Pollsters on Tuesday avoided their disastrous 2016 election forecasts by correctly predicting that Democrats would regain control of the House, though botching some important statewide races.
Unlike 2016, when political gurus at The New York Times, The Washington Post and other media said President Trump had little or no chance of winning, surveyors this time captured voting in blue-state congressional districts where a number of Republican seats flipped.
But pollsters did not fully redeem themselves for the sins of 2016 when they collectively botched Trump wins in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. There were glaring survey errors in 2018 as turnout models over-counted Democrats. By Tuesday night, Republicans had won important Senate and governor races.
The misses in the days before voting, based on polls posted on Real Clear Politics:
⦁ Florida governor. The last 10 polls had pegged Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum the winner. But former Rep. Ron DeSantis won by 0.7 percentage points. While some wrong polls lay within the margin of error, Quinnipiac College in New York picked Mr. Gillum to win by 7 points. The St. Petersburg poll, NBC/Marist, Emerson College and the University of Florida had Mr. Gillum winning by 4 to 6 points.
⦁ Florida Senate. Nearly every late survey picked Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to retain his seat. He lost to GOP Gov. Rick Scott by 0.4 percentage points. Again, Quinnipiac was way off, predicting a 7-point Nelson win. Emerson College also botched it, saying Mr. Nelson would win by 5 points. The St. Petersburg poll nailed the race at a 1 percentage-point Scott victory.
⦁ Missouri Senate. Several polls missed Republican Josh Hawley’s 6 percentage-point win against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. NBC/Marist had her up by 3 points. Emerson and the Republican firm Trafalgar correctly saw the Hawley win, at 3 and 4 percentage points, respectively.
⦁ Georgia governor. Trafalgar badly overestimated Republican Brian Kemp’s final tally. An outlier in this race, the company said Mr. Kemp would defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams by 12 points. He won by 1.6 percent. Emerson and the Atlanta Constitution were spot on.
⦁ Nevada Senate. Trafalgar missed this race, forecasting a 3 percentage-point win for GOP Sen. Dean Heller. Democrat Jacky Rosen won by 5 points.
⦁ Indiana Senate. Fox News badly missed here, predicting an easy win for Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly against Republican Mike Braun. Fox said Mr. Donnelly would win by 7 percentage points. He lost by 7.8 points, meaning Fox was off by 14 points. NBC/Marist also saw a Donnelly win, by 3 points.
⦁ Arizona Senate. Again NBC/Marist was off, saying Democrat Kirsten Sinema would win by 6 percentage points; CNN said by 4 points. Republican Rep. Martha McSally is leading by 2.2 percentage points, but a large number of mail-in ballots are still to be counted.
⦁ Ohio governor. A number of forecasters botched this race. Former Sen. Mike DeWine beat Democrat Richard Cordray by 4.3 percentage points. NBC/Marist’s last poll had it a tie. Quinnipiac had Mr. Cordray up by 2 points, Emerson by 3 and Gravis by 5 in their final polls.
Some accurate predictions:
⦁ U.S. House. Prognosticators got a limited blue wave correct as Democrats picked up more than 30 seats. ABC News special correspondent Nate Silver, who gave Mr. Trump little chance to become president two years ago, put the odds of a takeover at 88 percent.
Noted political analyst Charlie Cooke mangled the 2016 presidential race, saying on NBC News that Mr. Trump was leading the GOP to a disaster. On Election Eve, he said Hillary Clinton would win by “a really big number.” He said Democrats would win four Senate seats to deadlock the chamber at 50-50, which they didn’t. He said Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania would lose, which they didn’t.
This time, he accurately predicted that a growing number of Republican seats were vulnerable.
⦁ Tennessee governor. Late in the game, most surveys predicted a big win for GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn over former Gov. Phil Bredessen. Fox News and Emerson were center-cut at 9 and 8 percentage-point spreads, respectively. East Tennessee State University had a clunker, saying the race was tied.
⦁ Georgia governor. Virtually every poll had the Stacey Abrams governor’s race as a nail-bitter.
⦁ West Virginia Senate. Emerson correctly predicted Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin would win by 5 percentage points. He beat Republican Patrick Morrisey by 3.2 points.
⦁ Texas Senate. Pollsters captured the Senate winner in every poll as Nov. 6 neared. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz won by 2.6 percentage points over media favorite Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Emerson nailed it at 3 points.
⦁ New Jersey, Minnesota, Michigan Senate. Pollsters saw that Democratic Senate incumbents would win going away, though newcomer John James, a Republican, stayed respectable at 6 percentage-point loss in Michigan.