • tsadjatko profile image

      5 years ago from now on

      Gallup Explains Why Other Polls Are Wrong Published on DickMorris.com on October 29, 2012

      In a large sample, very important survey, Gallup reported on Friday that the likely 2012 electorate will be among the most Republican in history.

      In 2008, 12 percent more self-described Democrats voted than Republicans (54-42). In 2004, the electorate was 48-48 evenly split between the parties. In Gallup's poll, they found that in 2012 it will be 46-49 for the Republicans -- a fifteen point swing from 2008!

      The reason most other polls are wrong is that, seeing this Republican surge, they discount it as sampling error in their polls and re-weight the data to make it conform to the traditional partisan divisions, thus obliterating the real trend and obscuring what is actually going on.

      The fact is that the country has moved sharply in the direction of the Republican Party since 2008 and even since 2010.

      Want to know how much Romney will win by?

      Obama won by 7 points in 2008. But the electorate has become 15 points more Republican since then. Do the math -- an 8 point Romney victory! OK, maybe 5 or 6 or 7, but no cliffhanger.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      5 years ago from now on

      Carl Rove explains how the recent media polls in Ohio and Florida are being skewed in favor of Obama

      http://video.foxnews.com/v/1863079594001/rove-be-c...

      Is he right?

    • BruceDPrice profile image

      Bruce Deitrick Price 

      6 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va.

      One problem here is that pollsters, during the last few days before an election, try to be really professional in order to save their reputations.

      The problem is that in the weeks and months before the election, some pollsters will play politics. To check their accuracy you would have to look at how well they predicted the final results three or four weeks before we had final results.

    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I wonder how they get an accurate sample of likely voters? These days it's difficult to know how to contact people, land line, cell phone, e-mail, etc. If polling outfits mainly rely on calling people with land lines, it seems as if the results would be skewed, as many young people and people trying to save money do not have land lines.

      I think Real Clear Politics polling averages are the best way to get an accurate snapshot of any political race.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is an interesting hub. I have never read anything that compares the accuracy of the polls either, although I have always paid the post attention to the Rasmussen and Pew polls. I also think this is a well written and informative hub.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Reading this made me wish we have good polling companies here for our elections.

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! This way please to read and vote and join the Hubnuggets fun! https://hubpages.com/community/A-HubNugget-Magic-L...

    • swb78 profile image

      Scott Biddulph 

      6 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

      This is a very good Hub, it is well written and informative--good job. WP

      PS. Voting up, useful, and sharing

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I also like Rasmussen. Good hub, voted up!

    • Nick Hanlon profile image

      Nick Hanlon 

      6 years ago from Chiang Mai

      Polling techniques are a lot better than they used to be.I still work in a margin of 2% though just to be on the safe side...and often wimp out and say too close to call when it's under that margin.

    • profile image

      SassySue1963 

      6 years ago

      I've always found Rasmussen to be pretty fair and accurate. For specific issues, I'll usually go there.

      For election stuff I do also like RealClearPolitics as well. It averages all polls and I think doing that gives it a more accurate view of the country as a whole rather than just a segment.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 

      6 years ago

      What a great hub. I have never had the opportunity to compare the accuracy of the various pollsters in quite this way before. Well done and thanks for the excellent info. Voted this hub up!

    • Conservative Lady profile image

      Sheila 

      6 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      Interesting Hub - I have always looked to Pew and Rasmussen - this is very informative. Voted Up

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