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For all the derision directed toward pre-election polling, the final poll estimates were not far off from the actual nationwide voteshares for the two candidates. On average, preelection polls from 23 public polling organizations projected a Democratic advantage of 7.52 percentage points on Election Day, which is only about 1.37 percentage points away from the current estimate of a 6.15-point Obama margin in the national popular vote.
Following the procedures proposed by Martin, Traugott and Kennedy (see Public Opinion Quarterly, Fall 2006, pp. 342-369) to assess poll accuracy, I analyze poll estimates from these 23 polling organizations. Four of these polls appear to have overestimated McCain support (indicated with a * below), while most polls (17) overestimated Obama strength. Pre-election projections for two organizations’ final polls—Rasmussen and Pew—were perfectly in agreement with the actual election result (**).
The following list ranks the 23 organizations by the accuracy of their final, national preelection polls (as reported on pollster.com).
1T. Rasmussen (11/1-3)**
1T. Pew (10/29-11/1)**
3. YouGov/Polimetrix (10/18-11/1)
4. Harris Interactive (10/20-27)
5. GWU (Lake/Tarrance) (11/2-3)*
6T. Diageo/Hotline (10/31-11/2)*
6T. ARG (10/25-27)*
8T. CNN (10/30-11/1)
8T. Ipsos/McClatchy (10/30-11/1)
10. DailyKos.com (D)/Research 2000 (11/1-3)
11. AP/Yahoo/KN (10/17-27)
12. Democracy Corps (D) (10/30-11/2)
13. FOX (11/1-2)
14. Economist/YouGov (10/25-27)
15. IBD/TIPP (11/1-3)
16. NBC/WSJ (11/1-2)
17. ABC/Post (10/30-11/2)
18. Marist College (11/3)
19. CBS (10/31-11/2)
20. Gallup (10/31-11/2)
21. Reuters/ C-SPAN/ Zogby (10/31-11/3)
22. CBS/Times (10/25-29) 23. Newsweek (10/22-23)