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Making sense of the polls

Democrats Smashed at US Midterm Elections

At US midterm elections held today (Aus time), the Democrats have lost control of the Senate, lost seats in the House, and failed to defeat any of their top right-wing Republican gubernatorial targets. These elections were a crushing win for the Republicans. While the Presidential election years of 2008 and 2012 have been Democratic years, the midterm elections in both 2010 and 2014 have resulted in Republican waves.

In the Senate, the Democrats lost all the states where they were behind in the polls coming into election day: West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Iowa and Colorado; the Republicans winning all these by at least 5%. Democrats also lost North Carolina by 2%, a state where they were narrowly ahead in pre-election polls. While Louisiana will go to a runoff in December, Democrat Mary Landrieu has her work cut out, as she trailed the combined vote of her two Republican challengers by 55-42. Democrats failed to seriously challenge in any Republican held seat. The only good news for Democrats was a narrow hold in New Hampshire, while Virginia was unexpectedly close for Democrat Mark Warner, who only eked out a 0.5% win. At time of writing, Alaska also looks very likely to go to the Republicans, giving them 53 Senate seats. It is likely that their final Senate majority will be 54-46 after the Louisiana runoff; this would be a gain of 9 seats.

In gubernatorial elections, the Democrats’ only gain came in Pennsylvania, where the Democrat had been way ahead in the polls for a long time. Democratic hopes of getting rid of right wing governors in Kansas, Florida, Wisconsin and Maine have all been dashed, with the incumbents in three of those states winning by narrow margins, while in Wisconsin Republican Scott Walker won comfortably. The Republicans have done unexpectedly well in blue states, gaining the Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland governorships; they also gained the Arkansas governorship. Four uncalled races are more likely to be won by Democrats, and, if that happens, the Republicans would have a 31-19 majority in state governors, a gain of 2 for them.

In the House, the Republicans have won 241 seats to 174 for the Democrats with 20 seats still undecided. The Republicans have already made a net gain of 13 seats, and would be projected to win the House by 247-188 assuming all uncalled races go to the current holder. The Republicans’ House majority will be larger than the 242-193 majority they had following the 2010 elections.

In general, pre-election polling underestimated the Republicans’ performance. In particular, there were four Senate races where the polling missed by a large amount: Kansas, Kentucky, Arkansas and Virginia.

The source for most of this article is the New York Times Results Map. You can also see my previous article previewing the mid term elections.

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