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How Democracy Corps Got It Right


How Democracy Corps Got It Right


If you followed the punditocracy’s conventional wisdom in 2012, you were likely surprised by President Obama’s popular vote margin—which is now 3.7 points and climbing.  Despite the fact that President Obama consistently led Mitt Romney– and by significant margins in the battleground states where a close race would likely be decided—pollsters and pundits presupposed a very tight race. Joe Scarborough pronounced, “…Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now… should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days.”  The Wall Street Journal proclaimed “Obama and Romney deadlocked.”  The Economist asserted the race was “about as close as it could be.”  Most other media and pundits thought so, too.  Except us.

Our final Democracy Corps poll (completed two days before Election Day) showed the race 49 to 45 percent –an unrounded margin of 3.8 points.  With other public polls still showing the race tied or Romney ahead, our poll was an outlier.

We were so confident in our results, we put our reputations on the line in the waning days of the campaign.  We were confident we had it right because we believed that the national poll tracking averages were likely underrepresenting Obama’s vote.  The main issue was cell phones and the changing demographics that most other pollsters miscalculated.   Those pollsters did not reach the new America.  Plain and simple.

Our accuracy in this election reflected years of intense study and a series of careful decisions about demographic and turnout trends among pivotal voting groups, notably Latinos.  And our accuracy also reflected our intense focus on the methodological changes necessary to accurately sample the full American electorate – such as insisting on a higher proportion of cell phone interviews, despite the higher costs.

This matters for many reasons.  It is great to be right.  It is even greater to be the rightest.  But most of the time, we do not produce polls to predict imminent election outcomes. Most of the time, as now with the fiscal cliff, we poll the American people on major policy issues, on their own pocketbook experiences, and on the messages that speak to the positions and issues most critical to their lives.  That we got it right not only undergirds our ability to speak authoritatively on these policy issues in the halls of power, but also allows us to fulfill our mandate to tell powerful people what real people think.  After all, we cannot accurately represent American voters if we are not producing representative polls.

At this moment, when a very few leaders in Washington are making decisions that will effect our economy now and in the years to come, more than anyone else, Democracy Corps has the authority to tell leaders what voters sent them to Washington to do.  It was not, as it turns out, to keep taxes low for the wealthiest while bargaining away middle class tax deductions. Nor was it to slash the Medicare and Social Security benefits on which this and future generations so deeply depend.  Nor was it to defund local governments, preventing them from making investments in education and infrastructure.

Instead, this election was about the middle class—how to sustain, secure, and grow the middle class in this generation and the next.  The people spoke clearly on this topic… and we were happy to represent them.

Democracy Corps projected the final vote more accurately than any other pollster:



  1. Spiffy Sean Styles December 11, 2012

    No Nate Silver shout out? Boo.

    1. tarheel T party December 12, 2012

      Silver wasn’t a pollster, he aggregated polls into his formula. This article speaks only to those conducting the polls, not the aggregators (Silver) or unskewers (Dean Chambers). Kudos!

  2. adriancrutch December 11, 2012

    Election Day was the only day I watched Fox News! I couldn’t keep from laughing at morris,then rove! Hilarious!

  3. Lambert Lorette December 11, 2012

    Thanks so much for using your intelligence and knowledge to get it right. I saw your two videos days before the election, and found them really convincing – and, they just felt right.

  4. Jim Lou December 12, 2012

    Polling isn’t an exact science. How can surveys take the place of actual going out and questioning potential voters?

    1. Jesse Fell December 12, 2012

      Polling isn’t exact, but the best pollsters, and the best analysts of polls, have been doing a pretty good job of prognostication lately.

    2. rgrein December 12, 2012

      Jim, polling IS going out and questioning potential voters – or whoever the target market is. It is not exact because nothing in reality is exact. ANY scientific measurement will include a measure of uncertainty just as polls do. Scientists (and pollsters) who routinely deliver inaccurate measurements are, over time dismissed as inaccurate.

  5. Dominick Vila December 12, 2012

    I followed the predictions made by Nate Silver and I am glad I did. Most of the other polls were so far off you can help wondering if they were being paid by the GOP, a media desperate for a crisis to sustain public attention, or their polling model is so archaic it belongs in the National Archives.

  6. Dion Morse December 12, 2012

    I was polled no less than five times prior to the election … it seemed that most were right oriented and when I (as a registered Republican) told them I was 95% sure I would be voting for Obama – they thanked me and hung up. End of poll.

    I don’t think they even registered my voice. It wasn’t popular or in the accords of their very opinionated poll (is that a redundancy?). I really don’t think they had any facilities for listening to another view. They didn’t ask why I would be voting that way and I heard one young woman mutter ‘damn rino’, just before hanging up on me. So be it – it seems that wallowing in their own ineptitude and continually blaming others for their myopia is the rule rather than the exception.

    I’m still registered as a Republican – if for no other reason than to screw with them.

    I voted for the man – not the (archaic, Rand biased) ideology.

  7. Johnnie Rosales December 14, 2012

    Everyone needs to remember the Republican Party already runs under the Silvio Berlusconi form of “democracy”. They own the TV, radio & print so therefore they own the message. But, what they do not own, but they are trying, is the social media. The social medias quick response and availability is the only thing that saved this election cycle. Soon they will be dominant in that media also and we will see then final nail in the coffin of democracy and the rise of fascism/oligarchy as a form of our non representation.


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