There have been a lot of questions and finger pointing in the aftermath of Majority Leader Eric Cantorís historic loss to the little-known Dave Brat. People have been asking: How did it happen? How did so many people not see this coming? As the polling firm that conducted the lone independent survey during the final weeks of the election, Vox Populi Polling has become part of that story.
The irony of the situation is that the media canít seem to get its story straight. Some have hailed our firmís poll for The Daily Caller as the canary in the coal mine, but others have claimed we were wrong. So where does the truth lie? The honest answer is both, and here is why.
Given Cantorís previous landslide victory and the lack of any serious media attention on the race we assumed turnout for this election would be like the others. And because we were interested in seeing how close this race was among past Republican primary voters, we didnít pick up on the momentum of new voters that Brat was able to mobilize. We were shocked to see how close the race was and surprised that our poll didnít get picked up more widely.
But even among past primary voters, our survey showed that Cantor was in trouble. Despite winning the 2012 primary with 79 percent of the vote, Cantor was polling at just 52 percent more than a week out from his election, indicating the growing momentum Brat was building. We also had Brat winning big with independents and Democrats, and also had Cantor winning with self-described Republicans by a much slimmer margin than his own polling.
In the end we only missed Cantorís final number by 7.5 points on a survey with a margin of error of 4 percent, not the grossly exaggerated numbers some have reported. In hindsight, we wish we had gone back into the field the following day and done a survey that included a larger population of eligible voters. If we were Cantorís pollsters instead of a firm conducting a public poll, we would have. However, just like every politico, pollster, pundit and reporter, we didnít believe Brat could pull of one of the biggest upsets in political history.
Another influential factor was turnout. Most people expected turnout to be around 45,000, but in reality it was 65,000. And of those 20,000 new voters they broke 3 to 1 for Brat. So, in the end, Cantor likely received about 35,000 votes from traditional Republican primary voters, but only 9,500 from the new voters. Brat likely received about 30,000 votes from traditional primary voters and an astounding 25,500 from the new voters.