Articles and Analysis


Morning Status Update for Tuesday 10/21

With two weeks to go until the election, the pace of new poll releases is accelerating, and while yesterday's batch of new polls produces some notable shifts and at least one odd outlier, the overall pattern is stability.

We logged 19 new statewide polls yesterday. Of the new polls that update results collected by the same pollster earlier in October, most as usual showed very small, non-significant changes although the overall pattern hints of a slight improvement for McCain: 7 of 11 show slight shifts to McCain, 4 show slight shifts to Obama

081022 daily.png

The impact of all of the new polls on our trend estimates in the more competitive states was mixed, showing a pattern that suggests random statistical noise. The margins moved in Obama's direction in 6 states and in McCain's direction in 5. Over the last week, the shifts are still slightly in Obama's favor: 14 move toward Obama, 5 to McCain and one unchanged.

081021 trends.png

The biggest shift yesterday came as the result of two new automated surveys in Virginia from SurveyUSA and Rasmussen Reports showing Obama with large leads -- 6 and 10 percentage points respectively. The new polls increase Obama's lead on our trend estimate to nearly nine points (52.4% to 43.5%), enough to qualify for dark blue "strong" Obama status on our map.

[Update: The orginal version of this post reflected a data entry error for the latest Fox/Rasmussen poll in Florida.  The correct margin -- McCain 49%, Obama 48% -- dropped Obama's lead on our margin to 3.3%, just enough to shift Florida and its crucial 27 electoral votes back to "toss-up" status=. 

Yesterday also produced at least one example of the sort of outlier that leaves poll watchers scratching their heads. Rasmussen/Fox News reported a new Ohio survey showing McCain leading by 2 point (49% to 47%) representing a slight but non-significant improvement for McCain since their survey last week. At the same time, Suffolk University released a new survey showing Obama leading by nine points (51% to 42%). Our trend estimate performed as intended, muting the impact of the Suffolk result and leaving Obama with a small advantage (48.4% to 46.7%), well within the "toss-up" range.

Finally, I want to look more closely at the national trend, which has been receiving quite a bit of attention over the last few days. Our overall trend estimate, based on all available national polls, shows the same pattern seen by other aggregators: A one and a half point upturn in McCain's total from a smoothed low low of 42.2% a little over a week ago to 43.7% as of this writing. Meanwhile, Obama's total has dropped about a half point, from a high of 50.2% a week ago to 49.7% now.

Several observers -- from Pollster reader DTM to the Washington Post's Ben Pershing -- have speculated that the drop appears to result mostly from a change in polls influencing the trend estimate over the last week (an issue also summarized yesterday by the Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik). We saw a pause last week in new releases of by non "daily-tracker" national pollsters, presumably an issue of timing around the final debate. Since, as I noted yesterday, three of the trackers typically show a slightly closer margin, perhaps their greater influence has caused the narrowing margin.

One reason why I'm hesitant to dismiss the slight narrowing altogether: If I use our chart's filter tool to look at only the six daily trackers that have been tracking since the beginning of October (which excludes the new IBD/TIPP tracker), which produces a much more "apples-to-apples" comparison, we still see a slight narrowing of the trend.

Still, these are relatively small changes and, as of yesterday at least, do not appear to represent a continuing trend. Yesterday, four of six trackers showed slight shifts to Obama, two to McCain since the previous release on Sunday. If we add the GWU/Battleground tracker (which doesn't interview or release on weekends), and compare to Thursday (the last with interviews conducted before Wednesday's debate), we see three surveys shifting to Obama, three to McCain and one showing no change.

081021 trackers from mon.png



This is the analysis I visit for. Keep it up.



Thanks for the shout out!

For what it is worth, I agree entirely with your conclusions. As I would put it, I think there is ample evidence that there was a slight tightening. On the other hand, I think the temporary shift in the poll mix may have ended up slightly overstating the magnitude of the tightening.

In fact, speculating quite a bit now, my guess is that if the poll mix had remained more or less constant, what we may have seen is more like a leveling for Obama than a dip, and perhaps a slightly more modest gain for McCain. My primary evidence for this claim? Pollster's very own national chart, but set at the least sensitive setting (and hence, as I understand, doing the most to discount the recent polls relative to the broader set).



How much of the slight narrowing can be explained by the % of undecided decreasing (i.e., deciding) as we get closer to Nov 4th?

Or changes in how leaners are pushing in the closing days?


It will be interesting to see how the Republicans in the Swing districts run over the next couple of weeks. Will the party shift resources down ticket? Will Republicans in the swing regions hide from McCain to save their own skins, hurting him in the general election? Some of the junk such as calling those who disagree with McCain un American or robocalls the doesn't play well with the center. If the Republicans lose heart,


It will be interesting to see how the Republicans in the Swing districts run over the next couple of weeks. Will the party shift resources down ticket? Will Republicans in the swing regions hide from McCain to save their own skins, hurting him in the general election? Some of the junk such as calling those who disagree with McCain un American or robocalls the doesn't play well with the center. If the Republicans lose heart, it will could be a landslide.


George Not Bush:

Virginia moving strong Dem is big. If Obama takes the states where he now has a 7% lead, he only needs 7 more EVs -- and there's lots of ways for him to get them.

Florida and Ohio are tightening up to within the margin that GOP vote suppression can work with unless Obama's turnout swamps them.

Interestingly Missouri is showing a strong recent swing to Obama which leads to the possibility that Missouri could put Obama over if Minnesota somehow goes AWOL.

Obama has the money and he will be using it to flood his leaners and tossups while McCain runs out of fingers to plug the dike.



It's difficult to see exactly what's happening to the lead---another factor is the shift from registered voters to likely voters. Various polls made the change at various times making an apples to apples comparison difficult.



I just wanted to let you know how much I have learned from your site. I really appreciate the time you take to explain trends in polling. Thanks for what you do.



One thing I would suggest you might start to do, now that early voting or absentee voting has started in all 50 states, is a sensitivity analysis of the "banked" vote vs. what McCain would need to catch Obama in the popular vote.

For example, if Obama's lead is now ~6%, and 25% of the vote is already in, and you presume the early voters show that margin, in order for McCain to win the popular vote, arithmetic would dictate that he would need to win the remaining 75% of voters by 15% (make up the existing 6% deficit + gain 9% more to make up for the votes already tallied).

Thus, show a running daily total of the numbers of banked voters, coupled with the need of how many more McCain voters might be needed in the remaining days in order for him to catch up to Obama in the popular vote.

Have you thought of doing something like that?



Yeah this really is a great website. Thanks for all the work thats put into it. Since my time here (couple weeks) i've learned a lot about polls and polling in general.




According to gallup- 8% of voters have already voted (of course that's falling three or four days behind what's actually happening)


Vicente Duque:

Strange Bets ... The First "unlikelys" for Obama :

Other McCain toss up states that could go for Obama ( but very improbable Obamas ) are these.

I give the INTRADE prices to win $100

The First Unlikelys for Obama ( in betting prices order ) :

North Dakota (3EVs) ..... Obama 32.1, McCain 69.0
Indiana (11EVs) ........... Obama 30.0, McCain 67.1
Montana (3EVs) ........... Obama 22.0, McCain 78.0
West Virginia (5EVs) ..... Obama 21.0, McCain 75.0
Georgia (15EVs) .......... Obama 21.9, McCain 80.0

Tennessee (11EVs) ...... Obama 16.0 MacCain 84.0
Arkansas (6EVs) ......... Obama 15.0, McCain 83.9
Luisiana(9EVs) ........... Obama 14.0 MacCain 83.0

These are very improbable, but who knows ????

There are people there risking their money for Obama in these unlikelys.



Vicente Duque


marc sobel:

I predict that McCain will improve on the prior Arizona Presidential candidate's electoral count by over 300% http://tinyurl.com/2yag28



Vicenete Duque,

I think Georgia believe it or not is actually possible for Obama to grab Despite the polling. Georgia has a very large african american population and according to polling hes not that far behind a massive AA turnout could flip the state.


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