Tuesday’s surprising election results, which are being called a “wave” for Republicans, has one political prognosticator calling for a closer look at pre-election polls.
“I want an investigation of the polls in Virginia,” Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning.
“They were completely wrong, just as they were in Georgia. They were also way off in Illinois, and I could go on and on. Boy, is that an industry that needs some housecleaning,” Sabato continued.
While Republicans were widely expected to take control of the Senate with between a six and eight seat pick-up from Democrats, few predicted that former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie would come close to unseating Democratic incumbent Mark Warner in Virginia.
According to RealClearPolitics, a website that monitors political polling, Warner enjoyed a nearly 10-point lead over Gillespie in an average of all recent polls. But Tuesday’s contest was much closer; Warner won by less than one point. (RELATED: After Surprising Showing, Gillespie Now Willing To Concede Virginia Senate Race Just Yet)
In Georgia, Republican David Perdue defeated Democrat Michelle Nunn by eight points in an open seat, 53 to 45. RealClearPolitics average of polls had Perdue ahead by three.
Kansas was another surprise. The latest polls showed incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts trailing independent Greg Orman by one point. But Roberts won his fourth term, besting Orman by nearly 11.
In Arkansas, Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton beat incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in a landslide, by 18 points. The average of the polls there predicted a seven-point Cotton win.
Mitch McConnell, who is likely to be the next Senate majority leader, also performed better than expected. The average of polls had him leading Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes by seven points. He won by 15.5.
Republican Joni Ernst’s victory in Iowa over U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley was easier than expected. Ernst won by 8.5 points, though polls predicted that she would win by just over two.
According to an analysis conducted by the Washington Post, the average of the polls compiled by RealClearPolitics undershot Republicans in nearly every Senate race. Democrats did slightly better than expected in Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and New Hampshire.
Republicans who outperformed what the polls predicted did so by an average of six points, according to The Post’s analysis.
Perhaps even more surprising for Republicans than their showing in the Senate is their success at the state level. The GOP prevailed in Democratic strongholds such as Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts and held on in contentious races in Kansas and Maine.
In Kansas, poll averages had Democrat Paul Davis leading incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback by two points. Brownback won by four.
In Maryland, Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown had maintained a steady lead in the polls over Republican Larry Hogan, who eventually won by nine. (RELATED: This Could Be The Most Surprising Result On Election Night)
In President Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois, Republican challenger Bruce Rauner beat incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn by five points, though the average of polls had him leading by one going into Tuesday.
In his post-election wrap-up, Sabato cited McConnell’s victory in Kentucky as an example of how polls got it wrong in so many conservative states.
“I’m amazed at how people will ignore the fundamentals in a deeply red state with President Obama at 31 percent [favorable rating], how they could ever think that McConnell would lose a race like that,” said Sabato.
So far, Republicans have a net gain of seven seats — giving them a total of 52 seats in the upper chamber, with a chance to take two more. Republican Dan Sullivan leads Democratic incumbent Mark Begich in Alaska, while Louisiana’s race will be determined in a Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu and Republican Bill Cassidy.