McCaskill's big victory surprised most pollsters
The Kansas City Star
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s victory last week was hard-fought, deserved and expensive.
The post-election narrative is that, well, sure she won, largely helped by Todd Akin’s extreme positions and self-destructive comments on rape and abortion.
Still, McCaskill’s large margin over Akin was very surprising, especially to the pollsters.
Up front, I’ll admit I bought into the theory for months that the race was going to be close. Once concern was McCaskill’s high negatives with Missouri voters. Also, I thought a lot of ultra-conservative rural Missourians would support Akin on Election Day. Polls showed that would be true, too. And many of them did back Akin, but not nearly in the swarms expected. McCaskill also did well in urban areas and especially with women voters.
So how accurate were the last few polls in the Senate race? Not very, after looking at the results on RealClearPolitics.
Here’s how the race actually turned out:
McCaskill got 54.7% of the vote, Akin 39.2 and Libertarian Jonathan Dine 6
The closest poll predictor was SurveyUSA: McCaskill 51, Akin 36, Dine 8, undecided 5
Next came Public Policy Polling: McCaskill 48, Akin 44, Dine 6, undecided 2
We Ask America: McCaskill 48.6, Akin 45.2, Dine 6.2
The worst was Mason-Dixon Polling and Research (The Star was a client): McCaskill 45, Akin 43, Dine 4, undecided 8.
Overall, McCaskill won by a 15.5 percentage point margin, just over the prediction made by SurveyUSA.
The actual winning margin for McCaskill was far better than the 2 percentage points that Mason-Dixon had pegged the race at just 10 days or so before Election Day.
Given all the attention on polls this year, it would be absurd to say these predictions should have been discounted. McCaskill had good reasons to make sure she spread the word about how extreme Akin’s views were, and how he couldn’t be trusted to speak on behalf of Missourians.
In the end, you could certainly argue that McCaskill succeeded almost beyond her wildest dreams.