Pollsters had a difficult year in 2014, when many of them failed to see the magnitude of the Republican wave that easily swept the GOP to power in the U.S. Senate.
The Bluegrass Poll had U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell winning his re-election bid in its last survey before the Nov. 4 election by 5 percentage points, but it failed to predict the enormity of McConnell's 15.5 percentage point win over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
We and all our partners in the Bluegrass Poll — WKYT-TV, The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV — weren't content with the poll's performance and neither were the folks at SurveyUSA, which conducts the poll for us. That's why they've made some changes in their methodology in an effort to fix what went wrong.
The Bluegrass Poll and SurveyUSA have long provided accurate polling of Kentucky and we hope to continue that tradition, starting with the release Tuesday afternoon of the Bluegrass Poll's first survey of voters in the 2015 governor's race.
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Nationally, SurveyUSA's performance in the 2014 election was on the mark in most places, reflective of its A rating by the number-crunching gurus at FiveThirtyEight.com. But SurveyUSA didn't accurately predict Republican wins in Kentucky or Kansas.
No poll saw Grimes being blown out by 15 percentage points but some polls had her down 8 or 9 points.
In Kansas, SurveyUSA had independent candidate Greg Orman winning by two percentage points. Instead, incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts won by nearly 11. Most other polls showed Orman up narrowly, as well, and no one foresaw the Roberts landslide.
This year, the Bluegrass Poll will include more questions about people's political leanings and not just their party registration. That should allow us to glean a bit more information about voters and their intentions.
SurveyUSA also made minor changes to its methodology in Kentucky in an effort to correct what turned out to be an unintentional oversampling of more moderate to liberal men and cell phone users.
These won't be the last tweaks SurveyUSA makes to the poll. Pollsters are always on the lookout for ways to better improve their results and to catch up with changes in the people they survey. That's especially the case now, since fewer and fewer people have landline telephones, which for decades were the only way pollsters reached people.
It's also important to remember that any poll is, at its best, a snapshot of what was happening in a political contest at the time the survey was taken. Polls can help shape how we understand the dynamics of a race, but it is the voters who decide the outcome on Election Day.
As always, we welcome your feedback, which can be emailed to Editor Peter Baniak at firstname.lastname@example.org.