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Bias or Accuracy in the Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll?

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This weekend’s polling numbers by the Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll that found Barack Obama up by 18 points over John McCain and Al Franken up by 9 points over Norm Coleman turned many heads in the Gopher State, and received harsh critiques by the right-wing blogosphere (as well as the Coleman campaign).

Fair or unfair, the Star Tribune now possesses a reputation in some circles for being biased in favor of Democratic candidates.

Lefty blog Fivethirtyeight.com doesn’t attribute bias in its pollster rankings, but the popular political blog has named the Star Tribune as one of the least reliable pollsters in the country. The Minnesota Poll is ranked 27th out of 32 organizations across the country in terms of ‘pollster introduced error’ – that is, as the website defines it, “Error that results from poor methodology.?

The truth is, however, that the Minnesota Poll over time has a fairly good track record – at least when comparing its final survey conducted the weekend before the election up against the actual election results.

· In the 2004 presidential contest, the Minnesota Poll had John Kerry leading George W. Bush by 4 points in the Gopher State (October 31 – November 1). Kerry won by 3.5 points.

· In the 2000 presidential election, the Minnesota Poll had Al Gore leading by 5 points over Bush (November 5-6). Gore won by 2.4 points.

· In the 2006 U.S. Senate race, the Minnesota Poll had Amy Klobuchar leading Mark Kennedy by 21 points (November 5-6). Klobuchar won by 20.2 points.

· In the 2002 U.S. Senate race, the Minnesota Poll had Coleman leading by 2 points over Walter Mondale (November 3-4). Coleman won by 2.2 points.

· In the 2000 U.S. Senate race, the Minnesota Poll had Mark Dayton winning by 9 points over Rod Grams (October 31 – November 3). Dayton won by 5.5 points.

· In the 2006 gubernatorial matchup, the Minnesota Poll had Mike Hatch defeating Tim Pawlenty by 3 points (November 5-6). Pawlenty won by 1 point.

· In the 2002 gubernatorial race, the Minnesota Poll had Pawlenty leading by 13 points over Roger Moe (November 3-4). Pawlenty won by 7.9 points. The poll correctly had Tim Penny winning 16 percent of the vote.

That is not to say the Star Tribune’s recent polling results were not a bit eye-opening – the numbers seen by Obama and Franken in the new poll are likely on the outer edge of reality, accounting for the poll's margin of error, as it captures the recent movement to the Democrats seen across the board as the nation’s economic problems intensify.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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