Pre-election polls in Tennessee weren't close

Hank Hayes • Updated Nov 16, 2018 at 11:55 AM

If you needed any more evidence that pre-election polling does indeed suck, look no further than the recent November general election in Tennessee.

We all kept hearing in media circles how close the Tennessee U.S. Senate race was going to be between Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former governor who won all 95 counties in his second gubernatorial race. Bredesen was even telling reporters it was going to be tight.

An East Tennessee State University poll, taken the week of October 22, had the candidates tied. The Real Clear Politics average of all polls had Blackburn up about five points.

But Blackburn won by nearly 11 points, according to unofficial results from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office. The pre-election polling had me believing the race wouldn’t be called until after midnight. It was called not too long after the polls closed.

And then there’s the Tennessee gubernatorial race between Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean, Nashville’s former mayor. The Real Clear Politics average of all polls showed Lee, a Williamson County businessman, up by about 13 points.

Unofficial results said Lee won by almost 21 points. That race was called less than an hour after the polls closed.

I wouldn’t be writing this blog if the pre-election polls were, say, within the margin of error compared to the final unofficial results.

The fact is the polls weren’t even close, and that includes the polls from big-time news organizations like Fox and NBC.

When, in the way old days, the polling was based on results from landlines, you could pretty much bank on it. That is no longer true with the Internet and smart phones in the mix.

So what has to change? Beats me.

I do know the electorate did the right thing and ignored the polls.

In other words, you did your job.

Hank Hayes covers politics and business for the Times News. Email him at hhayes@timesnews.net.