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Politics

Nevada Pollsters Stumble In Accurately Gauging Its Electorate

First-time voter Hugo Rodriguez talks about casting his first ballot in Las Vegas on Election Day, Nov. 6.
Veronica Zaragovia
First-time voter Hugo Rodriguez talks about casting his first ballot in Las Vegas on Election Day, Nov. 6.
Nevada Polls
A look at why Nevada pollsters fail to consistently gauge the state's electorate reliably.

Nevada has gotten significant national attention in the past three elections because of its battleground status in presidential and congressional races. Despite its electoral clout, Nevada remains a difficult state to poll reliably.

Public polling in the weeks before this year’s election showed Mitt Romney within striking distance of Barack Obama, undervaluing the President’s vote share. Political scientist David Damore says the few pollsters who get Nevada right look at factors that most national polling firms ignore.

"They look at demographics, look at past voting within those demographics, and they make a projection as to what they think the electorate will look like and they poll to that as opposed to doing a random sample and getting who you get in that poll," Damore said.

Most of the Nevada electorate lives in Clark County. These are younger, cellphone-dependent voters who don’t all speak English. And as Election Day nears, pollsters tend to look at likely voters instead of registered ones. Damore says these pollsters overlook some young minority voters who register at the last minute.

"The big consequences is when they’re consistently underestimating the Democratic size of the vote here is you see these races to be closer than they are. So it creates false perceptions about how competitive those races are," he said.

Polls measured voters more accurately this year than 2008 -- but just barely. Two days before Election Day, one Mason Dixon poll underestimated Obama’s lead by 8 percent. Damore’s analysis comes from a recent blog post for the research firm Latino Decisions.