The Race for Mayor: How wrong were the polls?

Updated: 09/11/2013 7:45 PM
Created: 09/11/2013 11:02 AM WHEC.com

Two days before the primary election, a Siena College poll had Mayor Tom Richards leading challenger Lovely Warren by 36 points. So how could he lose by 16 points last night? How could the latest poll be so wrong?

We are talking with the pollster today to ask those questions.

Here's a quick breakdown of what the September 8th poll indicated:

- Mayor Thomas Richards leads with the support of 63 percent of likely voters, compared to 27 percent for City Council President Lovely Warren (up from 55-28 percent in an August poll)

- While Warren has a sizeable lead among black voters, 54-29 percent, it is not nearly large enough to offset the 84-11 percent lead Richards holds among white voters. And there is no gender gap in this race, as Richards leads by 36 points with men and with women.

- Richards' favorability rating among likely primary voters is 74-17 percent, up from 66-15 percent in August. Warren has a 59-26 favorability rating, up from 50-20 percent in August.

In explaining the poll results, Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said, "more than two-thirds of likely primary voters think Rochester is headed on the right track, Richards is viewed favorably and as doing a good job as mayor, and the vast majority thinks he will be re-elected. That is almost always a combination that spells victory for the incumbent and defeat for the challenger."

We asked the pollster -- how did it happen?
Dr. Don Levy, Siena College Poll: "There's no systematic explanation for that is what I'm telling you. It's chance. It's going to happen one time out of 20."
That's right. 
No mistakes, just unlucky probability. 
Dr. Don Levy, Siena College Poll: "This is that one case that every pollster dreads and unfortunately it happened this time."
But we did find a mistake. 
Some of the people called for the poll live in the suburbs. 
Kim Montinarello, called by pollster: "The woman on the phone seemed surprised and was like, oh, okay. Thank you and hung up."
Kim Montinarello lives in Irondequoit with her family. 
Her husband works at News10NBC. 
She told the caller she wasn't eligible to vote. 
But this morning -- she thought back on the call. 
Kim Montinarello, called by pollster: "Just being that the results were so skewed one way or the other I thought boy, maybe they interviewed suburban people instead of just people in the city of Rochester."
The mayor said voter turnout was a reason he lost. 
And he thinks the poll played a role. 
Mayor Tom Richards: "It probably didn't help because some people thought it was over and it clearly wasn't."
Lovely Warren -- on set with Rebecca Leclair today at noon -- doesn't buy it. 
Lovely Warren, (D) Candidate for Mayor: "Well you know I had great volunteers and the message we gave to the citizens of Rochester resonated with the majority and I appreciate them coming out and exercising their right to vote."

The Siena College polls for the mayoral races in Albany and Buffalo predicted landslide victories for the front runners, Mayor Byron Brown (Buffalo) and Treasurer Kathy Sheehan (Albany) and those predictions came true last night.   

Click here to read the Siena College poll that came out September 8.



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