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For once, the political pollsters look like they finally got one right

  • French election goes close to what polls predicted
  • Polling industry badly missed on elections in United States, UK

The struggles of political pollsters to accurately forecast the outcome of votes was a major theme of 2016.

Early indications of the first round of the French election show that may not be the case this time.

Official results are not yet available, but Harris exit polling indicates that centrist Emmanuel Macron is seen winning 24 percent of the first round vote, with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen projected to win 22 percent of the vote, setting them up for a May runoff.

A man passes by campaign posters for the French presidential election, on official billboards on April 21, 2017 in Lyon, ahead of the first round of the French presidential election which will take place on April 23.
Jeff Pachoud | AFP | Getty Images
A man passes by campaign posters for the French presidential election, on official billboards on April 21, 2017 in Lyon, ahead of the first round of the French presidential election which will take place on April 23.

An average of recent pre-election polls compiled by the Huffington Post forecast that those candidates would take roughly that percentage of the vote.

Speculation swirled that Le Pen, an anti-globalist candidate seen in the mold of U.S. President Donald Trump, could muster more support than polls indicated — just as Trump did in many key U.S. states during his own elections. If early indications from pollsters hold, that appears not to be the case, in the first round at least.

Getting it wrong

Some saw the potential for echoes of 2016 in the French race. While national polls of November's U.S. presidential election were largely accurate — Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton won the popular vote — Trump outperformed pre-election polls in crucial states that put him over the top.

Last year, UK polls showed a slight preference toward continuing European Union membership among British voters as their referendum on whether to stay in the EU approached. But Britain ended up voting to leave the EU, a process that is ongoing.

Now Macron and Le Pen face off in a final round. Runoff polls of a potential matchup of Macron and Le Pen showed a significant advantage for Macron, according to FiveThirtyEight.

It remains to be seen how accurate the polling will prove to be after the runoff, which takes place on May 7.