Did the 2022 midterm polls blow it again?

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Did the 2022 midterm polls blow it again?

This special report originally appeared in Grid Today, our flagship daily newsletter. Sign up for it here to get the context and consequences of the news in your inbox each day.


The big talk on Wednesday morning was about the “red wave” that wasn’t.

Pundits lit up last night as Democrats held on to some competitive seats in the House and Senate and even flipped a Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Suddenly, the 2022 midterms weren’t looking very “red wave-ish,” as journalist John Harwood put it.

A moment of euphoria for cable news panelists felt different for the rest of us. Was this, again, a failure of polling?

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The “red wave” was, indeed, rooted in polls, but it was a prediction made from placing the polls in historical and economic context. The president’s party almost always loses seats in his first midterm elections, Americans are pessimistic about the economy, and inflation was consistently named voters’ top voting issue. Taken together, red wave predictors argued that the tight races nationwide should mean the dominoes would fall for Republicans.

But looking at polling race by race in isolation, Republican dominance wasn’t a sure thing. Races looked tight everywhere. At least among reputable pollsters, it’s not necessarily that polls were wrong, but that the way some pundits interpreted them was wrong.

Once the data is in, we can start the red wave autopsy.

When will we know who won?

House: Days. Democrats would need to win nearly every one of the 19 races considered a “toss-up” to keep control of the chamber. So far, Democrats are winning about 80 percent of them. Given the majority will be slim, it could take days to get results from enough races. A few states to watch

  • California: A handful of competitive races are in the Golden State, which is notoriously slow at counting votes. (It took more than a week after Election Day in 2020 to call Republican Young Kim’s race.)
  • New York: If Republicans perform well in uncalled races in New York, we could get a better sense in days.

Senate: Days … or weeks. We could know which party controls the upper chamber by Thursday … or we might need to wait a month.

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  • Nevada: Mail-in ballots in Las Vegas look like they won’t be tabulated until Thursday, holding up the statewide results until then.
  • Georgia: Neither candidate appears positioned to reach the 50 percent mark, which is required to avoid a runoff. A runoff would be held in December.
  • Arizona: Arizona is still counting Election Day votes, so we could get results as soon as today — or might have to wait a few days.

What else to know

(Effective) dirty tricks: Democrats took a gamble in some Republican primaries this year, promoting extreme GOP candidates who they believed would be easier to defeat in the general. It worked.

  • A wrench in trickery: Nevada voters passed an initiative that will create an open primary system and ranked choice voting in general elections. Supporters say that these systems lower polarization and produce less-extreme candidates.

Republican blame game: Republicans expected a crushing defeat of Nancy Pelosi and to hand the gavel to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Trump loyalist from California. There are already murmurs that other ambitious Republicans see an opening for themselves.

Florida watch: Even as Democrats overperformed across the country, there was one glaring exception: Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis crushed his Democratic opponent by nearly 20 points, Republican congressional incumbents all held their seats, three Republicans flipped Democratic seats, and local Republican candidates in state and local races dominated. DeSantis’ candidates even stacked the school board.

Trump watching Florida: Unlike his rival DeSantis, Donald Trump ended the night with a mixed record. In some key races where he went all-in, his candidates failed, including in Pennsylvania, where celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz lost a Senate seat to John Fetterman, and Trump’s favorite, Doug Mastriano, a 2020 election denier with ties to the Christian nationalism movement, lost the governor’s seat to Democrat Josh Shapiro.

Stay tuned...

We plan to focus our coverage ahead on what election outcomes will mean for voters.

  • Laura McGann
    Laura McGann

    Executive Editor

    Laura McGann serves as executive editor for Grid.

  • Leah Askarinam
    Leah Askarinam

    Senior Editor

    Leah Askarinam is Senior Editor at Grid, overseeing coverage of politics, misinformation and the economy.