How did the pollsters do in Iowa? Fairly well, except for one thing: They greatly underestimated the strength of Pat Robertson.
The Des Moines Register's final poll of likely caucus participants, for example, published one day before the vote, was strikingly on target with all of the Republicans except the former TV evangelist.
The Register's Iowa Poll ranked the candidates as follows: Bob Dole, 37%; George Bush, 23%; Robertson, 13%; Jack Kemp, 11%; Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV, 7%, and Alexander M. Haig Jr., 1%, with 8% undecided.
The actual vote tally on Monday: Dole, 37%; Robertson, 25%; Bush, 19%; Kemp, 11%; Du Pont, 7%, and Haig, less than 1%. Even the figure for Bush was within the poll's 4 percentage point margin of error.
For the Democrats, the Iowa Poll ranked the candidates this way: Richard A. Gephardt, 25%; Paul Simon, 19%; Michael S. Dukakis, 15%; Jesse Jackson, 9%; Bruce Babbitt, 9%; Gary Hart, 7%, and Albert Gore, 1%, with 15% undecided.
The actual vote outcome: Gephardt, 28%; Simon, 24%; Dukakis, 21%; Jackson, 11%; Babbitt, 9%; Hart, 1%; Gore, less than 1%, and 6% for "uncommitted."
The Los Angeles Times Poll of probable Iowa caucus-goers, taken three weeks ago, saw it this way: Dole, 41%; Bush, 28%; Robertson, 10%; Kemp, 9%; Du Pont, 6%, and Haig, 1%, with 5% undecided. For the Democrats, it was Gephardt, 23%; Simon, 21%; Dukakis, 15%; Hart, 12%; Babbitt, 11%; Jackson, 8%, and Gore, 1%, with 9% undecided. The margin of error was 5 percentage points for each party.