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Several Pollsters Say Polls Did Well On Election Day

Before the election, we polled leading political pollsters three times, asking about how they do their job and how they saw the election playing out. Now that most of Tuesday’s results are in, we know that Republicans outperformed polls by a big margin — on average, about 4 percentage points in Senate races and 3.4 points in gubernatorial races, according to an analysis of the results we have so far by my colleague Nate Silver. HuffPollster and Monkey Cage also explored the mismatch between polling and results.

So Wednesday morning, we sent out another poll to see how the pollsters think they’ve done. As of shortly after noon EST, we’d gotten about a dozen responses. Here’s a peek at how those who have responded think the polls did. (Our poll is still open, so we plan to issue a fuller report later.)

We asked, “In light of Tuesday results, did election polls do well this year at depicting the electorate’s views?”

Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center said no. “Many, if not most, Senate and gubernatorial polls underestimated the share of Republican vote in the electorate,” Keeter said.

“They were off by more than they were correct,” Gabriel Joseph of ccAdvertising said.

But several of their peers disagreed, defending the polls for showing a Republican takeover of the Senate was likely and for showing Republicans picking up votes in the campaign’s final days.

“They captured the trend toward the GOP in the final week,” said Mark DiCamillo of the Field Research Corporation. “The movement was the story and the polls by and large got the story right.”

“In part the answer depends on which polls, but overall the results didn’t reveal any significant polling failure,” Berwood Yost of Franklin & Marshall College said. “The races that appeared close were close, and most of the polls picked the right winners.” However, Yost added, “A quick back-of-the-envelope look at some of the most watched races does suggest a bit more of a Republican wave than state polling may have predicted.”

Another pollster who answered yes and preferred not to be named said the pollsters correctly picked up “the anger with ‘Washington,’ but that translated into more anger with the president than with the Republicans.”

Some of the pollsters who responded were very tired; one said, “I’ve had about 15 hours of sleep in the past four days.”

We also asked how many Senate seats the pollsters expect Republicans will hold in 2017. Some gave a number. Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc., didn’t. “I have a life outside the business,” Coker said. “I’m more interested in college football right now.”

CORRECTION (Nov. 5, 3:06 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated how much the average gubernatorial poll overestimated the Democrat’s performance. It was 3.4 points, not 4 points.

Carl Bialik was FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for news.

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