Pollster.com

September 21, 2008 - September 27, 2008

 

US: Daily Tracking (9/24-26)


National Daily Tracking Surveys
9/24-26/08

DailyKos.com (D) / Research 2000
1,100 LV, 3%; Live Telephone Interviews
Obama 49, McCain 43

Diageo / Hotline
914 RV, 3.2%; Live Telephone Interviews
Obama 48, McCain 43

Gallup
2,759 RV, 2%; Live Telephone Interviews
Obama 49, McCain 44

Rasmussen
3,000 LV, 2%; IVR
Obama 50, McCain 44


(Very Late) Status Update

Topics: Status Update

Well, obviously, we've been a little preoccupied with cleaning up some issues with the new charts today, so the "lunchtime" update is a bit late today. Since I did the update at the crack of dawn yesterday, this one incorporates 34 polls logged since then.

As has been the pattern for the last week or so, the new surveys are a mix of ongoing weekly tracking programs, updates from surveys conducted before the conventions, and first polls in each state for a given organization.  So it is hard to see clear patterns with apples-to-apples comparisons, but of the five surveys tracking since earlier in September, all five showed movement to Obama.  On one example of such movement, four new surveys in Michigan which helped move that state back to the "lean Obama" classification.

The bad news for Obama -- at least in terms of our map -- is that we had two new polls showing movement to McCain in three states, Montana, West Virginia and Maine, where polls have been rare this year. As explained earlier in the week, our trend lines in these states are considerably more sensitive to individual polls. Partly for that reason, we had both states classified as toss-ups. Both moved into the McCain column on our map. Montana moved all the way to strong Republican.  So the

But when we look at movement at the state level aside from Montana and West Virginia, the larger pattern is mostly in Obama's direction in the statewide polls.

2008-09-26 trends.png

The update of Charles Franklin's mashup chart of all of the state level polls (which he ran first thing this morning) continues to show a trend favoring Obama. Not obvious from this chart is that the slope of the "all states" trendline steepened since yesterday, with the Obama margin now stands at 4.1, up from 1.8 on Thursday.

2008-09-26_BluesRedsSwingAndTU.png

Starting today, we're adding a "national forces" chart that compares the trend in the Obama-minus-McCain margin from the national polls to the mashup of all state polls. The national poll margin had tightened slightly as of yesterday.

2008-09-26NationalForces.png

However, as as partly noted by TPM's Greg Sargent, four of the five 3-day tracking surveys showed some movement in Barack Obama's direction as compared to yesterday (and today's trackers are not yet included in Franklin's chart from this morning -- Sargent left out the GWU/Battleground survey which had a one point move to McCain).

This raises a side point I have been wondering about since the number of daily trackers expanded to five (and counting).  Typically, the movement on any one the daily tracking surveys is too small to be considered statistically meaningful. And when two move one way and three move the other, we can usually assume that we are mostly seeing statistical noise in the variation.

But if public opinion is unchanged, the movement of the Obama-McCain margin in one direction or the other should be as random as a flip of a coin. And it is hard to flip a coin five times and have it come up heads four out of five flips. I had been tempted at one point to plug some numbers into my favorite binomial probability calculator and figure out the odds of consistent movement by 4 of 5 tracks or by all 5 Of course, the day-to-day movement is not strictly comparable to the flip of a coin, since "no change" has no coin equivalent.

So I toss this question to our more remarkably statistically astute readers: Is it possible to calculate the odds of 4 of 5 tracking surveys moving, even slightly, in the direction of one candidate? What do we do about the odds of no-change? And would this be a one or two-tailed test?


What the Bailout Polls Really Tell Us


Three polls, all at the same time, give three wildly contradictory pictures of the American public. The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll says the public opposes taxpayer bailout of Wall Street by 55 percent to 31 percent, a result cited on CNN by David Gergen the night the poll was published. He used the poll to illustrate his point that "the American people" were angry with the thought of using government funds to help Wall Street firms. That theme seemed to dominate several of the networks' coverage of the issue, though it was contradicted by a Pew Research poll, published the same day as the Times/Bloomberg poll. Pew found that "Most Approve of Wall Street Bailout" (by a margin of 57 percent to 30 percent). Either a 24-point margin against the bailout, or a 27-point margin in favor. Could there be any greater demonstration of how confusing the media polls are to anyone who genuinely cares about what the public thinks? But then there is the Washington Post/ABC poll published the very same day as the other two, showing a very different public, one that finds "Tepid Public Approval for Fed Action," by a statistically insignificant difference of 44 percent to 42 percent.

ABC's Gary Langer acknowledges these discrepant results, writing that "Some analysts might say the results are contradictory; I'd suggest instead that we learn more, not less, by comparing and contrasting them." The "instead" clause seems like a non sequitur to me - it is obviously true that the results are contradictory and, yes, we can also learn "more, not less" by examining their contradictions. Perhaps especially enlightening, besides the fact that each polling organization phrased the questions differently (giving different information to the respondents), is Langer's point that only 27 percent of respondents had "strongly" held views - 9 percent in favor, 18 percent opposed. It hardly portrays the public as fighting mad against the government's plan to address the economic crisis, when almost three-quarters of the public seems more tentative than decisive.

Two days later, a CBS/New York Times poll found what might best be described as "tepid opposition" to the federal government's bailout plan - 42 percent who approve to 46 percent who disapprove. But after asking respondents about that plan (without specifying the details), the poll then gave respondents limited information about the plan Congress is working on, principally that the government would "provide" $700 billion of government funds to financial service companies in danger of going bankrupt. The question then asked if respondents thought it was a good idea or a bad idea, or "don't you know enough to say?" With that formulation, the poll found 38 percent opposed, 16 percent in favor, and 46 percent without an opinion.

An examination of all the poll results suggests a public that is mostly taking a wait-and-see attitude toward whatever plan the president and Congress might finally adopt, a conclusion that was hardly the dominant theme of any network, nor of any news media organization conducting its own polls. That the public might be ambivalent is not surprising, given how confusing the actual events have proven to be. As Langer notes, the vast majority of people don't feel strongly one way or the other. Moreover, as the CBS/NYT poll shows, close to half of the public expresses no opinion, when explicitly given that option. I suspect the percentage would have been even higher, if the poll hadn't given respondents information about the plan and then asked their immediate reaction to it. (It is also likely the direction of the results would have been different, if the information provided to the respondents had been more objective - perhaps including mentions of oversight, control of CEO salaries, public equity in the companies, and/or the "investment" character of the funds, rather than the implication that the money would be handed out to the companies with no strings attached).

It's true as Langer notes, that we pollsters can learn a great deal by examining the results of contradictory poll results. But that doesn't address the larger problem of how the general public and political leaders view them. We may think conflicting poll results are enlightening, but I suspect to many others, they merely demonstrate how untrustworthy polls are in the first place.


VA: Obama 50, McCain 45 (9/25)

Topics: PHome

Rasmussen Reports
9/25/08; 700 LV, 4%
Mode: IVR

Virginia
Obama 50, McCain 45


MO: McCain 48, Obama 46 (9/23-24)

Topics: PHome

SurveyUSA
9/23-24/08; 705 LV, 3.8%
Mode: IVR

Missouri
McCain 48, Obama 46
Gov: Nixon (D) 54, Hulshof (R) 37


Cell Phone Only Households by State


There has been a lot of discussion of the Pew Report released earlier this week that shows that including cell-phone only respondents does appear to make a 2-3% difference in the presidential preference polling (see Mark's post). What's most intriguing to me is how this would play out at the state level. Indeed, it seems very unlikely that every state has the same percentage of cell phone only households. Thus, in states with fewer cell-phone only users, the effect of excluding such respondents may have less of an effect on the poll results. On the other hand, states where there are more cell-phone only households may have polling that is further off the mark.

I was hoping to be able to easily find some survey data with enough respondents to get a sense of the prevalence of cell-phone only households in each state. Unfortunately, the 2007 CDC data that is often cited provides more than enough national interviews to accomplish this task, but the dataset hides the state of the respondent, only allowing users to place respondents in a particular Census Region. Nevertheless, we can learn a little about geographical variance from this data. Specifically, families in the South and Midwest are more likely to have cell phones only compared to states in the West and Northeast. Based on this data, we should expect polling from southern and midwestern states to be more prone to error from the cell-phone only problem than polling in other regions.

cell_region.PNG

Another source of data that may be of some use in answering this question is the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. (In the interests of disclosure, I should say that I am involved in the 2008 version of this study, though I had no role in the 2006 version.) This was a large (approximately 30,000 respondents) internet survey conducted by YouGov/Polimetrix using a matched random sample design. Because this is an internet survey, it probably isn't as ideal for addressing this question as the CDC survey would be. However, the sample was stratified to assure that there would be a large enough sample from each state and since the state of the respondent is available for this data (and isn't for the CDC data), it is the one decent way I've found of breaking out cell-phone only figures by state.

In this survey, 10.6% of respondents indicated that they only had a cell-phone (this is smaller than the percentage cited in the CDC survey, though the CDC survey was conducted a year later). Most interesting is the variation across states. The map below shows this variance.

cellonly_states.PNG

Some of the swing states that stand out as having higher than average cell-phone only users are Montana (21%), Oregon (17%), Virginia (15.7%), Wisconsin (15.3%) and Minnesota (15.1%). (Keep in mind that these figures are from two years ago). If this survey is providing reasonably accurate figures on cell-phone only users, then it may be the case that polling of these states would be particularly prone to under-stating support for Obama. It may also explain why the polling in some of these states (for example, Virginia) has been so erratic.

Of course, these data may be problematic and should be taken with some caution. If anyone has ideas about other sources that could be used to compile state-by-state measures of cell-phone only households, please let me know. If excluding cell-phone only respondents does matter, then it would be nice to have a strong sense of where it will matter most.


MO: McCain 47, Obama 46 (R2K-9/22-24)

Topics: PHome

St Louis Post Dispatch / Research 2000
9/22-24/08; 800 LV, 3.5%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Missouri
McCain 47, Obama 46


New Charts for Polls, Polls, Polls

Topics: Charts , Pollster.com , Trend lines

A little over two years ago, we launched Pollster.com with a mission of providing a complete compilation of poll results, expert analysis and graphical tools to help readers make sense of polling data. Today, after two long years of development, our commitment to interactive graphical tools takes a quantum leap.


At a moment when the political world is swimming in a flood of polling data, we are pleased to announce a new, fully interactive Flash chart application that will plot all of the poll charts here on Pollster.com. The new charts allow you to:

  • Select or limit the polls used to draw trend lines and calculate polling estimates with the "filter" tool. If you don't like a particular pollster, just un-click and take them out (yes...really).
  • Toggle between the display of the default trend line and alternatives that are more or less sensitive using the "smoothing" tool -- these are essentially the same as the "steady blue" and "ready red" trend lines often used by Charles Franklin.
  • Hold your mouse over any data point to display details about each the poll.
  • Click the mouse on any data point to "connect the dots" between all polls fielded by that pollster.
  • Modify the date range (x-axis) and percentage range (y-axis) by clicking on either axis directly or with forms found on the "tools" menu.
  • Select the candidates you want to see displayed on the chart with the "choices" tool .
  • Toggle the display of data points, trend lines and grid lines on or off with the "plot" tools.
  • Copy the code necessary to bookmark your customized chart or share it via email with the "URL" tool.
  • Get the code necessary to place a small version of the customized chart on your own blog or web site with the "Embed" tool.  [Update: We believe we've squashed the embed bug.  If you experience problems with the embed tool or anything else, please email us with details at questions at pollster dot com.  We missed a bugin the embed function that prevents the embedded chart from displaying customized filters.  Apologies -- we should have this cleaned up soon]

As of this posting, we have converted our charts for all presidential charts, including Ohio, Colorado, Virginia , Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, Minnesota and the National Trend to the new chart, and we should have most of the presidential charts converted over the course of the day. Although we hope you will dive right in and try these new features, we have also created a quick video guided tour of some of the most important features.




We are really excited about the possibilities these new tools create for poll junkies to explore and discover the wealth of data now available and how you are too. So if you like If you like what you see, we hope that you share this news with your friends. If you have a blog or diary, we would very much appreciate a link to this entry and please try out the embedding feature to see how it works. I'll be back later with some extra tips on how to use the charts. Meanwhile, please don't hesitate to email us with your questions or reactions.

Where credit is due: A lot of very talented people worked exceptionally hard to make these new charts possible, but most deserving of thanks are Quentin Fountain and Technorganix (for Flash design and development), Jeff Lewis and Seth Hill (for development of the underlying database and statistical architecture), Charles Franklin (for the design of the original charts and the regression trend lines and smoothing routines) and, last but not least, Eric Dienstfrey, who has entered virtually every piece of the data now displayed on Pollster.com and is doing the nitty gritty work of implementing these charts and keeping Pollster operating every day.  Update: I nearly forgot to thank those of you -- and you know who you are -- who helped beta test these charts over the past week.


StrategicVision: MI, NH (9/22-24)

Topics: PHome

Strategic Vision (R)
9/22-24/08; 1,200 LV, 3%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Michigan
Obama 48, McCain 45

New Hampshire
Obama 46, McCain 45


Scoring the Debate (If It Happens)


My weekly NationalJournal.com column, on the challenges of using surveys to "score" debate winners, is now posted.

points up one of the challenges of writing an edited column as compared to a blog. On the one hand, the first rate copy editing of my National Journal colleagues cleans up my prose considerably, and cuts way down on the typos. On the other hand, there is more of a lag between when I write and when the column goes online.

When I turned in my copy earlier in the week, no one would have imagined that the scheduled candidate's debate might not occur. But as of this writing, John McCain's desire to skip Friday night's debate means it may not happen, at least not this week.

As I note in the column, the presidential debates really have become a unique event in American politics: The one moment when the vast majority of voters tunes in, the one time when both candidates have a truly captive audience that will sit and listen to them for 90 minutes. No other event in the presidential campaign, and no campaign for any other office, attracts as great a share of the electorate for as much time. From the column:

Four years ago, according to Nielsen Media Research, 62.5 million Americans watched the first debate between John Kerry and George W. Bush. That fell short of the record 80.6 million that saw Ronald Reagan debate Jimmy Carter in 1980, but it was an enormous audience nonetheless.

All indications are that that interest in Friday's debate is as high as the that in 2004. "Fully 58% of Americans say they are very likely to watch the debate," the Pew Research Center reports today, "while 24% said they are somewhat likely to tune in. When the asked the same question four years ago, 61% said they were very likely to watch, compared to 43% just before the 2000 debates.

That interest, and the likely audience size it implies, underscores the risk that McCain is taking.

A side point that is less relevant if the debate gets pushed back; The degree to which presidential debates have the potential to be "decisive" or "game changing" may seem to stir disagreement, but that may depend on whether you see the glass as, 98% empty (if you will) or 2% full. The past polling data crunched by Tom Holbrook and Gallup's Lydia Saad suggest that changes they produce in the horse race numbers are typically small. As Nate Silver puts it, "the typical debate [from 1988 to 2000] moved the national polling trend support by an average of 2 points." But in a race that has been as close at it is, that 2% could be very decisive.


Rasmussen: NC, MA (9/23)

Topics: PHome

Rasmussen Reports
9/23/08
Mode: IVR

Massachusetts 500 LV, 4.5%
Pres results coming soon...
Sen: Kerry (D-i) 65, Beatty (R) 30

North Carolina 500 LV, 4.5%
Obama 49, McCain 47
Sen: Hagan (D) 48, Dole (R-i) 45, Cole (L) 2


Internet Service Interruption


Sorry to all for the slow pace of updates today. We have had an Internet service interruption that's kept us offline for much of the afternoon. We seem to be back online...for the moment at least.


NationalJournal: MI, NH, PA (9/18-22)

Topics: PHome

Allstate / National Journal
9/18-22/08
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(source)

Michigan 406 RF, 4.9%
Obama 47, McCain 39

New Hampshire 403 RV, 4.9%
Obama 44, McCain 43

Pennsylvania 406 RV, 4.9%
Obama 43, McCain 41


SurveyUSA: NY, PA (9/23-24)

Topics: PHome

SurveyUSA
9/23-24/08
Mode: IVR

New York State 668 LV, 3.8%
Obama 57, McCain 38

Pennsylvania 1,094 LV, 3%
Obama 50, McCain 44


US: Obama 47, McCain 44 (DemCorps-9/22-24)

Topics: PHome

Democracy Corps (D) /
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D)
9/22-24/08; US - 1,007 LV 3%, Battleground - 1,128 LV 3%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

National
Obama 47, McCain 44, Nader 2, Barr 2, Paul 0

Battleground States *
Obama 47, McCain 46, Barr 2, Nader 1

* CA, IA, IN, FL, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NH, NM, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI


SurveyUSA: MA, DE (9/22-23)

Topics: PHome

SurveyUSA
9/22-23/08
Mode: IVR

Massachusetts 679 LV, 3.8%
Obama 55, McCain 39
Sen: Kerry (D-i) 63, Beatty (R) 25

Delaware 703 LV, 3.7%
Obama 57, McCain 37
Sen: Biden (D-i) 64, O'Donnell (R) 32
Gov: Markell (D) 64, Lee (R) 29, Protack (I) 3


OR: Obama 52, McCain 41 (SurveyUSA-9/22-23)

Topics: PHome

SurveyUSA
9/22-23/08; 708 LV, 3.8%
Mode: IVR

Oregon
Obama 52, McCain 41
Sen: Merkley (D) 44, Smith (R-i) 42


Morning Update for 9/25

Topics: Status Update

With a very busy day ahead, I'm doing this update early today. We logged another 15 statewide polls yesterday after my noon update, including three new surveys in the crucial battleground state of Colorado, two in Pennsylvania, and one each in two states on the margins of competitiveness, West Virginia and Montana.

A new CNN/Time survey in Montana -- only the seventh there this year and the third this month -- gives John McCain an 11-point lead (54% to 43%). Our regression trend lines are especially sensitive where polls are sparse, so this one new survey doubles McCain's lead to a nearly five-point advantage (50.6% to 45.7%). That margin shifts Montana from toss-up to lean McCain, adding three electoral votes to McCain's total on our map.

News for Barack Obama was better in Colorado where three new surveys all have him leading by more than our previous trend estimate. At noon yesterday, our trend estimate gave Obama a 2.7% lead in Colorado, but new polls by CNN/Time, InsiderAdvantage and Rasmussen Reports had him ahead by more than that. The three polls bumped Obama's Colorado lead on our trend estimate up a full percentage point, he now leads 49.3% to 45.6%, which remains just barely in the toss-up category.

2008-09-25 battleground.jpg

Below I am adding what will hopefully become a regular feature of these updates, an up-to-date version of Charles Franklin's roll-up chart of trends all states and in the states we are currently classifying as toss-up or favoring one candidate or the other (see his 9/15 post for more explanation). All four categories show that the Obama September rebound has now more than eliminated the post convention bounce for the McCain-Palin ticket.

BluesReds-09-25-2008.jpg


ME: Obama 49, McCain 44 (SurveyUSA-9/22-23)

Topics: PHome

SurveyUSA
9/22-23/08; 675 LV, 3.8%
Mode: IVR

Maine
Obama 49, McCain 44
Sen: Collins (R-i) 55, Allen (D) 39


Now That Was Quick


I am all for innovation in survey research, and the pollsters at SurveyUSA deserve a great deal of credit for their efforts to push the envelope of innovation and accuracy over the years. But there are times when I wish they would slow down a bit.

I just received an email notification of a new SurveyUSA poll that interviewed 1,000 Americans by telephone over the last two hours, getting their views on whether Friday's debate should go forward, whether the candidates should suspend their campaigns in response to the "turmoil on Wall Street?" .

Click through to the link above to see the results, though here's the short version: The overwhelming majority of the respondents want to see the debate go forward, although as far as I can tell, the questions made no mention of John McCain's 3:00 p.m. announcement that he is "suspending" his campaign.

Setting aside the results aside, however, we ought to stop and ask ourselves: Does it make any sense to try to interview 1,000 Americans over a two-hour span in the middle of a work day?

Presumably anticipating that sort of question, SurveyUSA offers the following "caveats:"

This survey was completed in middle of unprecedented and fast-changing news events. This survey should be viewed as a freeze-frame snapshot of public opinion at a unique moment in American history. Opinions can and should be expected to change as news events unfold. SurveyUSA did not characterize Senator McCain's comments nor Senator Obama's comments in any way in the research questionnaire.

Yes, of course, the opinions expressed are liable to change. Republicans, for example, would likely have reacted differently had they heard about McCain's announcement. But the caveat misses a bigger problem. It is an extreme stretch to treat a bunch of calls made over the span of an hour or two on a Wednesday afternoon as a representative snapshot of what "Americans" are thinking. Rather, what we have is a snapshot of the public opinion of those Americans who happened to be at home during the daytime weighted demographically to match all Americans.

And if you think that demographic weights can make a potential skew this big disappear, read the post on cell phones from last night. Approximately 15% of American in cell-phone only households are missing from surveys that sample only landline phones. How many were missing from this quick reaction poll because they were at work?

Typos corrected.


US: Obama 48, McCain 46 (NBCWSJ-9/19-22)

Topics: PHome

NBC News / Wall Street Journal
9/19-22/08; 1,085 RV, 3%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(NBC story, results; WSJ story, results)

National
Obama 48, McCain 46
(9/8: Obama 47, McCain 46)


StrategicVision: FL, PA (9/21-23)

Topics: PHome

Strategic Vision (R)
9/21-23/08; 1,200 LV, 3%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Florida
McCain 48, Obama 45

Pennsylvania
Obama 47, McCain 46


CNN/TIME: CO, MI, PA, WV, MT (9/21-23)

Topics: PHome

CNN / TIME / ORC
9/21-23/08
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(source)

Colorado 794 LV, 3.5%
Obama 51, McCain 47
Obama 49, McCain 45, Nader 3, Barr 1, McKinney 0

Michigan 755 LV, 3.5%
Obama 51, McCain 46
Obama 49, McCain 43, Nader 3, Barr 2, McKinney 1

Pennsylvania 730 LV, 3.5%
Obama 53, McCain 44
OBama 51, McCain 43, Nader 3, Barr 1

West Virginia 694 LV, 3.5%
McCain 50, Obama 46
McCain 49, Obama 44, Nader 5, McKinney 1

Montana 737 LV, 3.5%
McCain 54, Obama 43
McCain 49, Obama 40, Nader 1, Barr 1


CO: Obama 50, McCain 41 (IAdvantage-9/23)

Topics: PHome

InsiderAdvantage
9/23/08; 505 LV, 4.5%
Mode: IVR

Colorado
Obama 50, McCain 41


NV: Obama 47, McCain 45 (NewWest-9/14-19)

Topics: PHome

Project New West (D) /
Myers Research (D) / Grove Insight (D)
9/14-19/08; 600 LV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Nevada
Obama 47, McCain 45


US: Obama 45, McCain 39 (Fox-9/22-23)

Topics: PHome

Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
9/22-23/08; 900 RV, 3%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(story, results)

National
Obama 45, McCain 39


Lunchtime Update for 9/24

Topics: Status Update

The big poll story of the day appears to be this morning's ABC News/Washington Post national poll which shows Barack Obama leading by nine points (52% to 43%) among likely voters and ten points (52% to 42%) among registered voters, easily the biggest lead for Obama registered on a national poll since the Republican conventions.

The McCain campaign hastily convened a conference call on which their pollster, Bill McInturff, called the poll an "unusual outlier that does not represent where this campaign is, (as reported by the Hotline's Jennifer Skalka). He also claimed that the ABC/Post poll included more independents who lean Democratic than other recent polls. About a week ago, it was mostly Democrats complaining about party ID. This week the roles reverse, but my column from last week on the subject is worth reviewing.

[Update - ABC News polling director Gary Langer blogs a response: "The reality is that partisan affiliation in our poll is just about where it's been all year - and just about where McInturff himself said it might end up on Election Day"].

For what it's worth, the ABC/Post poll typically gets a smaller undecided than other polls, and shows just 3% in that category in their latest poll. And while on the high side for Obama, the survey is within the range of variation we typically see in the national surveys.

Our statewide numbers continue to show a close contest in battleground states, we have logged in 19 new surveys since this hour yesterday. A new survey sponsored by the website Inside Michigan Politics shows John McCain with a three point lead narrows our estimate for that state by just enough to move Michigan back to "toss-up" status.

Again, keep in mind that these designations are automated and are dependent on the size of a candidate's lead and the average number of interviews across all surveys released in that state. To help provide more context I've put together the following table showing our current estimates in 15 battleground states, the average sample sizes in each and the trends over the last several days.

2008-09-24 battleground.png

The line between "lean" and "toss-up" is at a roughly 3.5-3.6 margin. We have had Obama slightly ahead of McCain during September, but the margin jumped from 3.2 to 3.8 back to 3.2, which has shifted Michigan in and out of the lean Obama category over the last 48 hours.

The mechanics of our classifications was the subject of some useful discussion and critique in the comments last Friday, that may well continue on this thread. An important point that comes up in this discussion is that the line between "lean" and "toss-up" on our map is somewhat arbitrary and tends to oversimplify finer gradations in these estimates. As reader jme points out, "the map is simply a summary of the more detailed (and accurate) picture painted by the scatterplots and loess curves. Of course, when you summarize fairly rich data like that, some losses are inevitable" (I should add that jme would like to see us classify states differently -- see his comment from yesterday's update).

Most interesting about the current estimates is that if we ignore the classifications and just examine which candidate has a numeric lead, the electoral votes as of today would divide in a perfect 269-269 tie.


MT: Brown 46, Schweitzer 42 (Moore-9/11-12)


Moore Information (R) /
Roy Brown
9/11-12/08; 405 LV, 4.9%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Montana
Gov: Brown (R) 46, Schweitzer (D-i) 42


Rasmussen: NH, HI, CO, AL, MD (9/23)

Topics: PHome

Rasmussen Reports
Mode: IVR

Alabama (9/22/08; 500 LV, 4.5%)
McCain 60, Obama 39
Sen: Sessions (R-i) 59, Figures (D) 30

Colorado (9/23/08; 700 LV, 4%)
Obama 50, McCain 47
Sen: Udall (D) 46, Schaffer (R) 44

Hawaii (9/23/08, 500 LV, 4.5%)
Obama 68, McCain 27

Maryland (9/20/08; 500 LV, 4.5%)
Obama 60, McCain 37

New Hampshire (9/23/08; 700 LV, 4%)
McCain 49, Obama 47
Sen: Sununu (R-i) 52, Shaheen 45


Marist: IA, NH (9/17-21)

Topics: PHome

Marist College
~9/17-21/08
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Iowa 467 LV, 4.5%
Obama 51, McCain 41


New Hampshire 604 LV, 4%
Obama 51, McCain 45


MI: McCain 46, Obama 43 (MRG-9/15-20)

Topics: PHome

Market Research Group of Lansing
9/15-20/08; 600 RV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Michigan
McCain 46, Obama 43


SurveyUSA, KS, SC, WA (9/21-22)

Topics: PHome

SurveyUSA
Mode: IVR

Kansas (9/21-22/08; 666 LV, 3.9%)
McCain 53, Obama 41
Sen: Roberts (R-i) 55, Slattery (D)

South Carolina (9/21-22/08; 690 Adults, 3.8%)
McCain 58, Obama 39
Sen: Graham (R-i) 54, Conley (D) 40

Washington (9/21-22/08; 682 LV, 3.8%)
Obama 54, McCain 43
Gov: Gregoire (D-i) 50, Rossi (R) 48


US: Obama 52, McCain 43 (ABCPost-9/19-23)


ABC News / Washington Post
9/19-23/08; 916 registered voters (+/-3%), 780 likely voters (+/- 3.5%)
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(ABC story, results ; Post story, results)

National
Likely Voters:
Obama 52, McCain 43
(9/7: Obama 47 McCain 49)

Registered Voters:
Obama 52, McCain 42
(9/7: Obama 47, McCain 46)


Pew Research: Missing Cell-Phone Onlys Matter

Topics: 2008 , Cell Phones , Pew Research Center , Scott Keeter

Few in the field of survey research have examined the problem of cell phones and surveys as closely over the last four years as Scott Keeter and his colleagues at the Pew Research Center. They conducted one of the first large-scale political surveys by cell phone two years ago and have been leaders in testing and developing new methods to conduct political surveys by combining samples of landline telephones and cell phone.

Today they released a new must-read report summarizing findings from "three major election surveys [conducted] with both cell phone and landline samples since the conclusion of the primaries." The verdict? "Pew's surveys this year suggest at least the possibility of a small bias in landline surveys."

The key details (emphasis added):

In each of the surveys, there were only small, and not statistically significant, differences between presidential horserace estimates based on the combined interviews and estimates based on the landline surveys only. Yet a virtually identical pattern is seen across all three surveys: In each case, including cell phone interviews resulted in slightly more support for Obama and slightly less for McCain, a consistent difference of two-to-three points in the margin.

09-23-2008_PRC-cell-phones.jpg

Pollsters have long understood that the cell phone only population -- those who have cell phone but no landline telephone service -- tend to be younger, and that the growth of that population has made it more difficult to reach 18-29-year olds. However, the conventional wisdom among pollsters has held that weighting by age could mostly alleviate any potential bias, as they did they did in 2004.

The new Pew report shows why weighting by age may not have the same effect now:

Traditional landline surveys are typically weighted to compensate for age and other demographic differences, but the process depends on the assumption that the people reached over landlines are similar politically to their cell-only counterparts. These surveys suggest that this assumption is increasingly questionable, particularly among younger people. [...]

In the pooled [August-September] data, cell-only young people are considerably less likely than young people reached by landline to identify with or lean to the Republican Party, and even less likely to say they support John McCain. Among landline respondents under age 30, there is an 18-point gap in party identification - 54% identify or lean Democratic while 36% are Republican. Among the cell-only respondents under age 30, there is a 34-point gap - 62% are Democrats, 28% Republican. The difference among registered voters on the horserace is similar: 39% of registered voters under 30 reached by landline favor McCain, compared with just 27% of cell-only respondents. Obama is backed by 52% of landline respondents under 30, compared with 62% of the cell-only.

The roughly two-to-three point difference in the margin favoring Obama is, as it happens, very close to the effect Nate Silver obtained over the weekend by comparing results from pollsters that have been interviewing by cell phone (including Pew) with a control group that has not.

Finally, the Pew Report has a bit of a bonus with implications for the ongoing debate over how to model "likely voters" this year:

While 18-29-year-olds reached by cell phone tend to have less experience voting than their landline counterparts, they are just as interested in the 2008 campaign, and express just as much intention to vote this year.

For all the details, go read the whole thing.


Rasmussen: CA, KS (9/18-22)

Topics: PHome

Rasmussen Reports
500 LV, 4.5%
Mode: IVR

Kansas (9/18)
McCain 58, Obama 38
Sen: Roberts (R-i) 58, Slattery (D) 38

California (9/22)
Obama 56, McCain 39


OH: McCain 46, Obama 46 (IAdvantage-9/22)

Topics: PHome

InsiderAdvantage
9/22/08; 545 LV, 4.1%
Mode: IVR

Ohio
McCain 46, Obama 46


KY: McCain 57, Obama 38 (SurveyUSA-9/21-22)

Topics: PHome

SurveyUSA
9/21-22/08; 672 LV, 3.8%
Mode: IVR

Kentucky
McCain 57, Obama 38
Sen: McConnell (R-i) 49, Lunsford (D) 46


CO: Obama 51, McCain 44 (PPP-9/20-21)

Topics: PHome

Public Policy Polling (D)
9/20-21/08; 1,084 LV, 3%
Mode: IVR

Colorado
Obama 51, McCain 44
Sen: Udall (D) 48, Schaffer (R) 40


Lunchtime Status Update for 9/23

Topics: Status Update

Seventeen new polls logged since yesterday's update help shift five states either away from John McCain or toward Barack Obama:

  • Michigan and Wisconsin (and their combined 27 electoral votes) shift from toss-up back to lean Obama

Thus, our current classification of the Electoral College vote stands at 229 for Obama, 166 for McCain with 143 electoral votes classified as toss-up.

Two minor shifts that do not affect the electoral totals: Oregon moves from lean to strong Obama and Arkansas shifts from lean to strong McCain.

[More to follow shortly]


ARG: AR, MA, OR, PA, VT (9/18-22)

Topics: PHome

American Research Group
~9/18-22/08; 600 LV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(source)

Arkansas
McCain 53, Obama 41

Massachusetts
Obama 55, McCain 39

Oregon
Obama 52, Mcain 41

Pennsylvania
Obama 50, McCain 46

Vermont
Obama 56, McCain 38


US: Obama 48 McCain 46 (ARG-9/20-22)

Topics: PHome

American Research Group
9/20-22/08; 1,200 LV, 3%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

National
Obama 48, McCain 46


IA: Obama 53, McCain 39 (QuadCity-9/15-17)

Topics: PHome

Quad City Times / Research 2000
9/15-17/08; 600 LV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Iowa
Obama 53, McCain 39


FL: Obama 47, McCain 45 (9/16-18)

Topics: PHome

NBC News / Mason-Dixon
9/16-18/08; 625 LV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Florida
Obama 47, McCain 45


NC: McCain 45, Obama 45 (Civitas-9/17-20)

Topics: PHome

Civitas Institute (R)
9/17-20/08; 600 RV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

North Carolina
McCain 45, Obama 45, Barr 1
Sen: Dole (R-i) 43, Hagan (D) 41, Cole (L) 5
Gov: McCrory (R) 43, Perdue (D) 41, Munger (L) 3


Quinnipaic: CO, MI, MN, WI (9/14-21)

Topics: PHome

Quinnipiac Universiy
9/14-21/08
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(source)

Colorado (1,418 LV, 2.6%)
Obama 49, McCain 45

Michigan (1,364 LV, 2.7%)
Obama 48, McCain 44

Minnesota (1,301LV, 2.7%)
Obama 47, McCain 45

Wisconsin (1,313 LV, 2.7%)
Obama 49, McCain 42


NH: McCain 47, Obama 45 (UNH-9/14-21)

Topics: PHome

WMUR / UNH
9/14-21/08; 516 LV, 4.4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

New Hampshire
McCain 47, Obama 45


Rasmussen: FL, MI, OH, PA, VA (9/21)

Topics: PHome

Rasmussen Reports
9/21/08; 500 LV, 4.5%
Mode: IVR
(story, results)

Florida
McCain 51, Obama 46

Michigan
Obama 51, McCain 44

Ohio
McCain 50, Obama 46

Pennsylvania
Obama 48, McCain 45

Virginia
McCain 50, Obama 48


VA: Obama 49, McCain 46 (ABCPost-9/18-21)

Topics: PHome

ABC News / Washington Post
9/18-21/08; 857 RV, 698 LV, 3.5%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(ABC story, results; Post story, results)

Virginia

Likely Voters:
Obama 49, McCain 46

Registered Voters:
Obama 50, McCain 44


US: Obama 51, McCain 47 (CNN-9/19-21)

Topics: PHome

CNN / ORC
9/19-21/08; 697 LV, 3.5%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

National
Obama 51, McCain 47
Obama 48, McCain 45, Nader 4, Barr 1, McKinney 1


NV: McCain 46, Obama 45 (Suffolk-9/17-21)

Topics: PHome

Suffolk University
9/17-21/08; 600 LV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Nevada
McCain 46, Obama 45


NM: Obama 53, McCain 42 (PPP-9/17-19)

Topics: PHome

Public Policy Polling (D)
9/17-19/08; 1,037 LV, 3%
Mode: IVR

New Mexico
Obama 53, McCain 42
Sen: Udall (D) 57, Pearce (R-i) 37


Panagakis: The Hillary Clinton Cross-over Vote


Nick Panagakis is president of Market Shares Corporation, a marketing and public opinion research firm headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill.

Some polls are reporting the cross-over Clinton voters; i.e., the percentage of Clinton primary/caucus voters who tell pollsters they would vote for McCain in November. In the first half of September this was reported by CBS, ABC, Pew, and Quinnipiac polls. Results ranged from 12% to 25%with an average of 19%.

While the numbers are interesting, how will they affect the November election? The findings are in need of some context if you are willing to accept some assumptions

First consider how many votes Clinton won in state primaries and caucuses. According to realclearpolitics.com she won 18 million votes after including Michigan and state caucus estimates. Assuming they all vote in the general election, multiply 18 million by the 19% average above and you get 3.4 million November voters who say they will vote for McCain.

What percentage of the general election vote will they represent? Assuming turnout will be near the record 122 million votes cast in 2004 (source: FEC), those 3.4 million Clinton cross-over voters represent 2.8% of all voters. If similar magnitudes of Clinton voters make good on their intentions in states that prove to be battlegrounds, this could make the difference in a close election.

This year the Democratic primary remained a tight contest much longer keeping many Clinton voter hopes alive so similar cross-over data from past elections may not be useful.

Another benchmark would be cross-over Democratic voters voting for any Republican candidate in past exit polls. The New York Times "Super Table" of past exit poll results provides answers. 1992 to 2004 exit polls show 10% or 11% of Democrats voting for the Republican candidate. (Earlier years are much higher due to Reagan Democrats, not likely based on pre-election polls this year.)

In three of those last four elections Democrats won the popular vote overcoming the 10%-11% Democratic cross-overs who voted for the Republican. So the question becomes: will that 2.8% of Clinton cross-over voters add to those numbers or be mostly included in those numbers?


PA: Obama 46, McCain 44 (NBC-9/16-18)

Topics: PHome

NBC News / Mason-Dixon
9/16-18/08; 625 LV, 3.9%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Pennsylvania
Obama 46, McCain 44


US: Daily Tracking (9/21)

Topics: PHome

National Daily Tracking Surveys
End date: 9/21/08

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
1,100 LV, 3%; Live Telephone Interviews
Obama 49, McCain 43

Diageo / Hotline
915 RV, 3.2%: Live Telephone Interviews
Obama 47, McCain 42

Gallup
2,740 RV, 2%; Live Telephone Interviews
Obama 48, McCain 44

GWU Battleground / Tarrance (R) / Lake (D)
800 LV, 3.5%; Live Telephone Interviews
McCain 48, Obama 47

Rasmussen
3,000 LV, 2%; IVR
Obama 48, McCain 47


VA: Obama 51, McCain 45 (SurveyUSA-9/19-21)

Topics: PHome

SurveyUSA
9/19-21/08; 716 LV, 3.7%
Mode: IVR

Virginia
Obama 51, McCain 45
(9/15: Obama 50, McCain 46)


ARG: GA, NJ, SD, WI (9/18-20)

Topics: PHome

American Research Group
~9/18-20/08; 600 LV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(source)

Georgia
McCain 57, Obama 39

New Jersey
Obama 51, McCain 42

South Dakota
McCain 55, Obama 39

Wisconsin
Obama 50, McCain 45


Obama Recovery Across Red, Yellow and Blue States


NationalTrend0922.png

Obama has now recovered his lead in national polling, rising at or above his post-DNC, pre-RNC level. This sharp turnaround erases the very sharp pro-McCain/Palin convention bounce we saw in early September.

But the Obama recovery is not concentrated in Democratic states. As with the McCain advantage, this turn is visible in all three types of states-- Red, Yellow and Blue.

BluesRedsPostRNC0922.png

The biggest recovery is actually in the Red states, where McCain enjoyed his biggest bounce. Those states are not back where they started, or even a shade less pro-McCain, but they are a far ways from being "close".

The states we have classified as tossup or leans (what I'm calling yellow here, though on the map leans are light red or blue) have also seen a significant Obama recovery. The range of movement is rather modest, but the roughly three point McCain gain has now been balanced by a 3+ point Obama recovery in these most contested states, putting Obama up by just over a point.

Dem states showed a small move to McCain and have now seen an Obama recovery, though with a one point fall off most recently.


43 Days to Go and the Pendulum Swings Back


Obama won the earned media battle last week for the first time in more than a month and he did it without any particular tactical or strategic gambit. Instead, the political environment swamped the McCain campaign - another reminder that this is a Democratic year and this election remains Obama's to lose.

That is not to say that the McCain camp didn't make any tactical mistakes last week - they did. The candidate continues to search for its voice on economic issues (saying the economy's fundamentals remained strong was perhaps McCain's worst moment of the campaign) and his surrogates hurt him (see Carly Fiorina). The economic crisis also put President Bush back in the news, a development that doesn't help McCain. After a few weeks on offense, the McCain campaign is back on defense and playing on Obama's turf.

Poll numbers began moving toward Obama last week and we are sure to see some additional movement this week. Our sense is that Obama is ahead nationally by approximately 2-3 points. Note how easy it was for Obama to erase a small McCain lead (note, too, that it had taken McCain months of attack ads and a successful GOP convention to build up even a small lead). All of this reinforces the notion that the environment favors Obama decidedly and his campaign will benefit when the spotlight is on the current economic situation.

We want to caution everyone, however, that this is movement at the margins (primarily among swing and true undecided voters). This is, of course, where this race will be won or lost, and we will see this micro-pendulum swing back and forth several times in the next few weeks. The week ahead has some potential for some swing-inducing events, as well:

  • While the financial crisis will dominate the early part of this week, it may not be front-and-center by the week's end. In fact, we are taking a somewhat contrarian view that perhaps the timing of this financial meltdown is good for the McCain team (though obviously it would better for McCain if this hadn't happened at all). If today was October 22nd, our sense is that the election would be over. Instead, there are five weeks until the election and anything can (and will) happen between now and then. Chris Dodd said this morning that Congress will move quickly to pass the $700 billion package. Assuming this happens and the economy and financial sector stabilize a bit, the issue could move off of the front pages and the campaign could pivot on other issues. Until then, however, it is all about the economy.
  • There will be a debate on Friday night. This one is on foreign policy. If you are McCain, could there be a better time to change the subject? To this point, Obama hasn't been a very good debater. He was just adequate during his myriad of primary debates and not much better at the recent forums at Saddleback and Columbia University. Most voters haven't seen him in this type of format before; if Obama can avoid his professorial tendencies this is a real chance for him to show voters that he is capable of serving as commander-in-chief. For McCain, a "draw" won't cut it: he needs to win this first debate.


Current Issue Environment and Obama's Underperformance

It is all about the economy and jobs. The below snapshot from a recent CBS/NYT survey shows that the economy dominates as the most important issue when considering who voters would like to see as the next President. The below chart is startling for three reasons:

  1. This Presidential contest is on the verge of becoming a single- issue election. Nearly 50% of voters say the economy is the most important issue.
  2. We are engaged in a war that has gone on for five years, drained the treasury, cost the lives of more than 4,000 soldiers and has been at the center of our national dialogue for years...and yet only eight percent of voters in this poll say that Iraq is the most important issue when thinking about the next President. Think about it: the war in Iraq is the 5th-most important issue in the country right now - that is stunning.
  3. Obama has failed to convert the nation's deep economic anxiety into an electoral advantage (yet). The same CBS-NYT poll gave Obama a five-point lead (48% to 43%). While this is a modest lead it is surprisingly shallow given the Democratic lead in party identification and on the generic ballot. It certainly means (without benefit of the cross-tabs) that a large chunk of voters who think the economy is the most important issue are voting for McCain.
issue importance 9 22.png Historical Perspective

We decided to take a quick look back at Gallup polls conducted among registered voters in 2000 and 2004 so that we could compare them to today.

Sept 16 - 18 2008: Obama 48%, McCain 44%

Sept 13 - 15 2004: Bush 52%, Kerry 44%

Sept 16 - 18 2000: Gore 49%, Bush 41%

In 2000 the debates and intervening campaign events turned the tide; in 2004 they did not. McCain needs to do well in the debates or it will be very difficult to buck the current environment.

LCG EV Map: Colorado is the New Florida?

map 9 22.png

In 2004 Bush beat Kerry in Colorado by 52% to 47%. He beat Gore by ten points in 2000 (Nader had a sizable impact, garnering five percent of the vote in the state).
There has been a lot of talk about Colorado being the new Florida. Several smart political commentators have suggested that the race may come down to this one state. It is an interesting analysis. Certainly the state has moved from a "safe red" to a toss-up. Here are some demographics to consider:

  • Only 41% native to the state, so the electorate is shifting with new arrivals
  • 75% white, 4% black, 17% Hispanic
  • 14% military vets is high, not to mention lots on active duty, especially in Colorado Springs
  • Thought of as a rural state, but population is actually 85% urban, mostly in Denver and its suburbs
  • Colorado Springs is the state's second-largest city
  • 33% of state is college graduates, a bit below the national average
  • 21% blue collar, 65% white collar, 15% gray collar, so, again, it defies traditional perception as blue-collar/rural

Note below that our LCG average of the most recent polls shows that Obama's lead increased slightly last week, to 47% - 44%.

colorado 9 22.png

Yes, Colorado is important and is truly a toss-up in this election. But it is no more important than Ohio, Virginia or Florida. Given the recent historical presidential voter pattern, our sense is that if this state moves into Obama's column it will mean an electoral blowout for the Illinois Senator. Virginia is more likely to be the state that settles this race.


Lunchtime Status Update for 9-22

Topics: Status Update

Apologies for today's delay: Since noon on Friday we have logged 29 new statewide polls, with no affect on the classifications on the map. While we are not seeing big moves yet within individual states, the national trends have shown significant change over the last two weeks. 

(Update:  As Charles Franklin shows us graphically, we do see the improvement at the state level when he combines all of the state polls into combined trend lines).

Eleven days ago, for example, our national trend estimate showed McCain with a slightly better than three- point lead (47.4% to 44.2%) that has since been smoothed over by subsequent polls showing a closer margin. As of this writing, the national trend estimate gives Barack Obama a more than three point lead (48.0% to 44.3%).

An update on a minor mechanical improvement to our national trend chart. Regular readers will know that we only plot non-overlapping releases for daily tracking surveys. So, for a three-day rolling average sample, we would only enter new numbers every third day. Starting over the weekend, we have modified our back-end process so that we now enter the latest daily numbers for each of the national tracking polls. The chart then uses the most current release for each daily tracking poll, and then our database works to select the non-overlapping releases for each daily tracking poll back to September 1 (leaving the earlier data in place).

The bottom line is that, starting today, our current national estimate will reflect the most recent results from each of the national daily tracking polls. If and when pollsters start rolling-average daily tracking at the statewide level, we will use the same system to plot those results as well.

Back to the new statewide surveys. We have had three new surveys in Iowa showing Barack Obama with a comfortable lead. The polls from SurveyUSA, Research2000 and the American Research Group, show Obama leading McCain by leading by margins of 11, 14 and 7 points respectively.

Two new polls from the battleground states of Michigan and Florida, on the other hand show very close contests in each state. Obama edges McCain by numeric, if not statistically significant margins on surveys by EPIC-MRA (Obama +1) and ARG (+2) in Michigan, while McCain has a similarly narrow advantage on new polls by the St Pete/Herald/News 9 (+2) and Times-Union/Sun-Sentinel (+2) in Florida. Both states remain toss-ups on our map.

Finally, two new surveys in Virginia, one from SurveyUSA showing Obama with a six-point lead, another from ARG showing McCain ahead by two.


Rasmussen: MN, NC (9/18)

Topics: PHome

Rasmussen Reports
9/18/08; 500 LV, 4.5%
Mode: IVR

North Carolina
McCain 50, Obama 47
Sen: Hagan (D) 51, Dole (R-i) 45

Minnesota
Obama 52, McCain 44
Sen: Coleman (R-i) 48, Franken (D) 47, Barkley (Ref) 3


Some Facts about the New Registrants in Virginia


Last week, I outlined the change in party registration figures in a handful of swing states. One of the footnotes to that post was that since Virginia does not have its citizens register by party, such an analysis was more difficult in that state. However, the growth in the registration rolls in Virginia may very well play an important role in this election. Bush won the state by 262,217 votes in 2004; as of September 8th of this year, more than 285,000 people have been added to the registration rolls since that election. The Obama campaign believes that they will see a big payoff from these new voters.

While we don't know the party of the new registrants in Virginia, we do know where those people have been registered and we may be able to draw some conclusions about their likely behavior based on this information. The map below shows the increase (or decrease) in the number of registered voters in each of Virginia's counties since 2004.

varegchange.PNG

The counties with the largest registration increases are located in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. Loudon County has added 31,798 new voters to the polls, Fairfax has 25,002 new registrants, and Prince William County has 16,682 more people registered than it did in 2004. (View the top ten counties here: View image). There are also big increases in registration in the counties surrounding Hampton Roads in the southeast of the state and in Chesterfield County, near Richmond.

These figures have made some Democrats very hopeful about Obama's chances in the state. However, it is important to gain some perspective about the extent to which these new registrants will matter in Virginia. For example, look at the types of counties where these new registrants are located.

vareg_table.PNG

Over 100,000 new registrations have been logged in counties where Kerry won less than 40% of the two-party vote in 2004 while just 71,466 new registrants are in counties where Kerry beat Bush. Of course, some counties that went for Bush in 2004 may very well go for Obama in 2008 and the Obama campaign may also be registering large numbers of new voters in heavily Republican counties. But it is important to note that the jump in registrants has hardly been concentrated in overwhelmingly Democratic areas. (See a map of the 2004 presidential vote by county here: View image).

We have heard a great deal about the role that Northern Virginia will play in the contest. However, we should recognize that while the increase in registrants in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC has been significant--over 100,000 new voters in this area--this is just a drop in the bucket in a state with over 4.8 million registered voters. In 2004, the DC suburbs in Northern Virginia accounted for 32.4% of all registered voters in the state; now, that same area accounts for 32.8% of the state's registered voters. There is no doubt that the growth in Northern Virginia is dramatic, but it takes time to substantially change the demographic and political balance in a state as large as Virginia. Thus, Northern Virginia accounts for just a slightly larger share of the state's electorate than it did four years ago.

Ultimately, it appears that polls are showing a tight campaign in Virginia because a significant share of people who voted for Bush in 2004 are expressing a preference for Obama in this election, not because of the new voters in the state. This is not to say that these new registrants won't matter. While new voters in Virginia won't be the reason that the race close, they could make the difference if the race is close.


ARG: CA, IA, MN, VA (9/16-20)

Topics: PHome

American Research Group
~9/16-20/08; 600 LV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews
(source)

California
Obama 53, McCain 39

Iowa
Obama 51, McCain 44

Minnesota
Obama 48, McCain 47

Virginia
McCain 48, Obama 46


FL: McCain 47, Obama 45 (StPete-9/14-17)

Topics: PHome

St Petersburg Times / Bay News 9 / Miami Herald
Schroth, Eldon & Associates (D) / The Polling Company (R)
9/14-17/08; 800 RV, 3.5%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Florida
McCain 47, Obama 45


FL: McCain 46, Obama 45 (R2K-9/15-18)

Topics: PHome

Research 2000 /
Florida Times-Union / South Florida Sun-Sentinel
9/15-18/08; 600 LV, 4%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Florida
McCain 46, Obama 45


OH: McCain 48, Obama 42 (UCincinnati-9/12-16)

Topics: PHome

University of Cincinnati /
The Ohio News Organization
9/12-16/08; 869 LV, 3.3%
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

Ohio
McCain 48, Obama 42, Nader 4, Barr 1


NC: Obama 46, McCain 46 (PPP-9/17-19)

Topics: PHome

Public Policy Polling (D)
9/17-19/08; 1,060 LV, 3%
Mode: IVR

North Carolina
Obama 46, McCain 46, Barr 5
(9/9: McCain 48, Obama 44, Barr 4)

Sen:
Hagan 46, Dole 41, Cole 6
(9/9: Hagan 43, Dole 42, Cole 6)


 

MAP - US, AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY, PR