In the tight 2004 campaign, the polls that asked Americans which candidate they supported — all the way up to the exit polls — told a confusing story about whether President George W. Bush or Senator John Kerry would win.
But another kind of polling question, which received far less attention, produced a clearer result: Regardless of whom they supported, which candidate did people expect to win? Americans consistently, and correctly, said that they thought Mr. Bush would.
A version of that question has produced similarly telling results throughout much of modern polling history, according to a new academic study. Over the last 60 years, poll questions that asked people which candidate they expected to win have been a better guide to the outcome of the presidential race than questions asking people whom they planned to vote for, the study found.
The Wisdom of the crowd? When they aren't completely mad, crowds also know things.