MPR’s Bob Collins beat me to it, but since I’ve written lots about media polls this cycle, might as well finish the thought.
Let’s not begin without acknowledging a major caveat: polls are taken a few days before Election Day, the electorate can shift in the remaining days, and getting the number exactly right is often a matter of luck.
Still, the undisputed polling champ was KSTP and its pollster, SurveyUSA, whose final poll pegged Mark Dayton with a 1-point win. As of this writing (the ungodly hour of 4 a.m.), Dayton leads by 0.4 points.
Public Policy Polling, which surveyed only once, late into last week, gave Dayton a 3-point margin, which is pretty darn good. By the way, SUSA’s final included cell-phone-only voters and PPP’s didn’t (though it had a huge sample size).
The poll that will have tomatoes thrown at it and crude jokes made at its expense is the MPR/Humphrey Institute’s, which showed Dayton with a 12-point lead (16 percent if you counted leaners, according to HHH Prof. Larry Jacobs).
The GOP immediately called B.S. on that, and they were right.
Jacobs and his crew have some ‘splainin’ to do, perhaps in a command performance before MPR CEO Bill Kling and news boss Chris Worthington. It’s one thing to consistently err on the side of Democrats, but that huge a gap can’t be explained by shifting sentiment.
The Star Tribune and Rasmussen played it safe, eschewing final-week polls for temperature-taking two weeks out. The Strib once again pegged the DFLer too high (+7 Dayton), while Rasmussen had it +3 Dayton. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com noted that nationally, Rasmussen overestimated the GOP in 75 percent of its U.S. polls this year … but not locally.
St. Cloud State was also a D-tilting outsider, rating it Dayton +10 a couple of weeks out. I guess this only fuels conservative complaints about liberal bias on campus.
A couple of other near-feathers in SUSA’s cap: they forecast First District DFL Congressman Tim Walz could win by 9; he’s leading by 5. They also had veteran Eighth District DFL Congressman Jim Oberstar up by a mere 1, confirming a GOP internal poll that shocked some in the political world. Republican Chip Cravaack has a point-and-a-half lead, but even though SUSA got the winner wrong, they got the drift right.
I have to stop here to doff my cap to the Minnesota GOP: Not only was their Cravaack claim credible, and their MPR criticism justified, but the internal poll they released in response to the HHH numbers — showing Emmer tied — may have been the best survey of all, since the governor’s margin is likely to end up inside 0.5 percent. Kudos to their number-cruncher, Public Opinion Strategies.
It’s a shame no media outlet took a whack at a legislative poll, since the likely GOP takeover was the biggest surprise of the night. With so many races, they’re tricky to do, and probably pretty expensive too. But even though everyone picked the GOP to gain seats, I didn’t hear anyone talk switch. On a night when the pollsters snuffed most of the surprises, the numerical blackout made that shock much more startling.