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Some Florida presidential polling didn't see tight race coming

Pre-Election Day polls in Florida predicting Mitt Romney would comfortably win the state's 29 electoral votes were quite wrong, it turns out.

Though some absentee ballots are still being counted, Romney is narrowly trailing President Barack Obama.

Last week, a survey conducted for the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9, Miami Herald and two other media partners showed Florida almost deep red — with Romney winning 51-45.

Three weeks before that, the same polling firm, Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, had Romney ahead 51-44.

A poll conducted for the Florida Times-Union the Sunday before Election Day called it Romney 52, Obama 47.

Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said the shift was not caused by polling error, but because Obama moved the needle with his handling of Hurricane Sandy.

"At the time our poll started, Romney still had the lead in several national polls. Then he stalled late in the week after his campaign all but disappeared from the news for several days," Coker said. "After that, the gender gap widened, the race fell into a tie nationally and Romney never bounced back."

But who pollsters call, and how they build their sample, is also critical.

In Mason-Dixon's case, the polling group ultimately appeared to under-anticipate the number of young voters who would cast ballots in Florida, while over-anticipating the number of people 65 and older who would vote, according to preliminary exit poll data.

The result?

More poll respondents key to Romney's success, and fewer that were key to an Obama victory.

The Mason-Dixon poll also accounted for more white voters and less Hispanic voters than exit polling data showed.

Another polling group abandoned Florida all together.

The Suffolk University Political Research Center stopped surveying Florida entirely in early October, believing it was reliably Republican and polling would be a waste of time.

Polling winners?

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, had it about right — Obama 50, Romney 49, and a pre-Election Day poll conducted for NBC and the Wall Street Journal had Obama leading 49-47.

Some Florida presidential polling didn't see tight race coming 11/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 11:05am]
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