Although the pace of new statewide polls slowed a bit yesterday, the latest releases indicate no change in the overall status of the race for President. Obama and Biden continue to hold a strong lead McCain and Palin nationally and within the states necessary to win an electoral college majority.
We logged new surveys from four Southern states (Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama) as well as three from the midwest (Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa). All of these new statewide polls tracked results from September, and 7 of 8 showed net movement to the Democrats.
The impact of the new surveys on our trend estimates in the battleground states was mostly negligible. The new surveys slightly added to Obama's lead in Ohio and Wisconsin, moved it one tenth of a point in McCain's direction in Florida and changed the margin not at all in North Carolina, the state now showing the closest contest in the nation.
Obama's lead on the national trend estimate (+8.2 as of this writing) is as strong as we have seen this year, although roughly the same level logged at about this time last week. The new tracking polls (which we compare, in the first table below, to the previous non-overlapping release from each pollster) also show movement uniformly in the Democratic direction. Since this update captures the Saturday releases from DailyKos, Rasmussen and Reuters/Zogby, but the Friday releases from the rest, the dates are not entirely comparable. However, the data above suggest continued progress for the Obama-Biden ticket following Tuesday night's debate.
Meanwhile, things have shifted a bit in races for the Senate. A series of new surveys released over the last few days confirm a significant narrowing in Georgia, which we now classify as a toss-up. Republican Saxby Chambliss now leads Democratic challenger Jim Martin on our trend estimate by less than two percentage points (45.3% to 43.5%).
And in Kentucky, internal polls released by both campaigns disagree on the margin, but agree that incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell is winning less than 50% of the vote (48% on the poll from the Democrats, 47% on the poll by Republicans). Our trend estimate still gives McConnell enough of a lead (48.2% to 42.6%) to rate "lean" Republican status.
The key takeaway from the recent Pew Report on cell phone only users was not that cell phone only respondents are different, but that even weighting landline only survey data doesn't fully account for excluding cell phone only users. Typically, a survey may be weighted for factors such as age, race, gender, education, and region. This allows pollsters to take a particular sample, and adjust it to look more like what they think the population they are interested in actually looks like. Pew found that even if you weighted a landline sample for all of these factors, that sample still provided results that were 2%-3% less favorable for Obama than one that included cell phone only users.
What exactly makes cell phone only respondents different from those with a landline? If it is simply the case that cell phone only respondents are more likely to be Democrats than those with landlines, then it should be simple enough to correct for not calling cell phones by weighting a sample by party identification. From my reading of the Pew report, they did not examine whether applying a party weight would have accounted for the exclusion of cell phone only respondents. A party weight is something that some pollsters (like Rasmussen) apply, but others do not. However, based on some recent analysis I have conducted using the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, even weighting by party is not likely to fully account for the differences between cell phone only respondents and those with landlines. There are two reasons for this.
First, it is true that cell phone only respondents are more Democratic than landline respondents. But this relationship is a little more complex than it first seems. In the 2006 survey, cell phone only respondents were just 4% more Democratic than landline respondents and they were 9% less Republican when asked a standard party identification question. However, once you factor in independents who lean towards the Democratic or Republican Party, you find that cell phone only respondents are 10% more Democratic and 12% less Republican. Thus, the party differences are larger when you factor in leaners, a pattern that results because cell phone only respondents are more likely to initially call themselves independents even though they lean Democratic. To fully capture party differences among cell phone only respondents, one would need to factor in leaners.
Second, just looking at party affiliation masks the fact that cell phone only respondents are actually quite a bit more liberal than those with a landline. 35% of cell phone only respondents classified themselves as liberals compared to just 23% of those with a landline. These ideological differences are not completely accounted for by party either. From the table below, you can see that cell phone only Democrats are 10% more liberal than those with landlines. Democratic leaners in the cell phone only sample are 15% more likely to classify themselves as liberal. And even those cell phone only independents who did not express a lean to either party were more likely to be liberal compared to their landline counterparts. Given that cell phone only Democrats and Democratic leaners are more liberal than those with landlines, they should be less likely to defect and vote Republican than landline Democrats.
Thus, this analysis suggests that differences between cell phone only users and those with landlines cannot simply be accounted for by partisanship. In fact, even when I used multivariate models controlling for a wide range of demographic and political factors (party, age, race, gender, income, education, and even religion), cell phone only respondents were still substantially more liberal than those with landlines. Cell phone only respondents are ideologically distinct in ways that cannot be accounted for by party identification or all the other standard demographic factors that pollsters may use to weight samples.
Yesterday yielded 17 new statewide surveys, mostly updates since mid-September bring more confirmation of the gains of the Democratic ticket since then, if any was needed. Eleven (11) of the 17 show movement in Obama's direction.
Again, the impact of the new surveys was not uniform. The new surveys nudged our trend estimates in Obama's direction in seven battleground states, and in McCain's direction in three.
These results provide continuing reassurance for Democrats in the most critical battlegrounds. In Florida, for example, two new surveys from Rasmussen Reports and Strategic Vision give Obama leads of 3 and 8 percentage points respectively. That makes 8 of 9 polls released in Florida in the last week showing Obama leading by narrow margins. Incredibly, the Democrats now lead by a 5.7 point margin on our Florida trend estimate (50.4% to 44.7%), ranking the state -- for the moment at least -- with states like Washington and Wisconsin.
Similarly, in Ohio, two new surveys from ARG and Strategic Vision show Obama leading by margins 3 and 2 points respectively. While these margins are too small to be statistically meaningful by themselves, they are among 9 of the last 11 released in Ohio in October showing Obama leading by at least a point. Of course, the two new surveys show a slightly narrower Obama lead than our current trend estimate for Ohio (Obama 49.4%, McCain 45.3%).
In West Virginia, the scarcity of survey data makes our trend lines unusually sensitive to individual polls. So a new ARG survey showing Obama with an 8-point lead in West Virginia (50% to 42%), the first new poll there in two weeks, narrows McCain's lead signficantly on our overall estimate to a single percentage point (46.3% to 45.2%). The new poll colors West Virginia and its five electoral votes toss-up yellow on our map, dropping McCain's total to 158. Keep in mind, however, that four other polls conducted there since the Republican convention have shown McCain leading by margins of four to eight points. So "not enough data to be sure" is probably a more fitting designation for West Virginia than "toss-up."
Yesterday was relatively slow in terms of new survey releases. Other than the national tracking polls, we logged just seven new statewide surveys including two in Pennsylvania and new Rasmussen Reports surveys in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The biggest change is in Pennsylvania, where Obama's margin on our trend estimate is now nearly eight points (50.3% to 42.5%), enough to merit dark blue "strong Democrat" status.
Today's update is abbreviated -- and poll updates will likely be a bit slower today than usual -- because most of us that bring you Pollster.com are observing the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (or as much of it as we can).
One of the big topics from September was the Palin Effect, and how it improved McCain's standing with white voters, particularly white women.While most commentators agreed the Palin Effect didn't move Hillary Clinton's primary base, there was some unique movement among white women overall.And while it's tough to isolate the effect of campaign events after Labor Day (especially given the economic crisis), the post-Palin bounce has beendeclaredover.We can indeed track its rise and fall.
This has been a full team effort.Mark collected data from 56 different national surveys.(A spreadsheet with all the datapoints can be found here:
White Women.xls.)And as part of pollster.com's continued upgrade, and Charles Franklin's mighty-fine chart-making, we can look at the presidential vote among white voters, across gender.There are two charts below; the second is more sensitive to outliers.But both tell the same story.
First, it's worth pointing out that much more attentionhas focused on the Palin Effect on white women than on white men, or really any other group.Naturally, that's largely due to Palin's gender.But it's also because white women are a swing group.Some polls show Obama leading with this group, but our chart shows, on average, McCain leads. White men have given McCain an advantage in every poll we were able to obtain that broke out results by race and gender.Gary Langer at ABC discussed the greater variability in white women's vote here, and our spreadsheet shows a larger standard deviation for white women, across all the surveys examined.
But despite lopsided attention to and increased variability among white women, there are more similarities than differences in the post-Palin pattern among white men and women.Among both groups, support for Obama fell.And with both groups, support for Obama has rebounded.The difference is in the depth of the fall, and the extent of the rebound.
Our charts show white voters across gender moved from Obama, and substantially, in the early days of the Palin bounce (around September 7).But white women did have a steeper drop.Our sensitive chart shows white women giving McCain a double-digit lead for a few days (approximately September 8-14), before rebounding to pre-Palin levels.By contrast, white men had been gradually moving away from Obama for months, and the post-Palin drop was much less steep.Now Obama's support among white men has rebounded above pre-Palin levels.
The race, particularly among white women, will likely continue to be volatile.But the Palin bounce, and bounce-back, seems to have been replaced by other campaign events.
A quick follow-up to last night's post on the initial quick reaction debate polls. One point I've tried to make on this subject is that debate usually reinforce existing preferences. Democrats like the Democrat, Republicans like the Republican, so polls that tell us who "won" can sometimes be misleading if the debate audience is skewed toward the partisans of one side or another.
That scenario was not in play last night. In fact, the five surveys for which I could find data all showed a very consistent result. On the question of "who won" or did better in the debate, Democrats consistently gave higher marks to Obama than Republicans did to McCain and independents who could pick a winner typically chose Obama by large margins.
The surveys cited are the two cited last night, from CNN/ORC and CBS/Knowledge Networks (see my post from the first debate for more details on their methodologies), plus the Media Curves online/text message survey, and two automated telephone surveys of debate viewers conducted by SurveyUSA in California and Washington State, two western time zone states where they could make cold calls at a reasonable evening hour after the debate ended.'
Keep in mind that the CBS survey is the only one that limited its reach to those who had been previously uncommitted, that is they were either totally undecided or who might still change their minds. So the smaller number in that survey willing to rate either candidate a "winner" is not at all surprising.
My NationalJournal.com column this week reviews the three big sources of worry among pollsters and others about the accuracy of polling this fall: the potential that pollsters are missing voters in "cell phone only" households, the potential that "likely voter models" may be missing certain types of voters and the worries about the Bradley-Wilder effect.
We have covered all of these topics before and my plan is to devote a column to each over the next three weeks because while everyone is speculating, we probably know more than we think we do empirically, about the potential for error from all three sources.
And since some will react to the title without clicking through, I blog my own spoiler. Here's the last paragraph of the column:
Meanwhile, we can probably dispense with the "Perfect Storm" analogy. In the movie of the same name, three different weather-related phenomena combined to produce a storm of exceptional severity. In this case, as Democratic strategist Joe Trippi pointed out in September, the potential polling foibles may work in opposite directions and "cancel each other out." A return of the Bradley-Wilder effect would work to McCain's benefit, while an underrepresentation of younger, African American or "cell-phone-only" voters will likely benefit Obama.
Another day of new polls, polls, polls confirming the recent trends to Obama and Biden at the statewide level but showing either a leveling off or perhaps a slight narrowing nationally.
All but one of the 21 new statewide surveys released yesterday represented net gains of at least one percentage point for Obama, although most (17 of 21) were updating results previously collected before the first debate. The new polls tipped the balance in both Ohio and New Hampshire, shifting both states to the light blue lean Obama category on our map, and increasing Obama's electoral vote total to 320.
The more important issue than our admittedly arbitrary line between "lean" and "toss-up" is the way the new polls affected the trend estimates in the battleground states. In 10 or 11 states with new polls, the estimates moved in Obama's direction.
In Ohio, new surveys by PPP and CNN/Time show Obama leading by 6 and 3 point respectively -- narrow margins, but enough to reinforce and solidify the move in the trend estimate in Obama's direction. However, commenter Mike yesterday flagged something to keep an eye on: The margins in Ohio and Florida have been closer as measured by automated pollsters SurveyUSA and Rasmussen.
Our national trend, which is heavily influenced by the daily tracking surveys, moved slightly in the opposite direction, now showing Obama leading McCain by a 6.2 point margin (49.8% to 43.3%). That change is the result of two new surveys from ARG and Zogby/Reuters showing a closer race than our trend estimate, and a shift in McCain's direction on the Diageo-Hotline tracking poll.
As with the last two debates, we have two "instant reaction" surveys with debate viewers. See the post from the first presidential debate for more detail on the methodologies used by each network. Here are links to the online reports and the results just broadcast:
CBS News once again recontacted "about 500" uncommitted voters previously contacted and interviewed through the random sample Knowledge Networks Internet panel. The results just broadcast on CBS News:
Who won the debate? 39% say Obama, 27% McCain, 35% rate it a tie.
How did the debate impact vote preferences? 15% say they are now committed to Obama, 14% to McCain and 70% are still uncommitted.
Candidates rated - would make the right decisions about the economy?
McCain: 41% before the debate, 49% after
Obama: 54% before the debate, 68% after
Candidates rated - understands your needs?
McCain: 35% before the debate, 46% after
Obama: 60% before the debate, 80% after
Candidates rated - prepared for the job of president
McCain: 80% before the debate, 84% after
Obama: 42% before the debate, 57% after
Did candidates answer the questions they were asked?:
57% yes, 42% no -- for both candidates
CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation conducted follow-up telephone interviews with a random sample of previously interviewed registered voters who said they planned to watch the debate. The numbers I saw broadcast did not include the party identification of the debate viewers** or their pre-debate candidate preference -- statistics that would be critical to evaluating these results:
Who did the best job? 54% Obama, 30% McCain
Who would better handle the economy?: 59% Obama, 37% McCain
Who would better handle a financial crisis?: 57% Obama, 36% McCain
Who expressed his views more clearly?: 60% Obama, 30% McCain
Who was more intelligent in the debate: 57% Obama, 25% McCain
Who seemed to be the strongest leader?: 54% Obama, 43% McCain
Who was more likable?: Obama 65%, McCain 28%
Who would better handle Iraq?: Obama 51%, McCain 47%
Who would better handle terrorism?: McCain 51%, Obama 46%
Who spent more time attacking his opponent?: 63% McCain, 17% Obama
**However, CNN's John King just said the following which strongly implies that party ID did not explain Obama's advantage: "For the numbers to be soo lopsided in favor of Senator Obama, that means he's not only getting all the Democrats, he has to getting -- for those numbers -- a sizable chunk of the independents and seemingly even some Republicans."
Via Andrew Sullivan comes this question from John Judis about the uncommitted voters who will surround the candidates and pose questions at tonight's town hall meeting debate:
I remember having similar questions about the rules that limited juries in infamous and well-known cases to people who hadn't even heard of the cases and had no opinion about them. Wouldn't the result be that you might limit the pool of questioners - or jurists - to the less informed parts of the population, or to the more quirky and less representative. OK, suppose that 13 percent of the questioners are African-Americans, which would roughly fit the population. Where are the debate chieftains going to come up with genuinely uncommitted African American voters?
The answer is that the participants are likely to include a smaller percentage of African Americans than the overall population, because debate organizers aimed to "sample" uncommitted voters in the Nashville area, and did not to try to force the demographics of the audience to match voters nationwide. The participants were selected by a pollster, The Gallup Organization. NPR's All Things Considered broadcast an interview with Gallup's Frank Newport today that includes details on how they were selected.
The interviewer explains that all participants will meet Gallup's criteria for "likely voters" (which makes them older than those who describe themselves as simply "registered" voters). Newport describes the criteria and the impact on the demographics of the participants (my transcription):
Newport: Basically they are people who are classically undecided, that is people who don't choose either candidate or they may lean to one candidate or the other but say they are not definite in their choice and there is still a choice they will vote for the other candidate [...]
Q: Are you trying to weight for men and women voters or for age or for race? Is it supposed to duplicate the community where you are today?
Newport: Remember, this is a population of uncommitted voters who are in some ways not representative of the total population. But given that stipulation, we recruit randomly from the Nashville metropolitan area, 13 counties, and then we do seek some balance, by gender, by age and race, but overall they are intended to reflect uncommitted voters in this general area rather than all voters in the area or all voters across the country.
Q: And you said uncommitted voters do not represent the total voting population. Who are these uncomitted voters nationwide? What does this population look like?
Newport: Well, politically they're more independent, although that's not one of the criteria we use here, but they tend not to be minorities, because we know that African Americans in this election, most elections are fairly strongly committed to the Democratic candidate. They tend not, for example, to be evangelical white Christians, because those types of people are committed to the Republican candidate. We have young people represented, but you know, young people generally are more strongly committed to the Democratic candidate so that pool of uncommitted voters tends to be kind of, more middle of the road, generally more white, more average in terms of education and in terms of age.
Make of that what you will. If you have a few minutes before the debate starts, the interview is worth listening to in full.
Today we see yet more evidence of the recent national gains for the Obama-Biden ticket trickling down to individual states. Seventeen new statewide polls released yesterday moved our estimates in Obama's direction in eight states. They also pushed the battleground states of Colorado and Florida into the "lean Obama" category, raising his electoral vote lead on our map to 296 to 163, with 79 electoral votes states still in the toss-up category. More specifically,
Two new polls by Fox News/Rasmussen and the Florida Chamber of Commerce serve to confirm and extend the trend toward Obama, increasing his margin on the trend estimate to four points (49.3% to 45.3%). Although the Chamber poll shows a three-point McCain advantage (45% to 42%), the Rasmussen survey gave Obama a 7-point lead (52% to 45%) and five of the last six Florida polls give Obama leads of 4 to 8 points.
In Colorado, the new Fox News/Rasmussen poll puts Obama ahead by six (51% to 45%), though note that Fox/Rasmussen has conducted two of the three Colorado polls released since the first debate.
Elsewhere, yesterday's polls also helped move the trend estimates in Obama's direction in Virgnia (+1.9), New Hampshire (+1.4), North Carolina (+0.9) and Ohio (+0.8) and Maine (+0.4). The exception is New Mexico, where a new survey by the Albuquerque Journal, showing Obama leading by just five points (45% to 40%) narrowed the trend estimate slightly (-0.3).
The changes we continue to see at the state level are likely the result of the lag resulting from less frequent polling conducted in individual states. At the national level, we have evidence that the Obama surge is leveling off over the last few days. We logged 10 new national surveys yesterday (5 daily trackers plus 5 new stand-alone polls) and the net effect was a slight narrowing of the national margin. Obama's seven point lead (49.9% to 42.9% as of this writing) is still nearly double that recorded a week ago (+4.2), but the lead has essentially leveled off over the weekend and is down slightly from the 7.9 margin we logged on Sunday.
Still, seven of the yesterday's new national surveys tracked previous surveys from the same pollster completed since September 30. Five the the seven showed a gain of at least a point for Obama. The two exceptions were Diageo/Hotline (no change since their last non-overlapping sample) and CBS News (a one-point narrowing of Obama's lead among likely voters).
Update: These estimates do not reflect the just released CNN/Time surveys in Indiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin
I'll have more details in tomorrow morning's update, but the most obvious news tonight is that our electoral vote count as displayed at the top of our maps finally caught up with the shift in the national trend: Obama now holds a 296 to 163 advantage over John McCain, as both Colorado and Florida shift to the "lean" Obama.
So for at least some, this may be the ideal time to offer you an added feature: You can embed a version of our small map like the one below on your own blog or website.
Just select and copy all of the code in the box below and paste it into your blog or web site (using the HTML mode):
*From the CBS Release: "*Every registered voter is included in the likely voter model, and is assigned a probability of voting, which is used to calculate the likely voter results. The sum of these probabilities is the effective number of likely voters."
Now that you can play with the sensitivity of the trend estimate on our interactive charts at Pollster.com, the need for my sensitivity comparisons is somewhat less. But, it is interesting to see that just now the sensitivity used in our national trends makes very little practical difference.
My pals, "Ready-Red" and "Old-Blue" are in good agreement on both the magnitude of the Obama surge in the last three weeks, and the current standing of about a 7 to 7.5 point Obama lead.
Red had a moment of indecision last week when a couple of polls showed McCain ahead, but after barking in that direction, Red came back to Old Blue in seeing continued upward movement for Obama. You gotta love Red for his sensitive nose, but sometimes it distracts him from the big picture.
So here is a question to ponder. How much more upward lift can there be for Obama? He's already well beyond his previous best. Does anyone believe he really can hold a 10 point lead through the election? If not, then we should see some flattening out in the next few days, regardless of the debates.
The 2008 campaign had not seen a really big move in preferences until the financial crisis hit three weeks ago today. Since that time, the Obama-McCain margin has shifted almost 9 points in Obama's favor, converting a small McCain lead into a substantial Obama advantage.
This swing reversed the gains McCain made with the Republican convention and the week after during which he picked up about 4 points and took the lead for the first time since March.
I wrote earlier that we had not seen a move in 2008 as large as ones we saw in both 2000 and 2004. That is no longer true of 2004, though the current run is not yet as large as the one Gore mounted in 2000.
The Bush counter-assault in 2000, after Gore's surge, was almost eight points, and began at almost the same point in the campaign, about 57 days out.
Voters are making up their minds at about the same rate as they did in 2000. If this year follows that pattern, look for some serious decision making over the next two weeks.
The past 14 days have transformed this election. The financial crisis has catapulted Obama into the lead both nationally and in key states. We have been saying for six months that the political environment has favored the Democrats significantly, but it took a near global financial meltdown for things to finally reach the tipping point. The economic situation has virtually ended John McCain's presidential aspirations and no amount of tactical maneuvering in the final 29 days is likely to change that equation.
Here is our up-to-the-minute take on the campaign:
The economy is going to get worse before it gets better, and that will drive the election dynamic for at least another 7-10 days.
Last week U.S. stocks suffered their largest drop since 9/11. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 9.4% last week to almost a four-year low.
Employers slashed 159,000 jobs last month - the largest number in five years.
Factory orders fell 4% in August...the biggest setback in 2 years.
As of 8 a.m. today, European and Asian markets are tanking and the NYSE is almost certain to open down.
We believe that when the history of this election is written, September 15th will be seen as the day Obama won (or perhaps the day McCain lost the election). The previous Friday morning it was announced that Lehman was filing for bankruptcy. As the markets prepared to open it looked like we were headed for a downturn. In an apparent effort to bring some stability to the markets, at approximately 9:00 in the morning - during a stump speech in Jacksonville - McCain said "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." That marked the beginning of the end for his campaign. By 2:00 p.m., at his next stop in Orlando, he was backtracking, saying, "The economic crisis is not the fault of the American people. Our workers are the most innovative, the hardest-working, the best-skilled, most productive, most competitive in the world, that's the American worker. My opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals, the American worker and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business, those are the fundamentals of America and I think they're strong." The stock market dropped 505 points that day.
The window for challenging Obama's character may have closed. Media reports indicate that Team McCain is going to take the gloves off (they have begun by launching attacks on Obama's connection with Bill Ayers). However, it is our sense that this should have been done in August and September, and that at this point it will likely fall on deaf ears. We are not saying that this is not a solid campaign tactic, but in light of the serious (and potentially catastrophic) issues facing the country it seems off-key at best. At worst it seems desperate. Voter opinions of Obama started to shift and harden (in his favor) after that first debate. He became substantially more acceptable. Since that time, the economic situation has made Obama a more acceptable alternative. Character attacks are part of politics and often work, but not when the country is at war and mired in an economic recession.
At noon today, the Obama team will respond to Team McCain by launching its own attack: a 13-minute "documentary" on McCain's role in the Keating Five scandal in 1989. The S&L crisis of 20 years ago may resonate with voters given the current economic situation.
Palin did well on Thursday but it was simply a sideshow. The debate drew 73 million viewers (20 million more than McCain-Obama--what does that say about the country?). However, it is almost meaningless. Absent a major gaffe from either VP candidate (certainly a possibility considering the two participants) it was a non-event from a campaign standpoint. Presidential elections are about the top of the ticket.
Latest Polling and the LCG EV Map
The latest Gallup tracking poll shows Obama with a 7-point lead (50% to 43%), his largest since he was nominated at the Democratic Convention. Internals suggest that McCain is hemorrhaging with Independents, women (a group that temporarily moved toward him in late August and early September) and younger voters. Additionally, there is a body of evidence growing that suggests that McCain's unfavorable rating has picked up dramatically in the last 14 days. As perceptions of him have diminished, perceptions of Obama have improved.
As the race has shifted so dramatically in the past two weeks, we have seen the largest swing in our electoral vote count this election. Some of these--like North Carolina and Missouri--are the result of steady improvement in the polls by Obama, both states where his heavy investment in the ground game appears to be paying dividends. Others--like Minnesota and New Hampshire--are the result of polls we hold in high regard showing a large swing toward Obama.
As of today we have Obama sitting comfortably with 264 electoral votes. McCain has only 163. It is very unlikely that any of the states we have put in the Obama column will switch to McCain in the coming weeks. Therefore, McCain has to win nearly all of the remaining toss-up states to win in November.
Here are the latest changes as we see it:
New Hampshire from toss-up to Obama
Kerry won New Hampshire by just 9,000 votes, the first time the state was won by a Democrat since 1996. It appears that McCain's love affair with New Hampshire's independent-minded voters may not be enough to offset the shifting demography of a state that is becoming more and more like its neighbor to the South. A Rasmussen survey released on Friday shows Obama jumping up to a 10-point lead, powered by an 18-point advantage among Independents.
North Carolina from McCain to toss-up
Bush won North Carolina by at least 10 points both times and yet the Tarheel State is closer than we ever would have thought. Demographically it has moved closer to Virginia and further from the deep red South. It is also a state where Obama has made a heavy investment in both campaign offices and TV advertising. For two weeks Obama has been ahead or within three points of McCain, and a Rasmussen Survey last week was the first to show Obama breaking the 50% mark in North Carolina all year, so this state will definitely be one to watch in the final four weeks.
Michigan from toss-up to Obama
Michigan was another state won by Kerry (3 points) and Gore (5 points) that Republicans have had their eyes on. While it has been close all summer, the rising Obama tide nationally has gradually increased his lead in this state. In a state that is one of the hardest-hit by the current economic woes--it has a 9% unemployment rate, up nearly two points from this quarter last year--recently Obama has consistently been exceeding the 50% mark. If we adjust for the Palin/convention bounce, it seems that Obama has been steadily gaining for months and is now comfortably ahead.
Missouri from McCain to toss-up
Missouri--the "Presidential bellwether," to borrow Michael Barone's phrase--was a Bush state in both 2000 and 2004. It was essentially tied heading into the conventions and was another state that evidenced a significant bounce for McCain following the Republican convention. However, the race has tightened and every poll since "Black Monday" shows the candidates within the margin of error--a statistical dead heat and the very definition of a toss-up.
Minnesota REMAINS Obama
Both Kerry and Gore carried the state, Kerry by 3 points, Gore by 2, but it was targeted early on by Republicans (as evidenced by their choice of convention site). McCain enjoyed a huge bounce in Minnesota after the Republican convention in Minneapolis and his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, a choice that played well enough with the many hockey moms here that we debated moving it to the toss-up column. However, two polls in the last week show an enormous Obama advantage: a CNN/Time poll had Obama +11, and the usually-reliable Star Tribune poll showed a jaw-dropping 18-point Obama advantage.
The McCain campaign made several missteps last week including campaigning in Iowa (a sure Obama state) and allowing the Palin-Couric interview to be edited and dribbled out over a 7 day period, but the overwhelming force is the deteriorating economy and not even a perfect campaign could weather that storm.
There are more turns to come in this election and it is not over yet but it sure seems like it is.
Today Slate introduces Poll Tracker '08, an application that delivers comprehensive up-to-the-minute data about the presidential election to your iPhone, iPhone 3G, or iPod touch. Using data from Pollster.com, the Poll Tracker '08 delivers the latest McCain and Obama polling numbers for every state, graphs historical polling trends, and charts voting patterns in previous elections. Poll Tracker '08 allows you to sort states by how contested they are, how fresh their poll data is, or how heavily they lean to McCain or Obama.
You can download Poll Tracker '08 on the iPhone App Store. It costs just 99 cents, a small price to pay for satisfying your craving for data anytime, anywhere. Get it on theApp Store.
Yes, we have U.S. House race data! Actually, we have posted charts for House races for some time, but on Friday we finally put up our revised House map (it's accessible via the "map chooser" pull down from any of the large maps on the site) and added that page to our main menu.
Readers should know that public polling data for U.S. House races tends to be more rare. In 2006, we scoured various sources for poll in House races and ultimately found polls in just 94 of the 435 districts. This time, we created a map with labels for the 111 districts rated as competitive or potentially competitive by our colleagues at the Cook Political Report. So far, we have logged in poll results for 60 districts, with another dozen or so on the way this week.
A note of explanation about the map and House scoreboard: Where we have poll data, we classify the race based on the polling data using the same criteria as for the statewide races. Where we have no polls at all, we assume no change in party status.
We assume there are U.S. House surveys out in the public domain that we no nothing about. So if you know of a poll in a U.S. House race that's not listed here, please email us (questions at pollster dot com) with the details. Thank you!
Maybe it's just the calm before the storm, but the weekend was a quiet one for new polls. Other than national daily trackers, we logged only three new statewide polls since Saturday morning, though the three were in the battlegrounds of Colorado, Ohio and Minnesota.
The new Star Tribune/PSRA poll in Minnesota, showing Barack Obama leading John McCain by 18 points (55% to 37%). That margin is considerably bigger than Obama's nearly 4-point lead on our trend estimate (49.1% to 45.2%), since other recent polls have shown a closer race. However, the new poll did move the trend estimate enough to shift Minnesota and its 10 electoral votes back to our "lean Obama" status. Our overall electoral vote count now shows Obama at 260, McCain at 163 with 115 electoral votes in states still classified as toss-ups.
Obama's seven point margin (49% to 427%) on the new Columbus Dispatchmail-in poll helps boost his lead on our trend estimate to almost two points (48.0% to 46.1%). The Dispatch poll has an interesting history that I followed on my old Mystery Pollster blog -- highly accurate in general elections from the 1980s through 2004, but wildly off on a set of state issues in 2005 (for reasons that may have been specific to the questionnaire used for that poll). Whatever one thinks of the Dispatch poll, however, this much is clear about Ohio: Obama led on five of the seven polls released in Ohio last week, trailing by just a single percentage point on the two exceptions.
The weekend did see a continuing movement in Obama's direction on our national trend estimate. His lead grew from 5.6 to 7.9 points since Friday. The four daily trackers showed small movement over the weekend, with three of four that release results over the weekend (Gallup Daily, Diageo/Hotline and Daily Kos/Research 2000) showing slight movement toward Obama.