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Missing the outcome in California

February 6, 2008 |  3:39 pm

Super Tuesday may have lacked a runaway winner in either party, but when it came to anticipating the outcome of both primaries in California, there was one clear loser -- the Reuters/C-Span/Zogby poll.

The man in charge of the survey, John Zogby, didn't equivocate or obfuscate today when assessing the bum results his firm came up with in the Golden State. "We blew it," he told us.

He also pointed out that the polls he supervises got the victors right in six other races on Tuesday (perhaps most impressively, his had Barack Obama winning narrowly in Missouri, unlike any other of the last-minute surveys for that state).

Still, the final figures his company posted for California spoiled the day for him.

In the Democratic face-off, based on interviews conducted Sunday and Monday, the Zogby poll gave Obama 49% of the vote, Hillary Clinton 36%.

The 13-point margin was close to ...

the mark, but there was that little problem of who ended up on top. Although the vote tabulation isn't complete in California (and won't be for days), the count as of now gives Clinton 52%, Obama 42%.

In a release Zogby International sent out today, the pollster tried to explain what happened: "It appears that we underestimated Hispanic turnout and overestimated the importance of younger Hispanic voters" (i.e. far more Latinos, especially older ones, cast ballots than anticipated, and those voters went heavily for Clinton). Also, the release added: "We also overestimated turnout among African American voters."

That addressed the Democratic contest, but what about the Republican race?

The findings in the final Zogby poll: Mitt Romney 40%, John McCain 33%.

The almost-complete actual results: McCain 42%, Romney 34%.

Zogby told us that his staff still is vetting what went wrong in this case, but the problem likely is that those voting in the GOP primary were less solidly Republican than the firm's model anticipated. Although only registered Republicans could cast a ballot in it, exit polling showed that roughly 20% of those who showed up for it viewed themselves as independents.

Summing up his thoughts on the two California polls, Zogby said: "This is not one of our happier moments."

-- Don Frederick