Study Shows Santorum Does Better Than Primary Polls Predict

A University of Minnesota study shows Rick Santorum has been consistently beating his poll numbers ahead of primaries.

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Polls out Monday show former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney heading steadily toward victory in Ohio, but the University of Minnesota's Eric J. Ostermeier warns: don't underestimate the power of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum just yet.

Ostermeier's study of more than 40 polls leading up to state contests reveals, on average, Santorum earns almost 5 percentage points more votes than polls predicted leading into a state's primary or caucuses, a clear message that Santorum is scooping up a large number of undecided voters in the closing days leading up to a state's contest. [Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]

Texas Congressman Ron Paul was another candidate who is underestimated in the polls, while Romney usually receives a little less support in primaries  than polling predicts. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich fared the worst, typically earning 2.3 percentage points less support on election day than anticipated in final polls. [See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Ostermeier predicts that delegate-rich Ohio will be the state to watch as polling is among the tightest of any of the Super Tuesday contests.

And while the margin of error and undecided voters account for inconsistencies between predictive polling and actual votes received, Ostermeier points to the volatility of the 2012 GOP contest as the main reason why it has been difficult to calculate a candidate's amount of support this year.

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