Which public poll came closest to the actual 2012 presidential election results?

Costas Panagopoulos, Ph.D., director of Fordham’s Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy and associate professor of political science, has ranked which polling organizations were the most accurate of the 28 organizations he analyzed, based on their pre-election polling.

“For all the ridicule directed towards pre-election polling, the final poll estimates were not far off from the actual nationwide vote shares for the two candidates,” said Panagopoulos.

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, pre-election polls from 28 public polling organizations projected a Democratic advantage of 1.07 percentage points on Election Day, which is only about 1.13 percentage points away from the current estimate of a 2.2-point Obama margin in the national popular vote (Obama 50.3% versus Romney 48.1%).

Following the procedures proposed by Martin, Traugott and Kennedy (see Public Opinion Quarterly, Fall 2006, pp. 342-369) to assess predictive accuracy, Panagopoulos analyzes poll estimates from 28 polling organizations. Most (22) polls overestimated Romney support, while six (6) overestimated Obama strength (indicated with a * below), but none of the 28 national preelection polls he examined had a significant partisan bias.

The following list ranks the 28 organizations by the predictive accuracy of their final, national pre-election estimates (as reported on pollster.com).

1. Ipsos/Reuters
2. YouGov
3. PPP (D)
3. Daily Kos/SEIU/PPP
4. Angus-Reid*
5. ABC/WP*
6. Pew Research*
6. Hartford Courant/UC
onn* 7. Purple Strategies
8. YouGov/Economist
11. Democracy Corps (D)*
12. Monmouth/SurveyUSA
12. Politico/GWU/Battleground
12. FOX News
12. Washington Times/JZ Analytics
12. Newsmax/JZ Analytics
12. American Research Group
12. Gravis Marketing
13. National Journal*
14. Rasmussen
14. Gallup
15. NPR
16. AP/GfK

In 2008, Panagopoulos released the first such report following the 2008 presidential election. The good news is that for the past two presidential elections, pre-election polling has been fairly accurate.

SOURCE: Fordham University

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.