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Republicans Have an Internal Polling Problem

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Republican Teddy Powell lost his bid for a seat in the Alabama House to Democratic candidate Marilyn Lands on Tuesday despite internal polling conducted in December which suggested he was on course for a comfortable victory.

Lands flipped the previously Republican district with 62.4 percent of the vote against 37.6 percent for Powell, a Madison City Council member. However, an internal poll conducted by Powell’s campaign in December put the Republican on 47.7 percent of the vote against 36.8 percent for Lands.

Tuesday’s defeat in Alabama is the latest in a string of disappointing election results for the Republicans, raising questions about their internal polling and that carried out by sympathetic conservative groups especially as the 2024 presidential election nears. Republicans widely expected to enjoy a “Red Wave” during the 2022 midterm elections, based in part on polling from conservative-leaning media, which then failed to materialize.

The special election in Alabama for State House District 10 was held after the previous incumbent, Republican David Cole, pleaded guilty to felony voter fraud leading to his resignation.

Ahead of the vote, both the Powell and Lands campaigns released internal polling suggesting they were on track for victory. In January, Lands published a survey conducted by Impact Research between December 16 and 20 that showed her on 43 percent against 40 percent for Powell and with 17 percent undecided.

Referring to their own internal poll, Powell spokesperson Dalton Dismukes responded: “We believe our poll more accurately represents the district.

“Frankly, it’s surprising that our opponent, who spent tens of thousands of dollars on an unsuccessful campaign just over a year ago, would boast about being within the margin of error of an internal poll.”

Lands’ campaign focused heavily on supporting access to abortion and in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in February that frozen embryos were the legal equivalent of children. The decision led to the state’s largest hospital pausing IVF treatments.

In a statement released after her win, Lands said: “Our Legislature must repeal Alabama’s no-exceptions abortion ban, fully restore access to IVF, and protect the right to contraception.”

Newsweek reached out to Powell by email at 6:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday. This article will be updated if he decides to comment.

The Republicans underperformed during the 2022 midterm elections, only narrowly taking control of the House of Representatives and actually losing a seat in the Senate to increase Democratic control.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump speaks in New York City on March 25. The GOP suffered an election defeat in Alabama despite internal polling suggesting they were on track for victory.

Michael M. Santiago/GETTY

According to a Newsweek analysis, polling conducted by The Trafalgar Group, a conservative-leaning pollster, correctly predicted the winner within the poll’s final margin of error in just five of the two dozen polls they conducted.

The Trafalgar Group established a reputation after being one of the few pollsters to correctly predict Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by heavily weighing “shy” supporters of the then-GOP candidate.

An analysis by The New York Times concluded that Republicans in 2022 were misled by “right-leaning pollsters using opaque methodology, in some cases relying on financial support from hyperpartisan groups and benefiting from vociferous cheerleading by Mr. Trump.”

These impacted the polling averages calculated by groups like RealClearPolitics exaggerating the GOP’s position.

The New York Times said: “The skewed red-wave surveys polluted polling averages, which are relied upon by campaigns, donors, voters and the news media.

“It fed the home-team boosterism of an expanding array of right-wing media outlets… And it spilled over into coverage by mainstream news organizations, including The Times, that amplified the alarms being sounded about potential Democratic doom.”