Pollsters did a better job calling Colorado’s election this time around

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Photo: Polls iStock

Along with Sen.-elect Cory Gardner and Gov. John Hickenlooper, the political pollsters were winners this year.

After poorly predicting recent high-profile races in the state, the polls closely reflected the actual results in this year’s contests around Colorado.

Just before the election, several polls predicted Gardner would beat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall by 2.5 percent. As of Friday afternoon, with a small number of votes still to be counted, Gardner held a 2.4 percent lead. That translates to about 48,000 votes.

That result may surprise people who watched results coming in on election night. When Udall, a Democrat, conceded the race that evening, he was down by approximately 5 percent.

In the governor's race, polls predicted the result would be about even between Hickenlooper and former Congressman Bob Beauprez, his Republican challenger, who held off on conceding the race until the afternoon after the election. As of Friday afternoon, Hickenlooper was up by about 3 percent, or 58,000 votes.

In 2010 and 2012, pollsters did not fare nearly as well in Colorado. Most of them called the 2010 U.S. Senate race for Ken Buck, who ended up losing to Democrat Michael Bennet. And the polls consistently underestimated President Obama's margin of victory in the state.

The big wildcard for pollsters this year was mail balloting. For the first time in an even-year election, every registered voter in Colorado received a ballot in the mail. According to analysis in Politico from Fox 31's Eli Stokols, that helped translate into higher turnout among Coloradans over age 65. That demographic normally favors Republican candidates, and so the expansion of mail balloting may have helped Republicans -- and pollsters -- win.