Larry Sabato

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Larry Sabato
Sabato (left) with guest lecturer Hillary Rodham Clinton during his American Politics 101 class on February 11, 2008.
Born Larry Joseph Sabato
(1952-08-07) August 7, 1952 (age 69)
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Occupation Professor
Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics

Larry Joseph Sabato (/ˈsæbət/; born August 7, 1952) is an American political scientist and political analyst. He is the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, where he is also the founder and director of the Center for Politics, the mission of which is to promote civic engagement and participation.[1] The Center for Politics is also responsible for the publication of Sabato's Crystal Ball, an online newsletter and website that provides free political analysis and electoral projections.

Early life and education

Sabato grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, graduating from Norfolk Catholic High School in 1970. Four years later, he graduated from the University of Virginia. A 1974 Cavalier Daily poll showed more people could identify Sabato as student government president than could name Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. as University president.[2] Sabato graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in government. He followed his undergraduate degree with graduate study at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs for one year. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1975, which brought him to study at Queen's College at Oxford University. In less than two years he earned his doctorate in politics from Oxford.[3]

Prior to his time as a political analyst, Sabato worked for nine years with Virginia Democratic politician Henry Howell. At the age of 15, Sabato joined Howell's first campaign for the Virginia governorship in 1968, and then worked on his successful run for lieutenant governor in 1971, and his campaigns for governor in 1973 and 1977.[2]

Sabato is of Italian heritage.


Before becoming an academician at the University of Virginia, Sabato had already established a reputation as a published expert on the rise of two-party politics in the Southern United States, particularly with his 1977 publication of The Democratic Party Primary in Virginia: Tantamount to Election No Longer.[4] See also Solid South and tantamount to election.

In 1978, Sabato became a member of the faculty at the University of Virginia. Sabato has engaged in 30 years of research and taught more than 14,000 students.[5]

He is a University Professor and the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.[3]

In 2005, Sabato made a $1 million contribution to UVA, the largest gift ever given by a faculty member.[5]


Sabato has authored over twenty books on politics; his best-known volumes include Feeding Frenzy: Attack Journalism and American Politics and The Rise of Political Consultants: New Ways of Winning Elections.

In January 2011, he published Pendulum Swing, which analyzed the 2010 midterm elections and the potential effect of Republican victories on the 2012 presidential, congressional, and state-level elections.[6]

Prior to Pendulum Swing, Sabato authored The Year of Obama in 2009 and A More Perfect Constitution in 2007, which discussed his ideas for amending the U.S. Constitution. Other Sabato books include The Sixth Year Itch: The Rise and Fall of the George W. Bush Presidency, Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election, and Get in the Booth! A Citizen's Guide to the 2004 Election. He also issues a political newsletter, Sabato's Crystal Ball. He has written textbooks used by high school and college American government classes. He has been a frequent guest analyst on cable news outlets as well as radio programs.

He has published a new book, The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy.[7] The book was released by Bloomsbury USA, New York on October 15, 2013. It focuses on John F. Kennedy's life, administration, and assassination and contains research from focus groups, polling, and interviews with key players and eyewitnesses.

Sabato's Crystal Ball

Sabato's Crystal Ball is run by the University of Virginia Center for Politics in Charlottesville. The site contains up-to-date analysis of an array of political races around the United States. It developed from an effort to inform and motivate the nation's citizens about the political process. It follows presidential elections, as well as each Senate, House, and gubernatorial contest. The Crystal Ball is a free public service intended to interest both the average voter and political junkies.


Prior to the 2002 midterm elections, where the Republican Party saw gains in both branches of Congress, Sabato's Crystal Ball website accurately predicted the outcome in 433 of the 435 contests for the House of Representatives and 32 of 34 Senate races.[8]

In 2004, which saw Republicans retain the White House and gain seats in the House and Senate, Crystal Ball correctly predicted the outcome of 525 of the 530 political races (99% accuracy), missing only one House race, one Senate race, one governor's race and two states in the Electoral College.[9]

In August 2006, Crystal Ball predicted that the Democrats would gain 29 seats in the House of Representatives and 6 seats in the Senate, providing them with a majority in both chambers. Sabato's predictions proved correct: each of his 33 Senate predictions were accurate, and in the House, Democrats gained 29 seats on election night, the precise total predicted by the Crystal Ball (Democrats would go on to pick up a 30th seat in the December 12, 2006 run-off in Texas' 23rd district).[10]

In 2006 Sabato was named the most accurate prognosticator by MSNBC, CNBC, and Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism. In 2006, Sabato was the only national analyst who correctly predicted the exact Democratic gains in Senate and House contests.[10]

In July 2008, Crystal Ball correctly projected that Barack Obama would win the presidency in a near-landslide.[11] Sabato predicted a 364–174 margin in the Electoral College, as well as the popular vote percentages.[12] The prediction was merely one point off the mark, with the actual result on November 4, 2008 being Obama 365 and McCain 173. (It did not predict an Obama win in Nebraska's 2nd congressional district.) Crystal Ball also accurately predicted 100% of all 35 Senate races, and 11 gubernatorial races correctly.[13]

In November 2010, Crystal Ball projected that Republicans would pick up 55 seats in the House of Representatives.[14] The Republicans picked up 63 House seats. It predicted a pickup of 8 seats in the Senate for Republicans.[15] The Republicans picked up 6 Senate seats.[16]

In 2012, Crystal Ball projected that Obama would win the presidency with 290 electoral votes to 248 for Romney; there would be no change in partisan makeup of the Senate, with Democrats at 53 and Republicans at 47; and Democrats would pick up 3 seats in the House of Representatives, for a result of 239 Republicans and 196 Democrats.[17] The projection was similar to the actual results, but Crystal Ball under-estimated Obama's number of electoral votes (332) and under-estimated Democratic victories in both the Senate (Democrats picked up two seats) and in the House (Democrats picked up eight seats).

Earmark controversy

In June 2009, it was revealed that Sabato's Center for Politics had been the recipient of over seven million dollars in earmark money from Congressman Virgil Goode, whom Sabato predicted would win re-election in 2008, despite declining poll numbers; Goode ultimately lost the race by fewer than 800 votes out of about 316,000 votes cast.[18] One observer suggested that Sabato should have revealed his Center's financial connection to Goode or recused himself from making predictions about the race.[19]


  1. "Staff, Center for Politics, University of Virginia". Retrieved 11 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Life of Larry: How Sabato faces the election". The Hook. November 2, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Sabato profile". Crystal Ball.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977, ISBN 0-8139-0726-8 and ISBN 978-0-8139-0726-0.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Cohen, Mark Francis (April–May 2005). "The Quote Machines". American Journalism Review.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Center for Politics Announces Release Of "Pendulum Swing"". Retrieved 26 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "The Kennedy Half-Century – Notes – Facebook". Facebook. Retrieved 26 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "ELECTION 2002: How the CB fared..." (PDF). Center for Politics, University of Virginia.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "A Look Back, A Look Forward". Center for Politics, University of Virginia. November 9, 2004.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 "News Networks Recognize Success of 'Sabato's Crystal Ball'". UVA Today. University of Virginia. November 10, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "The Myth of a Toss-Up Election". July 24, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "The Last Last Word". November 3, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "The Election Without End". November 6, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 2010 Election Special November 1, 2012
  15. Election Eve Special November 1, 2010
  16. GOP picks up Senate seats but falls short of majority November 3, 2010
  17. "Projection: Obama Will Likely Win Second Term". Retrieved 26 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Ben Smith. "Ben Smith, Sabato's program earmark dries up, The Politico, June 19, 2009". Retrieved 26 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Greg Sargent, Larry Sabato And The D.C. Pundit-Industrial Complex, The Plum Line, June 19, 2009". Retrieved 26 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links