Trafalgar strategist explains election misses after ‘red wave’ fails to materialize

Cahaly said he is waiting "for the last election to be settled" before releasing a more in-depth analysis of Trafalgar's polls.

Robert Cahaly/Trafalgar Group

Robert Cahaly, CEO of the polling company Trafalgar Group, is speaking out about what went wrong with their predictions of a “red wave” in this year’s midterm elections.

Cahaly recently sat down with Benjamin Hart of New York Magazine to explain Trafalgar’s polls this election cycle and share how the polling company plans to prepare for 2024.

Hart acknowledged the accuracy of Trafalgar’s polls in 2016 and 2020 but pointed out how the polls in 2022 “consistently overestimated Republican support,” in some cases by several percentage points. An Alpha News/Trafalgar poll conducted three weeks before the election had Dr. Scott Jensen leading Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz 46.3% to 45.8%. Walz ended up winning 52.2% to 44.6%.

Cahaly responded by defending the accuracy of other polls in states like Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri, but argued Democrats were markedly more successful at increasing voter turnout than Republicans.

“I mean, if you want to ask what I think happened — and we’re going to spend a lot of time studying this — but on first blush, Republicans have no idea how to do ‘get out the vote.’ The Democrats are very good at it,” he said.

“The Republicans just did not strategize well. It is hard to anticipate in polling one party doing that great a job at getting the vote out in targeted states and the other party doing that terrible of a job at getting the vote out in targeted states.”

Further admitting that candidate quality hampered the GOP in certain cases and that independents ended up breaking in favor of Democrats, Cahaly defended Trafalgar’s survey methodology but noted that the group’s “turnout model” was not nearly as adequate.

“I would say it’s less our methodology and more our turnout model,” he said. “And it is very clear to me that when, in the future, I see this kind of attention to get out the vote on one side, our turnout model must reflect that. Our turnout model just didn’t have it there.”

He continued later: “If all the other mainstream pollers could fail much worse than anything that happened to us this year, I don’t see how, when we have an average record so much better than them, we should stop because we had a bad cycle.”

Cahaly said he is waiting “for the last election to be settled” before releasing a more in-depth analysis of Trafalgar’s polls.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.