Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Primary Election Polling and Turnout

This post is about pre-election polling and turnout expectations; I’ll wait until all the numbers from the Secretary of State are official before I go into any more detail.

Primary Election Polling

Here’s the final GPI update I posted before the primary election:

And here are the final results (unofficial):

The polling for Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza was pretty accurate; the polling for Margaret Anderson Kelliher was way off. Why was this? For one thing primary elections are notoriously difficult to poll, not only because of questions about who’s going to actually show up on Election Day, but also because in an intra party election, voter preference is likely to be more fluid than in a general election, in a three way race that tendency is even more pronounced. This election also featured the added uncertainty of a new primary election date in the summer to further compound the pollster’s difficulties.

But how do you get two candidates so close and miss one so badly? What the GPI doesn’t show is the 9.33% undecided number that, if added to MAK’s total, puts her much closer to where she finished. Of course you can’t assume that 100% of undecided voters broke for MAK, in fact, my assumption before the primary was that undecided voters would break her way at about a 70-30 split with Dayton, weather that actually happened, who knows.

Clearly MAK had the superior ground game, but that appears to have been largely confined to the metro area where she was able to turn out her base. Outside of the metro area was a different story and just as he did in the 2000 primary Mark Dayton cleaned up in the non-metro counties. The difference, as many suspected, turned out to be St. Louis County, where thanks to the help of Yvonne Prettner Solon, Mark Dayton did better than probably anyone expected.

Again, these numbers are unofficial (and incomplete as St. Louis County isn’t fully reported as of this writing) but Dayton beat MAK 56-29, if she could have kept that margin respectable she could have won, but to do that badly in such a key county is the main reason she lost. Joe predicted before the election that Prettner Solon would be the x-factor and it appears he was right.

In the end I suspect the discrepancy in the polls and the results is due to two factors, undecided voters breaking for MAK (something which will be difficult to prove) and a fantastic turnout operation (something that can be looked at when we have final SOS numbers).

The other option is that she was always in contention and the polls somehow completely missed a good portion of her support. Seeing how much space I’ve given to the two theories you can probably guess which one I favor.


Here is the expected turnout table I posted before the primary:

Unofficial turnout stands at 441,982 as of this writing, with 99.93% of precincts reporting, so we can guess that the final number will be about 442,500. This falls comfortably into the “no penalty” category of adjustments for the summer date, meaning that when using 1998 as a turnout template there was no perceivable drop off in primary participation due to the summer primary date.

The reason for this is likely twofold; a record number of absentee ballots cast in a primary election combined with the Kelliher campaign’s (and maybe to a lesser extent the other two DFL campaigns) effective turnout effort. Once we get final numbers from the SOS, which will certify results on the 17th, all of these theories can be tested to a certain degree, but until than let the speculation begin.

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