Our final daily presidential tracking poll showed Romney at 49% and Obama at 48%. Instead, the president got 50% of the vote and Romney 48%. We were disappointed that our final results were not as close to the final result as they had been in preceding elections. There was a similar pattern in the state polls. For example, in Ohio we projected a tie at 49% but the president reached 50% of the vote and the challenger got just 48%. Although every individual result in the battleground states was within the margin of error, the numbers we projected were consistently a bit more favorable for Romney than the actual results.

A preliminary review indicates that one reason for this is that we underestimated the minority share of the electorate. In 2008, 26% of voters were non-white. We expected that to remain relatively constant. However, in 2012, 28% of voters were non-white. That was exactly the share projected by the Obama campaign. It is not clear at the moment whether minority turnout increased nationally, white turnout decreased, or if it was a combination of both. The increase in minority turnout has a significant impact on the final projections since Romney won nearly 60% of white votes while Obama won an even larger share of the minority vote.

Another factor may be related to the generation gap. It is interesting to note that the share of seniors who showed up to vote was down slightly from 2008 while the number of young voters was up slightly. Pre-election data suggested that voters over 65 were more enthusiastic about voting than they had been four years earlier so the decline bears further examination.