Polling News

Polls Were Historically Accurate in 2021-22

March 16, 2023

While observers saw a “red wave” growing towards Election Day 2022, it turns out that most polling was historically accurate, according to a FiveThirtyEight.com analysis. Going back to 1998, it turns out pollsters have been right about 78% of the time.    

Why It Matters: Many voters, pundits, and politicos express consternation with polling, both past and present. FiveThirtyEight.com’s analysis, however, shows that overall, measurements have been generally closer to being accurate more often than not. 

By The Numbers:

  • The combined average accuracy for polls covering the 2022 elections was 72%. This is the lowest average in the list dating back to 1998, but still an impressive number.  
  • Comparatively, the combined average accuracy for 2007-08 was 88% and 77% for 2015-16.
  • The average weighted error polls in 2021-2022 was 4.8, compared to 5.8 in 2009-10 and 7.7 in 1998. 

The Bottom Line: As polling outlets adapt to changing ranges of communication – texting, IVR, cellphones versus landlines, canvass survey gathering, and web collection, to name a few, the margin of error generally stays within a reason range. That’s not to say some polls were wildly off the mark, some consistently so. To get an accurate read of the state of a race, look closely at the trend, especially on underlying factors like favorability, approval and likeliness to vote. 

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