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Opinion
Jonathan Bernstein

Three Reasons Why Midterm Polls Could Be Wrong

Conducting opinion surveys is much harder than it used to be.

There have been relatively few polls in North Carolina’s Senate race pitting Democrat Cheri Beasley, above, against Republican Ted Budd.

There have been relatively few polls in North Carolina’s Senate race pitting Democrat Cheri Beasley, above, against Republican Ted Budd.

Photographer: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

With a week remaining before the midterms, the polls say that Republicans are very likely to win a solid but not huge majority in the House. The Senate remains a toss-up. 

For all the attention their errors receive, pollsters really do excellent work and make valuable contributions to democracy. We know a lot more about what our fellow citizens think about policy and politics because of systematic measurement of public opinion; it’s far better than relying on focus groups or (just) shoeleather reporting, even though the latter can add useful insights. And, yes, horse-race polls give us good estimates for the question many of us have: Who will win?