‘Sabato’s Crystal Ball’ Tops List of Best Forecasters for 2018 Midterm Elections

Larry Sabato runs his Crystal Ball site out of UVA’s Center for Politics, where he has been tracking and predicting elections for decades.
December 18, 2018

An independent statistician has declared University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball website the most accurate in the nation in forecasting the 2018 U.S. House of Representatives elections.

The report, published Tuesday by statistician Nicholas Cohen on his site, Lobby Seven Commentary, put the Crystal Ball’s analysis ahead of major forecasting sites like FiveThirtyEight, CNN, the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Real Clear Politics.

Sabato tweeted Tuesday that he was “delighted” with the ranking, especially since his team (comprising himself, managing editor Kyle Kondik and several student interns) is quite small compared to other publications.

“I have a small operation, and to come out No. 1 with a small team is very exciting,” he said. “The lion’s share of the credit should go to Kyle and our student interns, who were just terrific.”

Sabato’s team predicted that Democrats would pick up 34 or more seats in the House, 11 more than the 23 the party needed to gain control. In the end, after a few tight races were recounted, Democrats picked up 40 seats.

Cohen’s rankings focused not just on overall results, but on how well each site analyzed every one of the 435 House races, which Sabato’s team characterized as either “Safe Democrat,” “Likely Democrat,” “Leans Democrat,” “Safe GOP,” “Leans GOP” or “Likely GOP.”

Cohen speculated that Sabato’s decision to eliminate a “Toss-Up” category, urging his team to call every race while other sites deemed them too close to call, vaulted the Crystal Ball ahead of its peers.

“It is interesting that our winner was the only contestant that made a call on every race,” Cohen wrote. “Fortune truly favors the bold.”

Sabato and his team founded the Crystal Ball in 2002. Ever since, they have been carefully keeping tabs on both presidential elections and every race for the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and state governorships, using polls and other quantitative analysis as well as qualitative assessments of the political climate and each district in contention.

Numerous student interns contribute to the publication, helping Kondik and Sabato parse all of the information they receive and present it in an interesting, engaging manner.

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Caroline Newman

Senior Writer and Assistant Editor of Illimitable Office of University Communications