How accurately have polls predicted the presidential race

Individual polls can vary to a maddening degree, but the average of final national polls tallied at the RealClearPolitics.com website has been fairly accurate in the past three presidential elections.


2004

Leader in final individual polls: Bush 10, Kerry 2, tie 2
Average of final polls: Bush + 1.5 percent
Final result: Bush + 2.4 percent
Difference: 0.9 percent
See the 2004 polls here


obama-mccain

2008

Leader in final individual polls: Obama 15, McCain 0
Average of final polls: Obama + 7.6 percent
Final result: Obama + 7.3 percent
Difference: 0.3 percent
See the 2008 polls here


obama-romney

2012

Leader in final individual polls: Obama 4, Romney 2, tie 3
Average of polls: Obama + 0.7 percent
Final result: Obama + 3.9 percent
Difference: 3.2 percent
See the 2012 polls here


clinton-trump

2016

Leader in final individual polls: Clinton 11, Trump 1,
Average of polls: Clinton + 2.9 percent

SOURCE: Real Clear Politics

About The Author

Ron French
Ron French

Ron French is Bridge senior writer, based in Lansing. He can be reached here.

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Comments

Rich
Tue, 11/08/2016 - 11:11am
There is an unknown factor in the 2016 race. How many people will not admit to their friends, family, or pollsters they are voting for one of the candidates, but in the privacy of the voting booth, what they have said or not said, and what the pencil marks, may be two different things. For the first time in the country's history, we have two extremely flawed candidates representing both major parties.
David W
Tue, 11/08/2016 - 5:31pm
I think this is a comment Trump supporters keep mentioning in hope there is a silent group of supporters that will descend in a massive wave at the polls to send Trump into the presidency Interesting that they feel the need to be silent... is this a sign of shame for who they support?
Brian
Tue, 11/08/2016 - 5:50pm
Gee, I'll bet no one has ever done that in previous elections.
Anne
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 8:07am
David W--No, not a sign of shame. Just a desire to avoid the verbal abuse that comes from the holier-than-thou Democrats, and their nasty comments about one's intelligence, if you even indicate you support a Republican, let alone if you are a Trump supporter. Two flawed candidates; two flawed platforms. Why would a person choose Hillary if you couldn't stand her, thought she was massively dishonest, thought her dealings with other countries would be influenced by donations to Bill's library, would have liked a reasonable, truly affordable healthcare plan instead of one crammed through by the Democrats with no concern for the cost to the country, and did not support some of what she, and the Democrats, were proposing? I voted 3rd party (and historically have voted for both parties), since I couldn't bring myself to vote for either Trump or Hillary, but I am more antagonistic toward the Democrats I know, because they have been the most offensive in expressing their views, almost always with the implication that you are an idiot if you don't agree with them, and with no interest in trying to understand why your positions might have some validity.
Anne FB
Tue, 11/15/2016 - 8:27am
For the media, pollsters, and Democrats to constantly bash those who voted for Trump as uneducated, is to ignore some other data. I'm looking at a national exit poll that shows that 49% of white college grads said they voted for Trump vs 45% for Clinton--not a huge difference, and all college grads went 52% for Hillary and 43% for Trump. This indicates that there just MIGHT be some intelligent people who voted for Trump. Maybe they were concerned about past trade deals that favor foreign countries at the expense of American business, and I'm not referring to NAFTA. Maybe they were concerned about the long-term viability of the U.S. economically with the out-of-control debt and deficit. One's livelihood, long-term concerns, and other issues can easily trump some of Trump's other, less palatable positions, especially when the other candidate is as undesirable as Hillary. I know a fair number of people who don't have a college degree, (no college degree went 44% Hillary and 52% Trump; non-college whites went 28% Hillary and 67% Trump--but there were other important reasons than educational level that determined the white vote) who have a better grasp of real life finances, put money INTO the system via taxes, and who every day face making business decisions that could cost them their livelihood, and they are NOT ignorant people. Large numbers of degreed people who work for the government and universities, who depend on taxes to pay their salaries, have a much more secure job and good benefits in many cases. Those who work in "noble", "helping", and "educating" fields that get money from those of us who don't via taxes, need to quit treating those who don't have the same view of the world as they do like we are evil and the enemy and stupid. This is an addendum to my previous post, where I should have added the identifier, FB, since there are other Anne's who have responded elsewhere.