The Washington Post and Schar School Partner to Conduct Polls

Photo courtesy of Ron Cogswell/Flickr

The Post and Mason’s Schar School create polling data for midterms


So far, the Washington Post-Schar School polls have proven to be highly accurate, successfully predicting the results of the 2016 presidential campaign in Virginia, the 2017 Alabama senatorial race and the 2018 Virginia governor’s election.

The partnership first formed between the Washington Post and Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government in 2016, with hopes of combining the expertise of Mason faculty with the Washington Post’s resources.

“The initial idea was that [the] intellectual capacity of a faculty of government and public-policy [researchers] provides some real substance and could be beneficial in the design and also the evaluation of public opinion polls,” said Dean Mark J. Rozell of the Schar School.

The polls first focused on Virginian elections, views of political leaders and key political policy related to Virginia. One of the first polls conducted predicted that Clinton would win the state by over 5 percent in the 2016 presidential race, which she did.

Since 2016, the Washington Post-Schar School polls have expanded to focus on national issues. It was one of two polls that predicted the victory of Democrat Doug Jones in the 2017 Alabama senatorial race.

However, the Washington Post-Schar School poll came closer to the actual election results than the other poll did, which was conducted by Fox News, did. Jones won by 2 points, while the Washington Post-Schar School and Fox News polls anticipated he would win by 3 and 10 points respectively.

Most recently, the partnership has focused on the 2018 midterm elections, which will take place on Nov. 6.

“We came up with 69 districts where we thought there was a chance that seat could go one way or another,” said Rozell. “Then we have [created] in this election cycle a series of surveys of voters in those 69 districts, so that [we are] tracking public opinion only in the districts where people’s votes are actually going to matter toward the outcome.”

Trends for the polls in the 2018 midterm election suggests that this will be a good year for Democrats in the House of Representatives. Of the 69 competitive House races that were focused on, only six of those are currently held by an incumbent Democrat, giving the party plenty of opportunities to gain seats.

After the midterm elections, Rozell is looking towards the future of The Washington Post and Schar School partnership.

“Personally I’d like to see it grow into something even more over time, where we are polling on specific public policy issues,” said Rozell. “Once we get out of the election cycles … in off-election years, I think it would be really wonderful to use that time to do some polling on key public policy issues confronting the country and develop some data [that] would be usable to not only the public but to scholars.”