Sabato's Crystal Ball

Post-Election 2006: Playing the Numbers Game

News networks recognize Crystal Ball success rate

Larry J. Sabato Matt Smyth and David Wasserman, U.Va. Center for Politics November 10th, 2006

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It’s been a long election season–seemingly much longer than midterms past–and your Crystal Ball is happy to have served our good readers right up until the end. As we mentioned in our final pre-election release, it’s been a wild ride as the dynamics of dozens of races have changed greatly from the spring to the summer and into the fall. To our Democratic readers out there, we say congratulations; To our Republican readers, we offer our condolences and a reminder that American politics is cyclical.

To the many readers who have contacted us in the last two days to acknowledge the Crystal Ball’s success rate this year, we say thank you. This was a closely contested midterm election that saw party control of both chambers of Congress up for grabs, and through hard work and maybe a little bit of luck, the Crystal Ball accurately predicted a gain of 6 Senate Seats and 29 House seats for Democrats. Predicting a gain of 7 governorships, the Crystal Ball was within one seat of the actual results. To paraphrase the Sugar Hill Gang, we don’t mean to brag and we don’t mean to boast, but hopefully this year we’ve been like hot butter on your breakfast toast.

Governor House Senate
Crystal Ball Predictions +7 Dems +29 Dems +6 Dems
Election Results as of Nov. 9 +6 Dems +29 Dems +6 Dems

Several major cable news networks recognized the Crystal Ball as being the most accurate source of election predictions in 2006:

While there is a significant amount of luck involved in predicting election outcomes, the truth is the success of the Crystal Ball’s predictions rests on diligently following all these races across the nation and evaluating them not just on polling information, but on real interaction with the campaigns and people on the ground who are always the best gauge of the likely voter sentiments on Election Day.

In an era of extremely close races and a highly polarized electorate on Election Day, the Crystal Ball’s predictions have been mirrored by the election results. In the 2002 midterm elections, the Crystal Ball consistently predicted winners in an overwhelming majority of election outcomes: 99.6 percent of all House races, 94 percent of Senate races, and 88 percent of gubernatorial races. In the 2004 elections, the Crystal Ball correctly picked winners in over 98 percent of combined Electoral College results, Senate, House and gubernatorial races. Within the context of past successes, Election 2006 has hopefully served to bolster the Crystal Ball’s relative value as a tool for projecting the outcome of elections for academics, media and political junkies alike.

The CB followed up on its strong performance in 2002 and 2004 by correctly predicting the outcome of 100 percent of 2006 Senate races, 96 percent of House races, and 97 percent of gubernatorial races.

In 2006, the Crystal Ball saw its list of subscribers grow to over 17,500 individuals across the United States and the world. The Crystal Ball website logged nearly 2 million hits over the course of the 2006 calendar year, from over 860,000 unique visitors. On its busiest day, November 5, the site saw 120,000 hits from 50,000 unique visitors.

While the Crystal Ball hopes to be in touch again over the coming weeks with more evaluation of the 2006 results, much of our 2006 post-midterm analysis will be available in The Sixth Year Itch (Longman, 2007), so stay tuned! The 2008 elections are just over the horizon, and the Crystal Ball won’t be gone for long as we prepare for a 2007 re-launch.