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October 31, 2004

Kerry's Lead Among Independents Makes Bush's Situation Extremely Dire

By Alan Abramowitz

No Republican in the modern era has won a presidential election without carrying the independent vote. In the 2000 election, despite losing the national popular vote, George Bush led Al Gore by a narrow margin among independent voters. However, according to the final, supersized Gallup Poll, John Kerry now has an 8 point lead over George Bush among independent voters. In fact, Kerry led Bush among independents in all four Gallup polls this month--by an average of 6 points. This is one more piece of evidence that George Bush's situation is extremely dire.

About the Final Pew Poll

By Alan Abramowitz

The Pew Research Center has just released its final numbers on the 2004 presidential race and they show George Bush with a 3 point lead among "likely voters" but John Kerry with a 1 point lead among registered voters. Not to worry. There are good reasons for skepticism about those likely voter results.

First of all, here's Andrew Kohut's track record at Pew and, previously, at Gallup. In 2000, the final Pew Poll had George Bush leading by 3 points. We all know what actually happened. In 1996, Pew had Bill Clinton ahead of Bob Dole by 14 points--the actual margin was 9. In 1988, Kohut, then at Gallup, had George H.W. Bush ahead of Michael Dukakis by 12 points--the actual margin was 8. And in 1980, Gallup had Ronald Reagan ahead of Jimmy Carter by only 3 points in their final poll. Reagan won by 10. Notice that in all three of the elections involving incumbents, the final poll overestimated the incumbent's support.

In addition, their equal allocation of undecided voters between the incumbent and challenger is contrary to the normal tendency of undecided voters to break in favor of the challenger by a wide margin.

And there's more. The current Pew sample of likely voters consists of 37.3 percent Republicans and 33.6 percent Democrats. That's right--a 3.7 percent Republican identification advantage. Of course we know that every national exit poll since 1988 has had a Democratic identification advantage of between 3 and 5 points. It is highly unlikely that in a very high turnout election in 2004, Republicans will outnumber Democrats.

Finally, here are a couple of numbers from the Pew Poll that are revealing. John Kerry is leading among independents by 48 percent to 44 percent and Kerry is also leading among those who have already voted by 48 percent to 47 percent.

National Tracking Poll Roundup

Today's tracking polls show more a mixed bag than yesterday in terms of movement favoring Bush or Kerry--which is the typical pattern, as Alan Abramowitz has noted. (You can find all the relevant data and links at NowChannel.com.)

Here are today's results:

WaPo LV: 48-48 tie, from 49-48 Bush yesterday
WaPo RV: 48-47 Kerry, unchanged from 48-47 Kerry yesterday
Fox 3way LV: 46-46 tie, from 47-45 Bush yesterday
Fox 3way RV: 47-45 Kerry, from 46-46 tie yesterday
Zogby: 48-48 tie from 47-46 Kerry lead yesterday
Rasmussen: 48.1-47.1 Bush, from 47.9-47.1 Bush yesterday
TIPP 3way LV: 48-43 Bush, from 46-44 Bush yesterday

Note: over last two days, WaPo and Fox have moved steadily toward Kerry; TIPP steadily toward Bush.

Note: Today's WaPo RV result makes 6 out of 7 days that Kerry has been ahead in their RV sample.

Note: At this stage of the election in 2000, Bush was ahead of Gore by 2 points in the Zogby tracking poll, by 4 points in the ABC/WP tracking poll and by 9 points in the TIPP tracking poll.

Note: All the polls, save TIPP, imply something very close to a dead heat. Chris Bowers of MyDD has a good analysis today of how such a result, if correct, fundamentally favors Kerry.

Analysis of Zogby State Tracking Polls

By Alan Abramowitz

In a previous posting, I pointed out that there was no consistency in the day-to-day movements of the (then) four national tracking polls, suggesting that these shifts were basically random and that the underlying division of the electorate between Bush and Kerry was not changing. Since then, political junkies like me have discovered yet another set of tracking polls to obsess about--the Zogby 10 state tracking poll.

Now I respect John Zogby, even though he is considered something of a pariah in the polling community for, among other things, his use of a rigid party identification weighting scheme in his national polls. But four years ago, Zogby also undertook a series of state tracking polls in the final days of the campaign and the results were decidedly mixed. Some of Zogby's final state polls were very accurate but some were wildly inaccurate. The most notable example of the latter was Zogby's final poll in California which showed Al Gore leading George Bush by a meager 1 percentage point. On Election Day, Gore swamped Bush in the Golden State by 12 percentage points.

So based on his track record, there are reasons to be skeptical about the results of Zogby's 2004 state tracking polls. For example, Zogby's current tracking poll shows George Bush leading John Kerry by 9 points in New Mexico. This is simply not plausible. Al Gore narrowly carried New Mexico in 2000 and since then the Hispanic proportion of the New Mexico electorate has increased. For some reason, perhaps a lack of Spanish-speaking interviewers, the Zogby tracking poll is clearly off the mark in New Mexico.

But the main point that I want to make here is not that some of Zogby's state polls are probably inaccurate, but that the day-to-day movements of these polls across the ten states are totally inconsistent. There have been rather dramatic shifts in the relative standing of the candidates in some of these states, but these shifts show no consistent pattern. For example, since Zogby released his first tracking poll results on October 24, George Bush has gained 9 points of margin in Colorado and Michigan, but John Kerry has gained 11 points of margin in Wisconsin and 5 points in Florida. In just the past two nights, Bush has gained 8 points in Ohio and 6 points in Colorado. Pretty scary, right? But in the same two nights, John Kerry has gained 5 points in Wisconsin, 4 points in Minnesota, and 3 points in Florida and Michigan.

The average correlation in the day-to-day movements between each state and the other nine states ranges from -.16 for Michigan to .02 for Pennsylvania. The average correlation across all 10 states is -.08.

Since October 24 the mean shift in the margin between Kerry and Bush across the ten states has been exactly zero. In the past 2 days, the mean shift has been 0.2 points toward Kerry.

Conclusion--there is nothing going on here. The day-to-day shifts in the Zogby state tracking polls, like the day-to-day shifts in the national tracking polls are basically random. So stop obsessing. Do something useful. Go carve a pumpkin and make sure that everyone you know who hasn't already voted gets to the polls on Tuesday.

October 30, 2004

Stan Greenberg Speaks!

And when he does, I listen. Here's the full text of a very instructive memo that Greenberg sent around today, with the title "Race stable on final weekend: Review of public and overnight polls":

To give some perspective on the race in its final weekend, we might recall what Wolf Blitzer said on the day before the election, 2000: "And now, let's take a look at the latest poll numbers. The new CNN/USA Gallup Tracking Poll results are being released at this hour. It shows George W. Bush with 48 percent, Al Gore 43 percent, Ralph Nader with 4 percent, Pat Buchanan with 1 percent. And those numbers are similar to other tracking polls," going on to cite the Bush lead in polls for ABC, Washington Post, NBC-Wall Street Journal, CBS and MSNBC-Reuters- Zogby.

In fact, the public polls in 2004 show a remarkably stable and dead-locked race, with Bush stuck somewhere between 47 and 48 percent, short of what an incumbent should have to secure re- election.

The Democracy Corps has a new poll, conducted Friday night and Saturday morning. While the full survey will be completed on Sunday, the half-sample of 500 interviews conducted after the release of the Bin Laden tape, show the race unchanged compared to a survey completed Thursday night. The partial survey shows Kerry at 48 percent and Bush at 47 percent. Like the survey conducted before, it shows the two parties with equal numbers of party identifiers.

The Saturday respondents (250 interviews) were asked the following question: "I'm going to read you a pair of statements about the release of Bin Laden's videotape. Please tell me which one comes closer to your view.

-- It makes me think that George Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan and diverted resources to Iraq.

-- It underscores the importance of George Bush's approach to the war on terrorism.

By 10 points (46 to 36 percent), voters were more likely to think that Bush took his eye off the ball. (These results will be updated when the full survey is completed on Sunday.)

The stability in this poll reflects the overall stability of the race for president. This past week, George Bush polled 47.9 percent as the average of the public polls. That represents only a .5 point change compared to the prior week. Indeed, if one looks at the polls released Saturday and including polling after the release of the Bin Laden tape, Bush’s vote stands at 48 percent in one (Newsweek), 47 percent in one (Fox), and 46 percent in two (Zogby/Reuters and TIPP). That is a weaker result than for the polls released earlier in the week and prior to last weekend.

(These results are based on the results for registered, when available, as that is consistent across polls and has been a better predictor of the final outcome.)

Kerry’s vote was also stable at 46.4 percent on average, up .1 percent compared to the previous week. That is a dead-even race, where the undecided will play the final role, as they almost always break heavily against the incumbent.

The undecided in the race is also stable. During this week, the average of the public polls was 4.4 percent. The polls completed for Saturday have an average undecided of 6 points. There is no evidence of undecided narrowing on this weekend or as result of recent events.

The Democracy Corps combined polls as of Friday showed that the undecided (prior to being pushed to a preference) leaned toward the Democrats by two-to-one and favored a significant change in direction over continuing Bush’s direction by 58 to 29 percent, also two-to-one.

The tracking for the Kerry campaign, conducted for the whole battleground and in key battleground states at the end of the week, including Friday night, show Kerry with a clear and stable lead.

Bottom line, amidst the intensity of campaign’s final days, it is important to keep one’s eye on the stability and structure of this race, with Bush still short of what he needs to win.

Des Moines Register Poll: Kerry Leads by 3 in Iowa

John Kerry leads George Bush in Iowa 48-45 percent of LV/AV's, according to a Des Moines Register Poll conducted 10/25-9.

Kerry Leads in NH, PA, MN, Tied in NV, Down 4 in VA

Bush leads Kerry 51-47 percent of Virginia LV's, according to a SurveyUSA Poll conducted 10/27-9.

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 49 percent of Nevada LV's, according to a SurveyUSA Poll conducted 10/28-9.

John Kerry leads George Bush 49-46 percent of New Hampshire LV's, according to a Concord Monitor Poll conducted 10/26-28.

Kerry leads Bush 48-47 percent of Pennsylvania LV's, according to a Temple/Inquirer Poll conducted 10/22-7.

Kerry leads Bush 49-41 percent of Minnesota LV's, according to a Star-Tribune Poll conducted 10/26-9.

State by State

Yesterday, I mentioned two sites that do EV calculations based on polls--NowChannel.com and Electoral Vote Predictor 2004. And, of course, there are many, many others.

But, in the end, the estimates they provide cannot, by their very nature (they are driven by the latest polls and only the latest polls), incorporate the wide range of historical and campaign data that are relevant to thinking through a state's probable electoral outcome this year. For that, we have to fall back on that old stand-by: the educated judgement of an actual person sifting through all available evidence.

Here's a good example of what I have in mind. "mattb25" over the Daily Kos offers an assessment that, in his description:

1. Assigned Bush and Kerry their safe states

2. Briefly examine[d] five states that are pretty strongly leaning Bush but could conceivably go Kerry: Missouri, Nevada, Colorado, West Virginia & Arkansas

3. [Took] a closer look at the nine states that, in my view, are 99% certain to determine the election: Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico, & New Hampshire. Please note that I DO NOT consider these states toss-ups, like much of the ignorant SCLM does--but they are the states that the campaigns are playing for right now.

I strongly recommend you read his piece in full. He does an excellent job of combining a critical analysis of available polling data with reasonable judgements about the state of the campaign and underlying political trends and history in a given state. The result is a solid assessment that takes you a lot farther than any purely-poll-driven EV analysis possibly can.

Kerry Ahead by 1 in New ARG National Poll

John Kerry leads George Bush 49-48 percent of nation-wide RV's, according to an American Research Group Poll conducted 10/28-30. The poll also found Kerry leading among Independents 48-45 percent.

National Tracking Poll Roundup

We've discussed how uncorrelated the movements of the tracking polls have tended to be--they rarely seemed to show coherent movement in one direction. But it's interesting to note that, even with the addition of a new tracking poll (Fox), the movement today was generally all in one direction: Kerry's. (You can find all the relevant data and links at NowChannel.com.)

Here are today's results:

Zogby: 47-46 Kerry from a 46-46 tie yesterday
Rasmussen: 47.9-47.1 Bush, from 48.7-46.7 Bush yesterday
WaPo LV: 49-48 Bush, from 50-47 Bush yesterday
WaPo RV: 48-47 Kerry, from 48-46 Bush yesterday
Fox 3way LV: 47-45 Bush, from 50-45 Bush yesterday
Fox 3way RV: 46-46 tie, from 48-46 Bush yesterday

The once exception to that pro-Kerry movement: the TIPP poll which (3way) was 46-44 Bush today, compared to a 46-46 tie yesterday.

Note: Today's WaPo RV result makes 5 out of 6 days that Kerry has been ahead in their RV sample.

Note: At this stage of the election in 2000, Bush was ahead of Gore by 4 points in the Zogby tracking poll, by 4 points in the ABC/WP tracking poll and by 7 points in the TIPP tracking poll.

Newsweek Poll: Bush Up 3, Approval At 46%

George Bush leads John Kerry 48-45 percent of nation-wide RV's in a 2-way Newsweek Poll conducted 10/27-29. The poll also found that Bush's approval rating was 46 percent.

It's "Real Clear" That Bush Is in Trouble

By Alan Abramowitz

RealClearPolitics.com is a popular website for tracking state and national polls, but it also has a real clear conservative slant--check out the sponsors and the bulk of the op-ed articles posted on the site. RealClearPolitics also includes some dubious polls in calculating their national and state averages--notably the robodialers Rasmussen and SurveyUSA. In addition, RealClearPolitics always posts results for likely voters rather than registered voters despite the questionable validity of the likely voter screens used by some olling porganizations. So one should take the results posted on the RealClearPolitics website with a grain of salt. What is interesting, however, is that realclearpolitics currently shows that John Kerry is leading in the polls in 8 of 16 key battleground states with 93 electoral votes (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine) while George Bush is leading in 8 states with 75 electoral votes (Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Missouri, Nevada, Colorado, Arkansas, and West Virginia). This would be an improvement of 12 electoral votes for John Kerry compared with Al Gore's showing in these 16 states in 2000.

More importantly, though, George Bush is currently averaging only 48.8 percent of the vote compared with 46.4 percent for John Kerry in the 8 states that he carried in 2000. And Bush is averaging only 45.8 percent of the vote compared with 47.9 percent for John Kerry in the 8 states that Al Gore carried in 2000. That measn Bush is running below the critical 50 percent mark for an incumbent president even in the battleground states that he carried in 2000 and well below the 50 percent mark in the battleground states that Al Gore carried in 2000.

So one thing is "real clear"--no matter what website you use to follow the polls, George Bush is in serious trouble.

Kerry Up 1 in NM, Tied in NH

John Kerry leads George Bush 48-47 percent of New Mexico LV's, according to an American Research Group Poll conducted 10/27-30.

Kerry and Bush are tied at 47 percent of New Hampshire LV's, according to an American Research Group Poll conducted 10/27-30.

October 29, 2004

Where Can I Get a Good EV Count?

I know a lot of people like Electoral Vote Predictor 2004. And it is indeed a handsome site that provides much valuable information.

However, there are some problems with it that, for me, reduce its usefulness and reliablity.

1. It is only updated once a day and the data are frequently a bit stale.

2. It does not provide links to the original, full data from a given poll.

3. Its EV calculations do not favor RV data over the more problematic LV data.

4. Its EV calculations include polls from the notorious partisan polling firm, Strategic Vision.

5. Its EV calculations include polls conducted over the internet, which have yet to prove their reliability.

6. Its EV calculations mix tracking polls in with regular polls which, since they come out every day (e.g., Zogby's ten battleground state tracking polls), are highly likely to be the most recent polls in a given state and hence push that state's EVs in whatever direction the tracking poll's going. Such an approach gives too much influence to the polling firm(s) doing the tracking and should be avoided.

So where can you find a site that corrects for all these problems? You're in luck: just trot on over to Bob Poulsen's 2.004k.com (recently renamed NowChannel.com) and dive right in. Poulsen's site is updated frequently, always provides links to the original data and uses a solid methodology for its EV counts:

If results with "Registered Voters" are available, those results are used. If not, "Adults" are used, or, as last choice, "Likely Voters".

Note: Pollsters' methods of determining "Likely Voters" are arbitrary and subjective.

Not Included: Polls from partisan polling firm Strategic Vision

Not Included: Polls from online-based surveys, including WSJ/Zogby Interactive

Methodology change on October 10: mid-date of poll is now used to determine chronological order.

Trend/Margin/Leader, and Electoral College tally, based on the most recent poll (only).

Beware, this is an imperfect system, and a single outlier state poll can make a dramatic change if it is the most recent.

For the best concept of a possible outcome, one must skeptically study each state poll for each battleground state.

Q. Where are the current Zogby Battleground State Polls, and the Detroit News/Mitchell Research Polls?

A. At the Daily Tracking Poll page.

Q. Why aren't the daily tracking polls included among all other state polls?

A. Because these polls are published daily, including them would give too much advantage to a single polling firm (since their polls would always be the most-recent poll).

Exactly. Note that, even though Poulsen doesn't use the state tracking data for his EV calculations, he still provides all those data, neatly and crisply arrayed on his very nifty Daily Tracking Poll page, along with all the national tracking polls, also very neatly organized.

You'll find navigating his site very easy to do (the latest data, both nationally and from the states are all available on one page, each state has its own page, etc.) and the original data from a poll are always just a mouse click away. And he puts his latest EV calculation on the bottom of each page, along with a link to the state data being used for the calculation.

It may not be as pretty as the Electoral Vote Predictor site. But the data are better and superbly organized. I urge you to make it a frequent stop as we wind down to election day.

Corrections: Votemaster over at Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 informs me that RVs are now favored over LVs in calculations and Strategic Vision is excluded from "averaged" poll readings for states.

Tracking the Tracking Polls: The Comparison to 2000

Today the TIPP tracking poll was a tie; at this time before the 2000 election, it was +5 Bush.

Today the Zogby tracking poll was a tie; at this time before the 2000 election, it was +3 Bush.

Today, the WP/ABC tracking poll (LV) was +3 Bush; at this time before the 2000 election, it was also +3 Bush...where it stayed, with a brief detour to +4, until its final poll, thereby missing the actual popular vote margin by 3.5 percentage points.

Today, the Rasmussen poll was +2 Bush; no information available on where it was at this point before the 2000 election (and it wouldn't be strictly comparable anyway, since Rasmussen has substantially changed their methodology since then), but it seems safe to say that Bush's margin was far larger--their final poll, after all, had Bush winning by 9 points.

Tracking the Tracking Polls: The Sequel

By Alan Abramowitz

Just to reinforce the point that I made in my earlier analysis of the day-to-day movements of the tracking polls this year, in the past three days the four tracking polls have produced the following changes in the margin between Bush and Kerry. A positive number means that Bush's margin increased in the past three days; a negative number means that Bush's margin decreased in the past three days.

TIPP - 5
Zogby - 3
Rasmussen + 2
WP/ABC + 5

Once again, we see that there is no consistency in the day-to-day movements of the tracking polls. While George Bush was gaining in the Rasmussen and Washington Post polls, he was slipping in the TIPP and Zogby polls. All four polls continue to show the race very tight, however, which does make sense.

So stop obsessing about the day to day movements of the tracking polls and do something useful with your time. Like canvassing, or leafletting, or phone-banking, or voting.

RVs or LVs?

I've made no secret of my preference for RV over LV data during the course of this campaign, for reasons that have been outlined in detail in many posts.

But what about now? If LV data make any sense at all, it's now, on the eve of the election, when polls are no longer, in effect, screening voters for participation in some mythical "snap" election substantially preceding the real election, but are getting close to screening voters for the real election itself. This was, after all, the original purpose of LV screens and models and perhaps these screens and models still deserve our trust this close to the election.

I'm not so sure. Just because these models can now be employed in a way closer to their original purpose doesn't mean they are now particularly trustworthy. The same problems that have vexed LV samples throughout this election seem likely to persist, at least at some level, right up to election day. I have, of course, reviewed these problems and the spotty track record of LV predictions in detail, and readers are urged to go back and consult those posts if they wish. And for extra credit, I strongly urge you to consult Mark Blumenthal's (of Mystery Pollster) epic seven part series on likely voter methods (soon to be major motion picture, I understand). You really should read the whole thing, but here's the Classic Comics version:

1. Likely voter methodology is extremely complicated.

2. Everybody does it differently.

3. They don't really know for sure their methods work--especially during the bulk of the campaign season--and there are all kinds of ways in which likely voter methods can produce biased samples and wild swings in results that are unrelated to voter sentiment.

4. It's not clear that the likely voter models have superior accuracy, even at election time, in today's political environment.

Which leads me to the following query: why bother? If these likely voter methods don't work that well, are prone to fairly serious bias and volatility and everybody has a different approach so you can't easily compare different polls, why go to all the trouble of drawing these samples anyway? Maybe good old-fashioned, low-hassle RV samples are just as good--in fact, better.

That said, we're kind of stuck with LV samples in most polls today, so in many cases it's either LV data or no data. As a mitigating factor, many of these polls that just report LVs have comparatively simple and modest screens--a question or two--that produce samples not too far off from a straight RV sample. But for the complicated LV approaches that use an elaborate series of questions and scores to ferret out the allegedly likely voters (think Gallup, but others like WP/ABC use similar systems), I'd still be inclined to take their RV data (assuming they're still reporting it) a bit more seriously than their LV data. Or, if you want a compromise, average the two.

OK. Class dismissed. Back to obsessively following the latest polls...

Analysis of the Big Four

By Alan Abramowitz

Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan are the four most important battleground states in the 2004 presidential election. Together they hold 85 electoral votes. In the 2000 election, Al Gore carried Michigan and Pennsylvania while George Bush carried Florida (barely) and Ohio. An analysis of independent polls that have been conducted in these four states since October 15th reveals that John Kerry is now leading in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio and trailing only slightly in Florida. This analysis includes only independent media and academic polls. It excludes partisan polls and robo-dial polls such as those done by Rasmussen and Surveyusa and the Zogby tracking polls. However, including the robo-dial and tracking polls would not change the overall results appreciably in any of these states. Results here are for likely voters. In most cases, John Kerry does slightly better among all registered voters than among likely voters.

In Florida (27 electoral votes) there have been 9 polls since October 15th. George Bush led in 5 polls, John Kerry led in 3 polls, and 1 poll was tied. The average of the 9 polls was Bush 47.8, Kerry 45.7, Nader 1.2.

In Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) there have been 8 polls since October 15th. Bush led in 1 poll, Kerry led in 6 polls, and 1 poll was tied. The average of the 8 polls was Bush 46.5, Kerry 48.8. Ralph Nader is not on the ballot in Pennsylvania.

In Ohio (20 electoral votes) there have been 8 polls since October 15th. Bush led in 2 polls, Kerry led in 6 polls. The average of the 8 polls was Bush 46.5, Kerry 48.0. Ralph Nader is not on the ballot in Ohio. Remember, no Republican has ever won a presidential election without carrying Ohio.

In Michigan (17 electoral votes) there have been 4 polls since October 15th. Kerry led in all 4. The average of the 4 polls was Bush 43.8, Kerry 48.0, Nader 1.0.

Based on the most recent independent polls conducted in these 4 key states, John Kerry appears to be poised to carry Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. In addition, George Bush's lead in Florida is far from secure. If undecided voters in Florida break toward Kerry, as most analysts expect, John Kerry could sweep these four states next Tuesday.

Source for all polling data is pollingreport.com.

Kerry Takes Lead in New Florida Poll

John Kerry leads George Bush 48.3-46.7 among Florida LV's, with 1.5 percent for Ralph Nader, according to a Florida Opinion Poll conducted 10/23-7 by New York Times Regional Newspapers. The poll also found that Kerry leads Bush among Florida Independents 48-40 percent.

Kerry Ahead by 6 and 4 in Pair of New MI Polls

John Kerry leads George Bush 46-40 percent of Michigan LVs, according to a Detroit News/Mitchell Research and Communications Poll conducted
10/25-28.

Kerry leads Bush 50-46 percent of MI LV's in a Research 2000 Poll conducted 10/25-27.

More Evidence Suggesting a High Turnout Election

Reported registration levels are the highest they've been since 1960-64. Most of this increased registration level is attributable to increased registration in the battleground states. Here's Curtis Gans of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate on the likelihood of increased turnout this year:

There is reason to believe that this year's increased registration, coupled with heightened voter interest and intense feelings generated by the 2004 election campaign, will produce substantially higher turnout this year.

Speaking as an old turnout hand, Gans is usually right in this area, so I'd put considerable stock in this assessment.

Another piece of evidence: early voting is going through the roof. On to election day.

Miami Dade County Poll: Kerry Running Stronger Than Gore in 2000

John Kerry leads George Bush 54.3-41.5 percent of Miami Dade County LV's, according to a new Miami Herald Poll conducted 10/22-5. Miami Herald reporter Jim Defede notes "In 2000, Al Gore beat Bush by almost 40,000 votes in Miami-Dade County...According to the Herald poll, done by Zogby International, Kerry is positioned to win Miami-Dade by anywhere from 90,000 to 100,000 votes. A margin that large in Florida's most populous county would be hard for Bush to make up across the rest of the state."

Latest PA Poll: Kerry Ahead by 5

John Kerry leads George Bush 49.9-44.6 percent of Pennsylvania LV's, according to a Westchester University Center for Social and Economic Research Poll conducted 10/24-7.

October 28, 2004

High Turnout: Advantage Democrats

Here are two things we can safely say about this election:

1. It will be a high-turnout election.

2. High turnout will benefit the Democrats.

Here's how we know it will be a high-turnout election:

First and foremost, this is a very high interest election. Data across a wide range of polls have persistently shown that voters are expressing more interest in this campaign and are following it more closely than they were at comparable points in the 2000 and 1996 campaigns. These indicators suggest that, on the basis of interest alone, voter turnout could be comparable to that in 1992.

And besides high interest, this is an election where there have been high levels of new registrations and voter contact by the "ground games" of both parties. Therefore, not only are voters more interested, they are also more likely to have been provided with the opportunity to mobilize that interest and convert it into voting on election day (or before). This suggests that turnout could potentially surpass that in 1992.

Here's how we know that high turnout is likely to benefit the Democrats:

The basic reason is simple. Democrats enjoy support from a number of "peripheral" constituencies this year whose participation levels are typically low and can be difficult to get to the polls. But in a high turnout election, electoral intensity draws these constituencies into the process and tends to produce not only an increase in their turnout--after all, most groups will experience at least some increase in turnout--but an increase in turnout that is higher than that of more mainstream constituencies. Therefore, the higher the turnout, the higher the payoff for the Democrats, because their peripheral constituencies are disproportionately mobilized into the process.

One such constituency is young voters (18-29). While there have been exceptions, and Kerry's lead has varied over time, most polls most of the time have shown Kerry with a healthy lead over Bush among young voters in general, and college students in particular.

Another constituency is new voters. Again, while not all polls agree and Kerry's lead has varied over time, most polls most of the time have shown Kerry with a strong lead over Bush among new voters.

Underscoring the new voters pattern is Democratic success in generating new registrations this year, particularly, of course, in the battleground states. While there is some dispute over who won these "registration wars"--and we may not have a final answer until after the election when more and better data will be available--I am persuaded that the Democrats have had greater success registering voters where they matter the most. And a high turnout election is just what is needed to bring these new registrants, whose participation rates are typically less than that of already-registered voters, to the polls.

Another key--perhaps the key--constituency is minority voters, whose support for the Democrats is exceptionally high. Bush's black support generally registers in the 7-10 percent range (though there are exceptions; see my recent discussion of one of those exceptions) and Bush's Hispanic support has been running around 30 percent in nationwide or multistate polls of Hispanics. (Such polls--as opposed to regular national polls--provide for the Spanish-language interviewing and other arrangements needed to get a proper sample of Hispanic voters and therefore provide better measures of Hispanic sentiment.)

Finally, recent work by Victoria Lynch of the DLC, based on National Election Studies data, shows that peripheral voters in general--those who are not highly committed to voting and tend to surge in and out of the electorate depending on their interest in the election--tend to lean naturally toward the Democrats, not the Republicans. As the DLC's memo on the report summarizes these tendencies:

Peripheral voters are much more like Democrats than Republicans in supporting an activist government; in their commitment to equal opportunity; and in their rejection of cultural conservative "wedge issues." Demographically, peripheral voters are more like Democrats than Republicans in that they are relatively younger, less educated, more likely to consider themselves "working class," less likely to attend worship services regularly, and much more likely to self-identify as ideological "moderates" rather than conservatives. Indeed, this analysis casts a lot of doubt on Republican claims that non-voting Christian conservatives are a big part of the pool of "mobilizable" peripheral voters -- in part because these voters are disproportionately disengaged from civic as well as political involvement, and do not readily follow opinion-leaders, much less the "voter guides" distributed in churches that they do not regularly attend.

The last point is important because it helps debunk Karl Rove's infamous--and specious--claim that there were 4 million "missing" conservative white evangelical voters in the 2000 election who could potentially be turned out in this election. (If further debunking of the missing 4 million is needed, let me recommend Marisa Katz' demolition job on The New Republic's website.)

So, in sum, a high turnout election seems very likely and a consequent advantage for the Democrats very likely as well. And the Democrats' ground game seems to be running in high gear and fully capable of maximizing that advantage (see Harold Meyerson's excellent new piece on Democratic mobilization efforts). In a close election--and that seems a very distinct possibility--this turnout advantage for the Democrats could not only be important, but decisive.

New Democracy Corps Analysis Shows Bush Suffering Major Loss of Support Among College-Educated Men

An important new analysis by Stan Greenberg and Anna Greenberg draws attention to a critical problem facing George Bush – a startling loss of support among college-educated men. These voters, once “paid-up members in Karl Rove’s “Republican Base” have defected in large numbers to John Kerry.

The October 27th analysis by Democracy Corps examines the latest data on the patterns of Bush and Kerry support among both men and women and among both non-college and college voters.

Here are some highlights from the analysis, focusing on the changing attitudes of college-educated men. Make sure you read the full-text of the memo at the D-Corps site. It’s got lots of important additional information and data that can help guide Democratic strategy in the coming days.

The coverage of the election has mostly missed the real story....

The big change is Bush’s underperformance with men. His margin has slipped 9 points. [In 2000, Bush lead Gore 54-42 among men. Today Kerry lags Bush among men by only 3%, 46-49] As we shall see below, that has been driven by dramatic losses with white college-educated men...

Watch them. In 2000, Gore faced a rout here, losing by 25 points. These were paid up members in Karl Rove’s “Republican base.” But today Kerry is only losing these college men by 6 points (51 to 45 percent)...

Where did Bush go wrong with educated men? Clearly the Bush campaign set out to win college educated men with a strategy that emphasized continued tax cuts and Kerry’s “tax and spend” record in the Senate. At the outset, this might have been sufficient: Bush led among white college educated men by 20 points (56 to 36 percent) in the late winter and early spring. But as the campaign progressed, Kerry steadily increased his share of the vote – ultimately by 9 points to 45 percent – while Bush dropped by 5 points to 51 percent.

Republican strategies, centered on the war and the military, cultural politics and ideology were meant to solidify the base, but it created a series of problems among the educated men. First, college educated men are increasingly skeptical about the situation in Iraq. Second, educated men question Bush’s approach to the economy, which remains
sluggish while the deficits explode. Finally, the cultural politics that are so important to shoring up religious voters have no impact with these socially moderate voters.

White college educated men prefer Bush on foreign policy by only 4 points, down from 15 points in the spring and summer, while white men without a college education prefer Bush by 28 points. White educated men favor Bush on Iraq by only 8 points (down from 20 points) while white non-college educated men favor him by 29 points. Only 45 percent of white college educated men say that Bush has good plans for Iraq compared to 61 percent among white non-college educated men.

Interestingly, Bush has seemed to lose these voters on the economy, no longer persuaded by tax cuts. While white college educated men say they prefer Bush on taxes to Kerry (55 to 39 percent), they are split on which candidate would do a better job on the economy. In fact, they moved from giving Bush a 16-point advantage on the economy over Kerry in the spring and summer to only a 3-point edge now. At the same time, white non-college educated men did not move in their assessment, giving Bush a 17-point advantage on the economy.

While cultural politics helped Bush with many of his base groups including white religious and rural voters, it created no traction among white college educated men. White college educated men are simply not culturally conservative – they give pro-life groups (39 percent warm, 42 percent cool) and the NRA (39 percent warm, 43 percent cool) net negative ratings, unlike white non-college educated men. And while they oppose gay marriage (26 percent warm, 48 percent cool), they do so not nearly by the margin as white non-college educated men (16 percent warm, 64 percent cool). A majority of white college men do not own guns (55 percent), while a majority of white non-college men do (54 percent).

More than any other factor, these white college educated men are undercutting Bush’s male vote.

The Economy May Not Be Everything

But it's still pretty damn important, so it's very interesting indeed to note that both consumer confidence indices (University of Michigan and the Conference) fell sharply this month.

Here's the Wall Street Journal on the University of Michigan index:

The recent surge in oil prices and heightened concerns about sluggish job growth helped push the University of Michigan's consumer-sentiment index as of mid-October below the benchmark reading of 90 -- a level considered by some political analysts important for an incumbent president's re-election prospects. Of the six presidents seeking re-election since 1972, the three who lost faced voters when the Michigan index was below that figure.

And here's Bloomberg News on the Conference Board index:

U.S. consumer confidence fell for a third straight month in October, a private survey showed, suggesting rising voter discontent with the economy a week before President George W. Bush seeks re-election.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index dropped to 92.8 from a revised 96.7 in September, lower than previously estimated. Americans' assessment of the current economy and their outlook for the next six months fell.

The survey is the Conference Board's last before the U.S. presidential election. Since the index began in 1967, every incumbent president facing re-election with consumer confidence below 99 on Election Day has lost.

Not good news for Mr. Bush, I'd have to say. And speaking of the economy, check out this very useful report, "Less Cash in Their Pockets: Trends in Incomes, Wages, Taxes, and Health Spending of Middle-Income Families, 2000-03", from the indispensable Economic Policy Institute. A very complete analysis that makes clear why voters by 2:1 say the country is worse off, rather than better off, as a result of Bush's economic policies (lastest LA Times poll). And why two-thirds of voters believe their family is not better off today than four years ago (latest CBS/NYT poll).

Unconfident consumers with sinking incomes. Sounds to me like a recipe for incumbent defeat.

More on the Nader Non-Factor

Peter Dizikes had an excellent article on the sputtering Nader campaign yesterday in Salon. This excerpt from his article provides a nice summary of Nader's woes:

As those of us who have seen Nader in person this month know, his campaign is a relatively low-energy, low-interest affair. Crowds are down. Campaign funds are minimal. The candidate who drew about 3 percent of the popular vote in 2000 is at 1 percent in this year's polls and could finish lower.

To see just how Nader is struggling, consider the trajectory of his campaign in 2000, and contrast it to his 2004 effort. On Aug. 25, 2000, Nader drew 10,579 supporters, who paid $7 each, to a "super rally" at the Portland Coliseum. There followed a string of "super rallies" with five-figure attendance numbers: 11,500 in Minneapolis, 12,000 at the Fleet Center in Boston, 10,000 in Chicago, and about 15,000 inside New York's Madison Square Garden, at $20 a ticket.

In 2004, Nader events are far smaller. On Oct. 5, for example, Nader spoke to about 65 supporters in Portland, Maine, before moving on to the University of New Hampshire event, where just over 100 supporters showed, and finishing the day speaking to an audience of about 500 at the University of Vermont. Nader's largest crowd of the month appears to have been about 800 in Berkeley, on Oct. 11, but I counted a more typical 225 in the audience last Saturday as Nader spoke on the Rutgers campus in Piscataway, N.J. Nader will end October having held over 30 campaign events, yet his total audience for the month could comfortably fit inside Madison Square Garden. At many events, anti-Nader groups protest outside; inside, former supporters often confront him during the question-and-answer sessions.

Meanwhile, the celebrity supporters who adorned Nader's campaign in 2000 -- including Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and, yes, Michael Moore -- have jumped ship. A long list of academics and public figures from Nader's 2000 "Citizens Committee" -- Noam Chomsky, Studs Terkel, Cornel West and dozens more -- now back John Kerry. Even Winona LaDuke, Nader's vice presidential candidate in 2000, endorsed the Democratic candidate this month, saying, "I'm voting my conscience on Nov. 2. I'm voting for John Kerry."

But check out the whole article. It's full of juicy stuff including Nader's current fundraising strategy (begging penniless college students for money).

Kerry Ahead by 4 and 3 in Pair of New National Polls

John Kerry leads George Bush 49-45 percent of nation-wide RV's, according to an Economist/YouGov Poll conducted 10/25-27.

Kerry leads Bush 49-46 percent of nation-wide LV's in a new Democracy Corps Poll conducted 10/26-27

New ARG Polls: Kerry Ahead in OR, WI, Lags in IA

Results of American Research Groups Polls of LV's conducted 10/25-27:

Oregon - Kerry leads 50-46 percent
Wisconsin - Kerry ahead 48-47 percent
Iowa - Bush leads 48-47 percent

Quinnipiac Poll: Kerry, Bush tied Among FL RV's

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 44 percent of Florida RV's, according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll conducted 10/22-26 .The Poll also found that, among the 16 percent of Flordians who have alread voted, Kerry leads by 56-39 percent.

Analysis of Major National Polls

By Alan Abramowitz

Here's where the presidential race stands right now based on an analysis of the most recent national polls conducted by 10 leading polling organizations. For this analysis I have excluded all partisan polls, internet polls, and robo-dial polls. That leaves out Democracy Corps, Harris, Economist/YouGov, and Rasmussen. Some of these polls, especially Democracy Corps, are in my opinion very reputable, but for the sake of fairness I'm excluding them. Included in the analysis are the following polls: Gallup, CBS/New York Times, NBC/Wall Street Journal, ABC/Washington Post, Zogby, Time, Newsweek, Pew, AP/Ipsos, and LA Times. All of these polls except Zogby report results for registered as well as likely voters.

Among likely voters, Bush was leading in 5 polls, Kerry in 2, and 3 were tied. The average level of support for the candidates was Bush 48.2, Kerry 47.0, Nader 1.3.

Among registered voters, Bush was leading in 3 polls, Kerry in 2, and 4 were tied. The average level of support for the candidates was Bush 47.0, Kerry 46.0, Nader 1.9.

It is clear from these results that heading into the final weekend of the campaign, the presidential race right now is extremely close. George Bush appears to hold a very slight lead nationally, but his support remains below the 50 percent level that is generally considered necessary for an incumbent since undecided voters generally break toward the challenger by a wide margin.

WaPo/Univision/TRPI Poll: Kerry Ahead Nearly 2-1 Among Latino RV's

John Kerry leads George Bush 59-30 percent of Latino RV's in 11 states, according to a Univision/Washington Post/Thomas Rivera Policy Institute Poll conducted 10/4-16.

Note that Matthew Dowd, chief Bush campaign strategist, has said that Bush needs 38-40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004 to win. Looks like Bush isn't going to make that target--or even come close.

New Polls Have Kerry Ahead in OH, PA, IA, Lagging in FL

New LA Times Polls, conducted 10/22-26 provide the following results for RV's in 3 key states:

Florida - Bush leads 49-41 percent, 3 percent for Nader.
Ohio - Kerry ahead 49-45 percent in 2-way matchup.
Pennsylvania - Kerry up 48-45 percent head-to-head.

Kerry leads Bush among PA RV's 49-46 percent in a Gallup Poll conducted 10/23-6.

Kerry leads Bush 48-47 percent of Iowa RV's in a Gallup Poll conducted 10/22-25.

October 27, 2004

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

The polls have generally been moving in the right direction lately for John Kerry, both nationally and on the state level, but Democrats are still inclined to be sent into a tizzy by any negative poll result they run across.

They shouldn't. It's time to revisit the thrilling polls of yesteryear to get a sense of just how much the polls in 2000 tended to overestimate Bush's strength and underestimate Gore's. I believe, for reasons I have discussed at length, the polls are likely overestimating Bush's strength this year as well. But this year, Kerry is doing better in the polls than Gore did at the equivalent point in the 2000 race. Therefore, if current polls are overestimating Bush's strength by the same amount as in 2000, Kerry should wind up doing better than Gore on election day--and Gore won the popular vote by half a point. And that's not even factoring in the likelihood that, with Bush as the incumbent, Kerry will receive the bulk of undecided voters' support on election day.

So let's take that stroll down memory lane.

Start with this nugget from Alan Abramowitz:

During the final week of the 2000 campaign, 43 national polls were released, including multiple releases by several polling organizations such as Gallup. George Bush led in 39 polls, Al Gore in 2. Bush's average lead in the polls was 3.6 percent.

Something to keep in mind when people complain that so far (two days) in this final week Kerry has "only" had small leads in the DCorps poll, the Harris Poll and the WP/ABC tracking poll twice (LVs and RVs)!

And here are some readings from specific 2000 polls:

1. The ABC tracking poll averaged a 4 point Bush lead in the last week and its final poll had a 3 point Bush lead.

2. Bloomberg News final poll (October 29) had a 3 point Bush lead.

3. Final Time poll (October 26) had a 6 point Bush lead.

4. Gallup's tracking poll had Bush ahead by an average of 4 points in the final week and by 2 points in its final poll.

5. Marist College's final poll (November 2) gave Bush a 5 point lead.

6. Final NBC/WSJ poll (November 5) had Bush up by 3 and their mid-October poll had him up by 6.

7. Final Newsweek poll (November 2) had Bush up by 2 and their October 27 poll had him up by 8.

8. Final Pew Research poll had Bush up by 2.

9. A November 4 CBS/NYT poll had Bush up by 5 (though the final CBS poll was dead-on, with a 1 point Gore lead).

10. Final ICR poll had Bush up by 2.

11. Voter.com Battleground survey (this year called GWU Battleground) averaged an 8 point Bush lead in the final week and its final poll gave Bush a 5 point lead.

12. TIPP tracking poll gave Bush a average 6 point lead in the final week and a final poll lead of 2 points.

13. Prior to its well-known final reading of a 2 point Gore lead, Zogby's tracking poll gave Bush an average 3 point lead in the final week.

14. Final Hotline poll (November 5) gave Bush a 3 point lead.

You Know Michigan's Safe Now!

Why? Because Mitchell Research has actually released a poll showing Kerry in the lead in Michigan (albeit by only a point). To understand the significance of this, you need to know that Mitchell Research has been the only firm to show Bush with a lead in Michigan in the entire post-labor day period. Specifically, there have been 17 polls in Michigan in September and October (prior to Mitchell Research's new release), 15 of which showed Kerry in the lead (by an average of 5 points in both months) and only two of which--both from Mitchell Research--showed Bush with a lead (also by an average of 5 points).

You had to wonder if they were polling the same state. So if Mitchell Research finally has Kerry ahead, even by a point, that probably means he's running away with the state.

October 26, 2004

Blacks and the 2004 Election

Yesterday's New York Times had a front-page story on Kerry and Gore seeking to mobilize black voters for the Democratic ticket. No doubt they are and for good reason. The more black voters that show up on election day, the better for John Kerry.

More controversial is the story's assertion, based on a recent national poll of African-Americans by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, that Bush is generating much more support among blacks than he did in 2000.

Now it is true that the Joint Center's poll has Bush's support among blacks at 18 percent, double the 9 percent the Joint Center recorded in their 2000 poll. It is also far more than the support the 2000 exit poll found for Bush (8 percent) and the average support Republican presidential candidates in the last three elections (10 percent).

But how credible is their 18 percent figure? Not very, in my view. Or in the view of Cornell Belcher, a pollster who focuses on African-Americans, who, according to the Times story:

said his surveys in battleground states showed Mr. Bush in single digits. Nationally, Mr. Belcher said, he has found only 10 percent of blacks approve even "somewhat" of Mr. Bush's job performance, while 89 percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

So who's right? I think Belcher is. The overwhelming evidence from public polls is that Bush's support among blacks is running very close to where it was in 2000 and not even in shouting distance of the Joint Center's 18 percent figure. Consider these data, which I managed to ferret out from various polling sources:

1. A July poll of black RVs by BET/CBS News had Bush's support at 10 percent.

2. Bush's black support in the last week of WP/ABC tracking polls has been averaging 9 percent.

3. Bush's average black support in the last four Pew polls has been 9 percent.

4. Bush's average black support in the last week of national Zogby tracking polls has been 8 percent.

5. Bush's support among black RVs averaged only 7 percent in three October Gallup polls.

Sounds like Bush can expect his black support in 2004 to closely resemble his black support in 2000.

Of course, defenders of the Joint Center poll might point out that, outside of the BET/CBS poll, it has a much larger sample size than the various subsamples averaged above. But larger sample size, by itself, doesn't make the Joint Center estimate "better". It merely means that, all else equal, the Joint Center estimate should have less random sampling error than any single estimate based on one of the national subsamples. But the various subsample estimates taken together--and, cumulatively, we're talking about estimates based on thousands and thousands of black voters--should be relatively free of random sampling error and close to Bush's true support level among blacks.

So the fact that all these various polls are finding Bush's black support running in a very tight band between 7-10 percent is a sign that the Joint Center poll is off, not everbody else.

What could account for the Joint Center's anomalous finding? Who knows, but one possibility is the way they asked the question:

"Suppose the 2004 Presidential election were being held today. Among the three major nominees, George W. Bush, John Kerry and Ralph Nader, who would you like to see win?"

This is, to say the least, a very strange way to ask a trial heat question. It doesn't actually ask who the respondent is going to vote for, but rather who they "would like to see win" the election (possibly misheard by some respondents as simply who "would win" the election). The question also does not mention the partisan affiliation of the candidates so respondents do not receive the partisan cues of Democrat for Kerry (presumably less well-known among black voters than Gore) and Republican for Bush. Taken together, these wording problems may have led to enough confusion on the part of inattentive voters to create an unusually high support number for Bush.

I don't know if that's right. But I do know the Joint Center figure should not be taken seriously. The key task for the Democrats is, and will remain, mobilizing high numbers of black voters to go to the polls, not convincing them to vote for Kerry over Bush.

Kerry Ahead by 1 in New Harris Poll

John Kerry leads George Bush 48-47 percent of nation-wide LV's, with 1 percent for Nader, 1 percent other and 2 percent not sure, according to a Harris Poll conducted 10/21-25.

Note that, since Harris is using their more restrictive definition of likely voters in this poll (registered, absolutely certain to vote, voted in 2000 if old enough to vote), this result actually represents an 9 point swing in Kerry's favor since their mid-October poll, when Kerry was behind 51-43 among this particular flavor of likely voters.

Latest LA Times Poll: Kerry/Edwards Leading By 1% in Horserace

In a poll released October 25 the LA Times has Kerry/Edwards leading Bush/Cheney 48% to 47% in a 2-way RV matchup.

Latest Democracy Corps Survey Shows Kerry Up By Two Nationwide and Leading 52-45 in Battleground States.

The latest Democracy Corps survey, conducted Oct 23-25 Shows John Kerry leading George Bush 49-47 in their national sample and 52-45 in the battleground states. The poll also found that Kerry is ahead by 22 pts among new voters and includes substantial additional information on the latest trends among population subgroups and target voters.

Latest Pennsylvania Poll is 13th to Show Kerry Leading Bush, This Time by 49-44

The latest poll of Pennsylvania voters, conducted by Philadelphia Daily News/Keystone Oct 19-23 shows John Kerry leading 49 to 44 percent among registered voters and 51 to 46 percent among likely voters. The survey also shows Bush's approval rating at an anemic 42%.

Latest ARG Polls: Kerry Leading By 3% in Florida, 2% In Ohio, 3% in Pennsylvania.

The latest polls from the American Research Group, conducted October 23-25, show John Kerry ahead in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Earlier ARG surveys also showed Kerry ahead in New Mexico and Oregon and tied in Wisconsin and Iowa. The complete ARG results are shown below.

 BushKerryNaderDKOct
Florida46%49%1%4%23-25
Ohio47%49%*4%23-25
Pennsylvania47%50%*3%23-25
Wisconsin47%47%2%4%16-19
New Mexico46%48%1%5%16-18
New Hampshire47%46%1%6%16-18
Oregon44%49%2%5%9-12
Iowa47%47%2%4%10-12
* Ralph Nader is not on the ballot

Gallup Vs. Everyone Else

By Alan Abramowitz

It's not just Gallup's recent national polls that appear to be out of line with the results of most other recent polls. Some of their state polls have also produced rather bizarre results. Two notable examples are Gallup's recent polls in the key battleground states of Florida and Wisconsin.

In Florida, Gallup just released a poll showing George Bush leading John Kerry by 9 percentage points among registered voters. Wow! No other poll in the past month has given Bush a lead of more than 3 percentage points in Florida. In fact, of the 12 other Florida polls released in the past two weeks, 6 have John Kerry leading while only 3 have Bush leading, and 3 have the race tied. On average, in these 12 polls, Kerry held a lead of 0.6 percentage points. Quite a difference.

In Wisconsin, Gallup just released a poll showing Bush leading Kerry by 8 percentage points among registered voters. No other poll this month has given Bush a lead of more than 3 percentage points in Wisconsin. Of the 5 other Wisconsin polls released in the past two weeks, 3 have Kerry leading, 1 has Bush leading, and 2 have the race tied. On average, in these 5 polls, Kerry held a lead of 1.5 percentage points.

If this keeps up, when this election is over, the folks over at Gallup are either going to look like idiots or geniuses. I'll leave to you to guess which one is more likely.

The "How Can Gallup........" Game (Florida Edition)

Gallup has just released a new Florida poll that has Bush ahead of Kerry by 9 points among RVs (8 points among LVs). This extraordinary result has led DR reader Lawrence Becker to propose another round of the "How Can Gallup....." game.

Remember how to play? It's easy! Just take the latest Gallup outlier and compare it to other publicly available data that seem to contradict it. And let the fun begin!

Here's Becker's contribution:

How can Gallup have Bush up by only 2 among registered voters nationally, yet have Bush up by 9 among registered voters in Florida?

That is really a feat. Let’s compare with some other polling organizations that poll both nationally and in Florida. Yesterday Rasmussen (by no means a Democratic firm) had Kerry up by 2 points nationally; in fact, it was Kerry’s first lead in Rasmussen’s tracking poll since August 23. Rasmussen also had Kerry and Bush tied in Florida. And Zogby had Bush up by 3 in his national tracking poll yesterday. But he had Bush up by just 1.2 points in Florida!

I'm sure you can think of your own. And here's a couple of my own contributions.

How can Gallup have the race dramatically tightening on the national level since its late September poll--from an 11 point Bush lead in their 3-way RV matchup to a mere 2 points today--while they have Bush's lead in Florida nearly doubling over the same period from 5 to 9 points?

How can Gallup have an 8 point (!) Republican party ID advantage in both their LV (44-36) and their RV (43-35) Florida samples, when the Democrats had a 2 point advantage among actual Florida voters (40-38) in the 2000 election? (Thanks to Steve Soto for the Gallup Florida party ID numbers.)

Note: for more on Gallup's outlier state results, see Alan Abramowitz' contribution above.

October 25, 2004

New Polls Show Kerry leads by 9% in NH, 2% in FL

John Kerry leads George Bush 50 to 41 percent of New Hampshire LV's, according to a Center for Applied Public Opinion Research Poll conducted 10/18-21 for Franklin Pierce College. The poll scored Bush's approval rating at 45 percent.

John Kerry leads George Bush 50-48 percent of Florida LV's, according to a SurveyUSA Poll conducted 10/22-24.

New Gallup Poll Shows Movement Toward Kerry

The new Gallup poll shows the race moving in Kerry's direction. In their last poll, October 14-16, they showed Bush with a 4 point lead, 50-46 in their 2-way RV matchup. This poll, conducted October 22-24, has Bush's lead shrinking to a single point (49-48).

Even Gallup's bogus LV sample has Bush's lead shrinking from its outlandish 8 points in the previous poll to a merely unbelievable 5 points in the current poll. (Of course, USA Today--shame on them!--leads with and heavily emphasizes the LV results in their story on the new poll.)

Subgroup analysis of the Gallup RV data shows several patterns very favorable to the Kerry campaign:

1. Kerry leads among independents by 5, 49-44.

2. Kerry leads among moderates by 18, 57-35.

3. Kerry leads in the battleground states by 2, 49-47, and Bush's approval rating in these same states has sunk to 46 percent.

On to November 2.

Analysis of Trends in Major Media Polls

By Alan Abramowitz

It isn't just the tracking polls that seem to be fluttering randomly in the wind. An analysis of polls by six major media outlets (Time, Newsweek, CNN/USA Today/Gallup, CBS/New York Times, Pew, and Fox) that released polls during the first half of October and during the second half of October reveals that there is a strong negative correlation (-.84) between the early October results and the late October results.

In other words, the better Bush was doing relative to Kerry in the early October poll, the worse the was doing in the late October poll. Some of this might be explained by the well known phenomenon of regression toward the mean. If a poll's early October sample had either too many Bush supporters or too few Bush supporters just due to chance, it's late October sample should be closer to the true population mean. But these results went well beyond regression toward the mean. Every poll that was above the overall mean in early October was below the overall mean in late October and every poll that was below the overall mean in in early October was above the overall mean in late October. What this bizarre pattern suggests is that the movements of the major media polls in October, like the movements of the tracking polls, reflect sampling error and peculiarties of the polls rather than real change in the underlying preferences of the electorate.

Bush's Battleground Blues (Continued)

A few days ago, I highlighted some recent polls that showed solid leads for Kerry in the battleground states as a whole, states that were split about evenly between Gore and Bush four years ago.

Since then, Democracy Corps has released new data showing more of the same (a 7 point lead for Kerry in the battleground states). And Mystery Pollster looks at a substantially wider range of recent polls and finds Kerry's battleground performance running ahead of his national performance in every single one. As Chris Bowers points out over at MyDD, these data show Kerry averaging a 49-45 advantage in the battleground.

And, not to pile on, but check but the latest unemployment data from the battleground states. Not a pretty picture, by and large, for BC04: Wisconsin and Iowa show increases in their unemployment rates in the last month and Ohio's remains stubbornly high at 6 percent.

October 24, 2004

New Voters for Kerry

A new Ipsos-AP analysis of their poll data shows new voters leaning very heavily toward Kerry.

Among LVs who are new voters, Kerry is favored over Bush by a smashing 25 points, 60-35. Moreover, these new voters were twice as likely to say they'd been contacted by the Kerry campaign (38 percent) than by the Bush campaign (16 percent).

The Ipsos-AP analysis provides this sketch of new voters' demographics and political attitudes:

New voters tend to be young (64% are under 35), unmarried (54%), with some college experience (36%) and holding down a full-time job (63%), often in the service sector or skilled trades. They say the country is heading in the wrong direction (68%) and disapprove of Bush’s performance as President (63%) and his handling of Iraq (65%), in particular.

Obviously, the more of these voters that show up at the polls on November 2, the better for John Kerry.

Time Vs. Newsweek

The duel of the newsweekly polls continues. The new Time poll implausibly, when compared to other public polls, showed a substantial, sudden move toward Bush among RVs, going from a dead heat last week (46-46) to a 7 point lead this week (50-43).

The new Newsweek poll, on the other hand was a model of stability, going from a 1 point lead for Bush among RVs last week (48-47) to a dead heat this week (47-47). (The poll showed more movement in Kerry's direction among LVs, but that clearly reflected differences between the two polls in who was screened into the LV sample, rather than substantial change in voter sentiment.)

Newsweek, as they did last week, provided a number of interesting subgroup horse race numbers for their 3-way RV matchup that are worth taking a look at:

1. Independents favor Kerry/Edwards by 14 points, 52-38.

2. Swing voters favor Kerry/Edwards by 8, 41-33.

3. First-time voters favor Kerry/Edwards by 3, 47-44.

4. Early voters favor Kerry/Edwards by 6, 50-44.

5. Young voters (18-29) favor Kerry/Edwards by 14, 54-40, and seniors (65+) favor Kerry/Edwards by 5, 48-43.

6. Men favor Bush-Cheney by 51-43 and women favor K/E by 49-42.

Note that this last finding reverses the rather strange reverse gender gap pattern in Newsweek's last poll, wher men favored K/E and women favored B/C.

Two other findings from the Newsweek poll illustrate the difficult challenge Bush faces in making the case for his re-election on two central issues. First, when asked whether "Bush's economic and tax policies" have done more to help or hurt economic conditions in the country, just 33 percent say these policies have helped the economy, compared to 62 percent who say they've either hurt the economy (43 percent) or made no difference (19 percent). Second, when asked whether the war with Iraq has made Americans safer from terrorism or not, 53 percent say no and only 42 percent say yes.

Iraq and the economy: for Bush, difficult issues to defend but even more difficult to avoid.

Tracking the Tracking Polls

Here are today's tracking poll results (all data based on LVs, Rasmussen data include leaners):

Rasmussen: tie (49-49) from +3 Bush (50-47) 2 days ago
WP/ABC: +1 Bush (49-48) from +4 Bush (50-46) 2 days ago
Zogby: +2 Bush (48-46) from +2 Bush (47-45) 2 days ago
TIPP: +4 Bush (47-43) from tie (45-45) 2 days ago

So Bush's position is either weakening, strengthening or staying about the same. That certainly helps clear things up.

One is tempted to say movement in these polls can't possibly be providing much meaningful information on the state of the race.

Alan Abramowitz expands on this idea in his characteristically lucid fashion below:

For many political junkies, including myself, following the presidential tracking polls has become a daily obsession. We wait with bated breath each morning for Zogby to release his latest results. At the stroke of noon, we log onto the Rasmussen website to get our second daily fix. Finally, at 5 p.m. we eagerly await the latest update on the Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll. Some of us have even discovered a fourth tracking poll, done by an organization called TIPP (the TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics). The TIPP tracking poll usually releases its daily update sometime in the afternoon.

Tracking polls are different from other political polls. Most polls are done over several days to allow time for multiple attempts to reach those who do not answer their phone the first time. In contrast, in the case of tracking polls, all interviews must be completed the same day so callback attempts are limited or nonexistent. These daily samples are combined over three or four days, with the most recent day’s interviews added to the sample and one earlier day’s interviews dropped from the sample. The result is a kind of “rolling sample” that, theoretically, tracks day-to-day trends in support for the candidates.

Political campaigns have long used tracking polls to gauge voter response to the campaign and formulate strategy. In recent years, however, a number of media outlets have also been conducting tracking polls and reporting their results to the general public. Four years ago, for example, the Gallup organization conducted a tracking poll during the final month of the campaign. However, the results were so controversial that Gallup dropped its tracking poll this year. The problem with the Gallup tracking poll was that its results gyrated wildly from week to week, and sometimes even from day to day.

In order to avoid the kinds of problems that affected the Gallup tracking poll, the four tracking polls being conducted this year all weight their nightly samples based on certain assumptions about the demographic and partisan composition of the electorate. The result is that this year’s tracking polls have been much more stable than Gallup’s 2000 tracking poll. And all of the tracking polls have produced similar results. On average, during the month of October, President Bush has had a lead of 1 percent in the Zogby tracking poll, 3 percent in the TIPP tracking poll, 2 percent in the Rasmussen tracking poll, and 3 percent in the Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll. Since October 12th, when TIPP joined the other three, the daily average of the four tracking polls has ranged from a 1 point lead for Bush to a 3 point lead for Bush with no evident trend.

So does it make sense to monitor the daily movements of these tracking polls? The answer is that if you’re hoping to learn something about real trends in support for the presidential candidates, it probably doesn’t make sense. That’s because there is no correlation between the day-to-day movements of the four tracking polls. In other words, they don’t move together—each poll’s movements are unrelated to all of the other polls’ movements. For example, the average correlation between the daily movements of the Zogby Poll and the daily movements of the other three polls is -.18. The average correlation for the Rasmussen Poll is -.07, the average correlation for the TIPP Poll is -.09, and the average correlation for the Washington Post/ABC News Poll is -.12. The combined average for all four tracking polls is -.11. These weak negative correlations mean that there is actually a slight tendency for the polls to move in opposite directions.

What these results indicate is that the day-to-day movements of the tracking polls are essentially random. Rather than reflecting real shifts in voter preferences, the day-to-day movements of the tracking polls are simply reflecting sampling error. This doesn’t mean that the overall results of these polls are wrong. In fact, the average margin between George Bush and John Kerry in the tracking polls has been very close to the average margin in other recent national polls. It just means that the day-to-day shifts in the tracking polls are probably not real and that the real level of support for George Bush and John Kerry within the electorate has not changed over the past few weeks: the presidential race has been very close since the beginning of October and it is likely to remain that way until Election Day.

So relax political junkies. Stop obsessing over the daily movements of the tracking polls and get a life! Follow the World Series. Follow your favorite college or professional football team. Follow the weather report. Follow something that is more real than the day-to-day movements of the tracking polls.

Words of wisdom from the good Professor. Heed them well and you'll get through the rest of the campaign with a considerably lower stress level.

The State of the Race With 9 Days to Go

By Alan Abramowitz

There have been 35 national polls released since the first presidential debate, not counting tracking polls. Bush holds an average lead of 1.5 percent in these 35 polls. There is no trend evident. In 19 polls released between October 1 and 15, Bush led by an average of 1.6 points. In 16 polls released since October 15, Bush led by an average of 1.4 points.

Here are the results in the 11 most important battleground states. These are the 11 states identified as the key battlegrounds by the N.Y. Times today.

State (EVs)October pollsMean Bush lead/deficit
FL(27)14+0.6
OH(20)12-1.7
PA(21)10-3.7
MI(17)7-4.0
WI(10)9-0.2
IA(7)9+0.7
NV(5)5+5.4
NM(5)5-0.6
MN(10)5-2.4
CO(9)9+5.3
NH(4)9-1.7

Based on the average of all October polls, Kerry is currently leading in 7 states with 87 electoral votes. Bush is currently leading in 4 states with 48 electoral votes. In addition to these battleground states, The Times has Kerry favored in states with 190 electoral votes with Bush favored in states with 213 electoral votes. Adding these to the electoral votes of the battleground states in which Kerry and Bush now have the edge and you get the following: Kerry 277, Bush 261.

Obviously, neither candidate has a secure lead in the Electoral College right now--a switch of one or two states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, or Florida could change the picture considerably. But based on this analysis of recent polls in the battleground states, if either candidate has a slight edge, it's John Kerry. And that's without even factoring in the expected late movement of undecided voters to Kerry.

(Note: source for national and state poll results is website 2.004k.com.)

Race Close and Bush under 50 in Pair of NV Polls

Bush leads Kerry 47-43 percent of Nevada LV's, according to a Sun Channel/KNPR Poll conducted 10/16-19.

Bush is ahead of Kerry 49-47 percent of Nevada LV's, according to a Reno Gazette-Journal/News 4 Poll conducted 10/19-21.

Kerry Surges to Dead Heat in Arkansas

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 48 percent of Arkansas LV's, according to a new Arkansas News Bureau/Stephens Media Group Poll conducted 10/18-20. Kerry was down by 9 percent in the ANB poll taken two weeks ago.

Two New Polls Have Kerry Ahead by 1, Dead Heat in Florida

Kerry leads Bush by 1 point, 48-47, among Florida LVs according to a new Research 2000 poll, conducted October 18-21.

Kerry and Bush are tied at 46 percent of Florida LV's, according to a new Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times Poll conducted October 19-21.

October 23, 2004

Democracy Corps Poll: Kerry Ahead 2, Up 7 in Battleground

John Kerry Leads George Bush 49-47 percent of nation-wide LV's, according to a Democracy Corps Poll conducted 10/20-21. The Poll also found that Kerry leads Bush 52-45 percent of LV's in Battleground states and has a 50-41 percent lead among Independent LV's.

Kerry Leads in 10th Straight PA Poll

John Kerry leads George Bush 48-46 percent of Pennsylvania RV's, according to a Morning Call/Muhlenberg College Poll conducted 10/17-22. This makes 10 straight Pennsylvania Polls showing Kerry leading.

Kerry Leads by 13 Among College Students

John Kerry Leads George Bush 52-39 percent of American college students, with 1 percent for Nader and 8 percent undecided, according to a Harvard University Institute of Politics Poll conducted 10/7-13. The poll also found that Kerry leads among college student LV's in 14 swing states by 55-38 percent.

October 22, 2004

The Nader Non-Factor

The Washington Post had a good front-page article today, "A Fading 'Nader Factor'?". The article points out, as I have repeatedly, that Nader's vote is likely to be a lot smaller than last time and, hence, less dangerous to the Democrats.

But the article also provides empirical backing for the idea that the Nader will not only be smaller, but also less likely to hurt the Democratic candidate than last time. Here's an excerpt from the article:

A survey conducted this month for the Democratic National Committee by pollster Stanley Greenberg showed Nader averaging 1.5 percent of the vote in a dozen battleground states where his name appears on the ballot, compared with about 3 percent in the summer. It also showed that most of the support Nader lost had shifted to Kerry and indicated that his remaining backers would be as likely to vote for Bush as for the Massachusetts Democrat, if Nader were not running.

And it's not just Greenberg who says this:

Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, said his research has shown for months that when Nader is removed from poll questionnaires, the margin separating the two major candidates is unaltered.

So one less problem to worry about. Let's concentrate on what's really important: mobilization, mobilization, mobilization.

Advocates of Government Action to Reduce Inequality Prefer Kerry

Those who believe inequality is a "serious problem" in America prefer John Kerry over George Bush 57.3 percent to 23.7 percent of respondents, according to a Campbell Institute on Citizenship and Inequality Poll conducted 10/9-19. Those who want government to do more to reduce inequality prefer Kerry over Bush 49.6 percent to 32.6 percent.

Another Solid Lead for Kerry in Ohio

The new Ohio University/Scripps Survey Research Center poll, conducted October 17-21, gives Kerry a 6 point lead among registered voters (49-43). And see Chris Bowers over at MyDD for a roundup of all the recent Ohio polls and just how good they make Kerry's situation look in Ohio.

So: both Pennsylvania and Ohio are looking good for Kerry. And if that conventional wisdom is correct that the victor in the 2004 election will be the candidate that carries 2 of 3 key big states (Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida), he's therefore looking very good overall.

Paul Krugman Weighs in on the Gallup Problem

Paul Krugman's important column in The New York Times today leads with this:

If the election were held today and the votes were counted fairly, Senator John Kerry would probably win. But the votes won't be counted fairly, and the disenfranchisement of minority voters may determine the outcome.

Recent national poll results range from a three-percentage-point Kerry lead in the A.P.-Ipsos poll released yesterday to an eight-point Bush lead in the Gallup poll. But if you line up the polls released this week from the most to the least favorable to President Bush, the polls in the middle show a tie at about 47 percent.

This is bad news for Mr. Bush because undecided voters usually break against the incumbent - not always, but we're talking about probabilities. Those middle-of-the-road polls also show Mr. Bush with job approval around 47 percent, putting him very much in the danger zone.

Electoral College projections based on state polls also show a dead heat. Projections assuming that undecided voters will break for the challenger in typical proportions give Mr. Kerry more than 300 electoral votes.

But he goes on to point out that this picture is not the one you would get from watching cable news, where polls of Gallup and Fox News set the frame for the state of the horse race. And he specifically cites the data reported on DR and other blogs exposing the bias of Gallup's likely voter samples against minority and young voters.

As Krugman emphasizes, this distorted view of the state of the campaign not only misleads voters and the public, it potentially can be used to cover up actual disenfranchisement of minority and young voters on election day. Perhaps Krugman's column will finally help get "the Gallup problem" the attention it so richly deserves.

About those Mason-Dixon Polls

By Alan Abramowitz

The Mason-Dixon polling organization has released a raft of polls in key battleground states in the past two weeks. Mason-Dixon is a reputable organization, but if you’ve been getting the feeling that their results this year are a bit skewed, you’re correct. I compared the results of Mason-Dixon’s October polls with the average of all other polls released in October in the same states. So far this month, Mason-Dixon has released 16 polls in 14 battleground states. Here are the comparisons. The number shown is the difference between the percentage of likely voters supporting George Bush and the percentage supporting John Kerry. A negative number means that Bush was trailing. The number in parentheses is the number of October polls in the state.

AverageBush
of AllMason-Dixon
StateMason-DixonOther Polls Advantage
 
Colorado+7.5(2)+4.5 (6)+3.0
Florida+3.5 (2)+0.3(10)+3.2
Iowa+6.0(1)+0.8(7)+5.2
Michigan-1.0(1)-4.2(5)+3.2
Minnesota+2.0(1)-3.5(4)+5.5
Missouri+5.0(1)+4.7(3)+0.3
Nevada+10.0(1)+5.5(2)+4.5
New Hampshire+3.0(1)-2.0(8)+5.0
New Mexico+5.0(1)-2.0(4)+7.0
Ohio+1.0(1)-1.3(11)+2.3
Oregon-1.0(1)-4.4(5)+3.4
Pennsylvania-1.0(1)-3.8(9)+2.8
West Virginia+5.0(1)+2.0(1)+3.0
Wisconsin 0.0(1)-0.2(1)+0.2
 
14 State Average+3.2;(16)-0.3(76)+3.5

In all 14 states, Mason-Dixon’s polls were more favorable to George Bush than the average of all other polls. Based on Mason-Dixon’s polls, Bush was leading in 10 states, Kerry in only 3. Based on the average of all other polls, Bush was only leading in 6 states, Kerry in 8. Given the number of states and the number of polls included in this analysis, this difference is quite striking. In some states, such as Missouri and Wisconsin, the difference between Mason-Dixon and the other polls was trivial. However, in the crucial battleground states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and New Mexico, the difference was large enough to give a rather different impression of the state of the presidential race. Moreover, since the Mason-Dixon polls are often sponsored by prominent media outlets, it is likely that their results have been more widely publicized than those of most of the other state polls.

I have no explanation for why Mason-Dixon’s polls in the battleground states have been consistently more favorable toward George Bush than other polls in the same states. Perhaps the election results on November 2nd will prove that they were more accurate than their competitors. However, it is worth noting that the average of all of the other state polls, a dead heat between George Bush and John Kerry, is closer to what most of the national polls have been showing recently in the battleground states.

Quinnipiac Poll: Kerry Leads in PA by 6

John Kerry leads George Bush 47-41 percent among Pennsylvania RV's, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll conducted 10/16-20.

October 21, 2004

Kerry Up by 5 in Ohio

Kerry leads Bush, 50-45, among RVs in a 2-way matchup in Gallup's new Ohio poll. (Oddly, their 3-way RV matchup gives Kerry a slightly larger lead, 50-44.) Their LV matchup, which should be viewed with skepticism, is better for Bush, but even there Kerry leads by a point.

Gallup has also released three other state polls recently (all figures 2-way RV matchups): Oregon (52-45 Kerry); Colorado (49-48 Bush); and Wisconsin (51-45 Bush).

Bush's Battleground Blues

Poll results in the battleground states have generally been good for Kerry lately, especially in the most important of these states.

In that light, it's interesting to note that four recently-released national polls give Kerry leads of 6-7 points in the battleground states overall. In 2000, these states broke evenly between Gore and Bush, so a 6-7 point Kerry lead, if real, would be quite significant.

Here are the polls and the numbers:

Marist (10/17-19): 50-43
Pew (10/15-19): 49-43
NBC/WSJ (10/16-18): 49-43
Harris (10/14-17): 51-44

If this pattern coninues, Bush will be in big trouble come November 2.

SurveyUSA Poll: Kerry Leads in MI, Trails in IA and CO

Kerry leads Bush 51-44 percent of MI LV's. Bush leads LV's in IA 51-45 percent and CO 52-45 percent, according to SurveyUSA Polls conducted 10/18-20.

Quinnipiac University Poll: Kerry Down by 1 in Florida

Bush leads Kerry 48-47 percent of Florida LV's, with 1 percent for Nader, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll conducted 10/15-19.

Kerry Leading by 18 in CA

John Kerry leads George Bush 58-40 percent of California LV's (well ahead of Gore's 12 percent CA margin in 2000), according to an LA Times Poll conducted 10/14-18.

Bush's Approval Ratings in the Latest Pew Poll

We posted a brief notice on the new Pew poll earlier, which showed the race in a dead heat. But it's worth calling attention to Bush's approval ratings in that poll which are so bad as to make Bush's terrible ratings in the latest CBS/NYT poll look robust by comparison.

Bush's overall approval rating in the poll is 44 percent, just one point above the worst ever recorded for Bush in this poll And very inauspicious for an incumbent seeking re-election, of course,

But it is his ratings in specific areas like the economy, Iraq and foreign policy that are truly remarkable. They are all under 40 percent (!) and the worst ever recorded for Bush in this poll: 38 percent on the economy; 37 percent on Iraq and also 37 percent on foreign policy.

And let's not forget handling "terrorist threats", his best and perhaps only area of strength. He receives his worst rating ever in this area as well: 49 percent, putting him below the 50 percent level even in his strongest area.

If Pew is accurately capturing voters' assessment of the job Bush has been doing, it's going to be quite difficult for him to convince these same voters to stay the course and keep him in office.

A Reply to Gallup's Reply to Critics

By Alan Abramowitz

Jeff Jones of Gallup recently posted this reply to critics on their editors' blog:

Some consumers of the polls (including the Gallup Poll) have questioned poll results because party identification and other characteristics do not match the 2000 exit poll data. There are very good reasons why they may not match the exit poll data.

First, some treat the exit poll as a census. It is not a census, it is a survey based on sampling of voting precincts. There is a reason it is called an "exit poll" and not an "exit census." That's because it is a poll, and as such is subject to sampling variation and other polling errors just as any other poll would be. In fact, because exit polling relies on quota sampling (hand selection of survey spots according to population size and other factors), it has a higher degree of potential error than do the random samples on which telephone surveys are based. Thus, there is no basis on which to believe the exit poll numbers are in any way more accurate than any other number you get from a poll. They are all estimates. The one advantage of the exit poll is that they know everyone they interview is a voter, while pre-election polls rely on models to determine who is likely to vote and who is not. However, that does not mean their estimates are necessarily better, and they are definitely not error-free estimates of the electorate as many treat them. In fact, when multiple exit polls existed in the past, they very routinely differed in their estimates of the vote as well as their estimates of the demographic characteristics of the electorate. Even today the Los Angeles Times exit poll differs from the larger exit poll used by the networks.

Second, the exit poll measure of political party ID is fundamentally different from ours. We know that survey results can differ depending on how the data are collected. Our questions are read and responses obtained verbally over the phone. Their responses are obtained in self-administered questionnaires that present the questions in a visual format. Most survey research experts would be extremely cautious in comparing data obtained by a telephone interview versus that obtained in a self-administered paper-and-pencil questionnaire. That is in addition to question wording differences in the party ID question that can also have an effect on the results.

Third, a lot has changed since 2000. In the post-9/11 environment, terrorism has become one of the chief problems for government to deal with. The Republican Party has a large perceptual advantage on the terrorism issue. To assume that everything is as it was four years ago is a very risky assumption. While it is possible that in the end things could change once again so that partisanship looks much like it did in 2000, that is by no means certain or even likely.

My reply:

Mr. Jones's comments are inaccurate and misleading. First of all, yes, the national exit poll is based on a sample. But it's a huge sample--over 13,000 respondents in 2000. Because of its size, and because, as Jones acknowledges, the exit poll includes only individuals who have definitely voted, the margin of error should be much smaller than with pre-election telephone polls. Second, there is no reason to believe that a self-administered questionnaire would produce significantly different results from a telephone survey for an attitude as basic as party identification as long as the question asked is worded identically. The problem with the Gallup party ID question, as I have indicated elsewhere, is that it is a poorly worded question. Because of its lead-in, "in politics today," the Gallup question, in contrast to the question used by the National Election Studies, the CBS/New York Times Poll, and the national exit poll, measures a combination of current political preferences along with long-term partisan commitment. Finally, and this is most important, there is simply no reason to believe that the distribution of party identification in the American electorate has changed significantly since the 2000 presidential election.

Indeed, an examination of national exit polls and CBS/New York Times polls conducted since 1992 shows that there has been no significant change in party identification for the past 12 years despite wars, recessions, and quite variable election results. Even in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, the CBS/New York Times polls found no noticeable change in the distribution of party identification. The distribution of party identification in CBS/New York Times polls this year, approximately a four point Democratic advantage, is almost identical to the average for the past 12 years. It is therefore highly unlikely that the distribution of party identification in this year's national exit poll will differ substantially from that in the previous four national exit polls, all of which showed a Democratic advantage of between
3 and 5 points.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jones's comments are typical of the head-in-the-sand attitude that the Gallup Poll has displayed in recent years in response to any criticism of their work. During the 2000 campaign, we would remind readers, the Gallup tracking poll was the laughingstock of the polling community as its likely voter results gyrated wildly from week to week and sometimes from day to day, producing a ludicrous estimate of a 13 point lead for George Bush on October 26th. Although Gallup quietly abandoned their tracking poll this year, they continue to display the same arrogance and insensitivity to criticism that we saw then. Evidently party identification is not the only attitude that is impervious to change.

A Comment on Andrew Kohut's New York Times Op-Ed

By Alan Abramowitz

In today's New York Times op-ed, "Polls Apart", Pew Research Center pollster, Andrew Kohut, observes:

The round of national surveys taken after the third presidential debate indicates that the polls are not going to give us a clear picture of who will win the election until the final days of the campaign, if then....It's worth recalling that four years ago voters were similarly divided between the candidates. But the opinions about Al Gore and Mr. Bush did not bounce around, because there just wasn't all that much enthusiasm for either man.

Andrew Kohut is correct that the polls probably will not give us a lear idea of who is going to win this year's presidential election. However, the problem is not that voters' preferences are more volatile than normal this year, as Kohut claims. The problem is that poll results are volatile due to the effects of sampling error, differences in weighting procedures, and different methods of identifying likely voters. As a result, even polls conducted at exactly the same time can produce divergent results. Nor is this situation unique to the 2004 election. The same volatility was evident prior to the 2000 election when, for example, the Gallup tracking poll released on October 26 showed George Bush leading Al Gore by 13 points while the Zogby tracking poll released the same day showed Gore leading Bush by 2 points.

AP-Ipsos Poll: Kerry Leads by 3

John Kerry leads George Bush 49-46 percent of nation-wide LV's, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos Public Affairs Poll conducted 10/18-20. The poll also found Bush's approval rating at 47 percent.

Marist Poll: WH Race Dead Heat

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 47 percent of nation-wide RV's, according to a Marist College Institute for Public Opinion Poll conducted 10/17-19. The poll also found Bush's approval rating at 49 percent of RV's.

October 20, 2004

Harris Poll: Kerry Ahead by 7 in Swing States, Down 2 Nation-wide

George Bush leads John Kerry 48-46 percent of nation-wide LV's in a Harris Poll conducted 10/14-17 (MoE +/-3%). In 17 "swing states" the poll found Kerry leading 51-44 percent.

PRC Poll: Kerry Up 6 in Battleground, Tied Nation-wide

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 45 percent nation-wide RV's, with 1 percent for Nader, according to a Pew Research Center Poll conducted 10/15-19. The Poll also found that Kerry leads in "battleground states" 49-43 percent and Bush's approval rating is 44 percent.

Economist/YouGov Poll: Kerry Up by 2

John Kerry leads George Bush 48-46 percent of nation-wide RV's, with 1 percent for Nader, according to a Economist/YouGov Poll conducted 10/18-20. The poll also found a 44 percent approval rating for Bush.

NBC News/Wall St. Journal Poll: Kerry Lags by 2%

Bush leads Kerry 48-46 percent of nation-wide RV's, with 2 percent for Nader in NBC News/Wall St. Journal Poll conducted 10-16-18 by Hart McInturff. (MoE +/- 3.1%)

Kerry Leads by 6 in Maine

John Kerry leads George Bush 51-45 percent of Maine LV's, according to a SurveyUSA Poll conducted 10/17-19.

Kerry Ahead by 3 in Ohio

Kerry Leads Bush 50-47 percent of Ohio LV's on an ABC News/TNS Poll conducted 10/14-17.

Kerry Up 1% in New Mexico

John Kerry leads George Bush 48-47 percent of New Mexico LV's in a 2-way American Research Group Poll conducted 10/16-18.

Kerry Has Edge in Pair of NH Polls

Kerry and Bush are tied at 47 percent of NH LV's, according to American Research Group Poll, conducted 10/16-18.

Kerry Leads Bush 47-41 percent of NH LV's, according to a Suffolk University/News 7 Poll conducted 10/14-17.

Kerry Holds Lead in Two Oregon Polls

John Kerry Leads George Bush 52-45 percent of Oregon RV's in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted 10/15-18.

Kerry leads Bush 50-44 percent of of Oregon LV's in a Tribune/KOIN Poll conducted by Research 2000 10/11-14.

Kerry Leads By 5% , Tied in Pair of WI Polls

John Kerry leads George Bush 48-43 percent of Wisconsin LV's, with 2 percent for Nader, 5 percent unsure and 2 percent other, according to a Wisconsin Public Radio Poll, conducted by St. Norbert's College Survey Center 10/4-13. Kerry's largest margins over Bush included age 18-24 year-old voters 62-39 percent; Independents 48-31 percent; and women 52-41 percent.

Kerry and Bush are tied at 47 percent of Wisconsin LV's in a head-to-head American Research Group Poll, conducted 10/16-19.

The Latest Democracy Corps Strategy Memo

Here are some highlights from the latest Democracy Corps strategy memo by Stanley Greenberg and James Carville. Make sure you read the full-text of the memo at the D-Corps site. It’s got lots of important additional information and data that can help everyone from door to door canvassers to top strategists make the best use of the next two weeks.

Date: October 19, 2004
To: Friends of Democracy Corps
From: Stan Greenberg, James Carville

RE:KERRY SMALL LEAD CREATES BIG OPPORTUNITIES
Report on the State of the Race After the Presidential Debates

The close of the debates has moved John Kerry into a small lead in the latest Democracy Corps polls, 50 to 47 percent, which puts him in a strong position to win on November 2nd. The race is still close and the Democrats still need to win the final battle over mobilization, but they go into this phase with many advantages over the Republicans. Indeed, the race has consolidated after the debates in many ways that make it harder for Bush to catch Kerry in the sprint to the end.

In highlighting Kerry’s lead, we do not do so triumphantly. It is important that progressives and Democrats and independent observers know what is real so that they can act with great effectiveness in the few days we have to impact the outcome.

We are obviously aware of the many newspaper polls, which paint more volatility and deep uncertainty about the trends of the race. If they were right, it would produce a wholly different strategy to win. But the race is not volatile and inscrutable. In fact, the average of the public polls has the race dead even, with both Bush and Kerry at 47 percent. Let us underscore some points that will aid in interpreting the chaos of media polls.


  • Bush’s vote is at 47 percent in our two post-debate polls; his job approval rating has dropped to 47 percent and his vote in the public polls is at 47 percent…As the incumbent, it is very difficult for him to get a vote on election day higher than 47 percent, unless he can raise his position before then.
  • That is mostly true because “undecided” voters are not really undecided and almost always break against the incumbent, particularly if the incumbent is a polarizing figure, like Bush. The undecided in this election are populist change voters. By 63 to 28 percent, they want to go in a significantly different direction than Bush; they are critical of big corporations; and break two-to-one Democratic at the congressional level.
  • Independents have moved steadily to Kerry, as President Bush has waged his conservative, base-oriented campaign. Today, Kerry has taken a 4 point lead (49 to 45 percent) in the Democracy Corps poll, but that is also true in the CBS/New York Times and ABC News polls. For Bush to win, Republicans would have to be more united than Democrats and outnumber Democrats on election day. But the latter is very difficult, since the likely electorate is more Democratic by at least 3 points.
  • The Democrats have consolidated behind Kerry in the post-debate period. While Kerry had not consolidated Democrats before the debates, he has done so with a vengeance afterwards. Kerry is getting 91 percent of Democrats, while Bush is getting 92 percent of Republicans. Kerry and Bush voters now express an equal enthusiasm for their nominees and equally strong intention to vote. Part of that consolidation includes substantial gains with African-American, union, and Hispanic voters.
  • The Democracy Corps poll includes an increasing number of new registrants, now at 7 percent of the likely voters – up from 2 percent in July and 6 percent in September and early October. These new voters who could play a decisive role in this election support Kerry by 61 to 36 percent.
  • Young voters (under 30 years) could play a very big role in this election. They will for sure give John Kerry his biggest margin of any age group, now giving him over 60 percent of the vote.

The Growing Mood for Change

What makes it difficult for George Bush to change the contours of the race is the growing mood for change in the country. This is not an incumbent moment. The number saying the country is headed off on the wrong track jumped to 55 percent in this survey, with only 40 percent saying things are going in the right direction.

...

This is a very difficult environment for Bush to campaign for a new mandate, as a large majority of the undecided and the whole electorate want something new, perhaps a “fresh start.”

The Pressures of a Cultural Election

President Bush has waged a full-throated cultural conservative election, attacking Kerry on liberalism and big government and underscoring his pro-life and religious posture. That has produced rising support among self-identified conservatives and with religious voters, particularly Evangelicals. That has made it harder for Kerry and Democrats to break through in rural areas and with many non-college educated women voters.

But they have paid a big price for this choice, which may have limited their opportunities for gains. Conservatives are 42 percent of the electorate, but the majority are moderate and liberal, who have both become increasingly anti-Bush.

...

Kerry’s Change Message Defeats Bush’s Dark Message

President Bush has put his entire campaign behind his attack on John Kerry as unfit and too liberal to be president in these times. It is important for people to know that this is not working and is not likely to work in the weeks ahead, if the progressive groups continue to make the case for change and the case for Kerry’s new direction.

While Bush mounted these attacks in the debates and afterwards, worries about Kerry on flip-flopping, taxes, liberalism and defense have actually fallen. He has gained ground on making America safe, being ready to deal with Iraq, and on the economy.

To test the coming onslaught, we tested the Kerry message, as presented in his advertising and speeches. We also confronted that message with two Bush’s messages – one focused on Kerry’s liberalism and the other on his weakness on security. The Kerry message defeats these messages by 50 to 46 percent, slightly larger than the current margin in the race. Kerry is in position to control the future agenda, despite the strong Bush attacks.

...

SurveyUSA Polls: Kerry has Edge in OH, NJ; Lags in MO, NV and VA

John Kerry leads George Bush among LV's in OH +2 and NJ +8, but lags behind George Bush in MO -6, NV -7 and VA -4, according to a new series of polls by SurveyUSA, conducted 10/16-18.

October 19, 2004

Gallup Poll Racially-Biased

By this I don't mean that Gallup's pollsters are themselves racially-biased. Rather I mean that their likely voter (LV) samples--whose results Gallup continues to promote above all others--tend to be racially-biased because of the methodology Gallup employs to draw them.

Here's a basic sketch of how Gallup's methodology works:

Gallup asks each [RV] respondent seven LV screening questions, and gives each person an LV score of 0 to 7. [Assuming a turnout of 55 percent], the top 55% are classified as likely voters. In practice that typically means all of the "7"s--given full weight--plus some proportion of those with lower scores (usually the "6"s), who are weighted down so that the size of the likely voter sample matches the projected turnout for the year (apparently 55 percent this year). All other voters are discarded from the sample.

Note that the demographics of Gallup's LV sample are not adjusted in any way (as their overall samples are) and are simply allowed to fall where they may.

What this means is that if, say, minority voters are much less likely to answer the 7 questions "right", they will be correspondingly under-represented in the LV sample--perhaps severely under-represented.

That is exactly what turns out to be the case. According to data obtained by Steve Soto over at the Left Coaster, Gallup's latest LV sample--the one that showed Bush with an 8 point lead--has only 14.5 percent minority representation and only 7.5 percent black representation.

How plausible is this as a representation of the election day electorate? Not remotely plausible. In 1996, minority representation among voters was 17 percent; in 2000, 19.4 percent. In 2004, the minority proportion of voters should be more than this, because minorities are growing, not declining, as a percentage of the US population. So 14.5 percent for nonwhites as a prediction of the 2004 electorate is very, very unlikely. It would defy both recent history and powerful demographic trends.

As for 7.5 percent blacks. C'mon. Blacks were 10.1 percent in 1996 and 9.7 percent in 2000. And they're 12 percent of the voting age population. There's just no way in the world blacks will only be 7.5 percent of voters in 2004.

So, in effect, Gallup's likely voter approach is disenfranchising minorities in assessing American voters' inclinations on the coming election. That's wrong and Gallup should stop doing it.

And speaking of disenfranchisement, how about America's young people? This group is also full of voters who are relatively unlikely to answer the seven LV questions right and thus qualify for admission into the exalted realm of the Gallup LV sample.

Sure enough, Gallup informs us that young voters (18-29) only compose 11 percent of likely voters. Well, that would be quite a trick. In 1992, young voters were 21 percent of voters; in 1996, 17 percent of voters; and in 2000, 17 percent again. And we're supposed to believe that young voters are all of a sudden going to drop to 11 percent this year? Puh-leeze, this doesn't pass the laugh test.

As it happens, minorities--no big surprise--lean very heavily toward Kerry this year. But young voters are also Kerry's best age group this year. Systematically under-representing these groups in Gallup's LV samples will therefore have an obvious, and fairly substantial, effect on their results, tilting them in the direction of Bush and the Republicans.

That's not right. Gallup should know better. And we should all know better than to trust results that are based on effective disenfranchisement of large numbers of minority and young voters.

Just How Bad Is That CBS News/New York Times Poll for Bush?

Very bad. There's a reason why Matthew Dowd pledged his immortal soul to Gallup when confronted with the results of this survey.

And it's not the horse race result of the survey though that was pretty poor for Bush (45-45 in the 2-way RV matchup). It's the other results and the poll's internals that are so gruesome for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Here are some of the key findings:

1. Kerry leads by 7 among independents.

2. Bush's approval rating is only 44 percent among RVs, but a truly abysmal 34 percent approval/50 percent diapproval among independents.

3. Democrats are up by 6 in the generic house content (10 points among independents).

4. Right direction/wrong track is 39/57 and a stunning 34/61 among independents.

5. Bush's approval ratings on Iraq, the economy and foreign policy are, respectively, 42, 42 and 41 (35, 34 and 33 among independents).

6. More voters think the economy is getting worse (34 percent) than think it is getting better (24 percent).

7. Among independents, the Democrats' favorable/unfavorable rating is 54/35, while Republicans' rating is 42/49.

8. More than four times as many voters believe Bush administration policies have increased the cost of prescription drugs (47 percent) than believe their policies have decreased the cost (11 percent).

9. By 60 percent to 8 percent, voters believe Bush administration policies have mostly benefitted the rich, rather than the middle class.

10. An amazing 81 percent of independents believe that Bush administration policies have either decreased the number of jobs in the country (55 percent) or had no effect (26 percent).

11. Perhaps even more amazing, 72 percent of independents believe that Bush administration policies have either increased their taxes (27 percent) or had no effect (55 percent).

12. About three-quarters of independents (74 percent) believe the Bush administration did a poor job of thinking through what would happen as a result of the Iraq war.

13. Independent voters are evenly split, 46-46 on whether Kerry has the same priorities for the country as they do, but, by 60-24, they believe Bush does not have the same priorities.

14. Independent voters believe, by 8 points (50-42) that Kerry understands the needs and problems of people like themselves but, by 59-37, they believe Bush does not understand these needs and problems.

15. Independents believe, by 65-21, that Kerry is more interested in protecting the interests of ordinary Americans than in protecting the interests of large corporations; by 69-22, they believe Bush sides with large corporations rather than ordinary Americans.

16. Among independents, just 30 percent believe Bush will make sure Social Security benefits are there for them, but 58 percent believe Kerry will make sure those benefits are there.

17. Also among independents: 65 percent believe the Iraq war is only a minor part (12 percent) or not a part at all (53 percent) of the war on terrorism; 63 percent believe efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq are going badly; and 70 percent believe that Iraq was a threat that could have been contained without immediate military action or was not a threat at all.

18. Finally, 67 percent of voters believe their family is not better off today than four years ago and 75 percent believe the number of jobs in their community has not increased in the last four years.

No wonder Dowd was moved to make his touching declaration of faith in the Gallup Organization. If these CBS/NYT data are on the money, his man's in big, big trouble.

Oh, and the party ID distribution in this poll? A 3 point Democratic advantage among RVs, very close to the Democratic advantage in the 2000 exit poll.

But I guess that's another reason why Dowd fled as fast as he could into the arms of Gallup, when confronted with this particular poll.

The Race in the Key Battleground States

By Alan Abramowitz

Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania are the big three in the presidential race. John Kerry and George Bush were both in Florida this morning. Kerry will be in Pennsylvania and Ohio later today. Bush will be there shortly. Both campaigns see these three states as the most crucial in the entire nation. Whoever wins two of these three states will probably win the election and right now George Bush is in big trouble in all three.

In seven polls conducted since the first presidential debate, John Kerry held an average lead of 4.0 points over George Bush among likely voters in Pennsylvania. Kerry led Bush in all seven polls.

In five polls conducted since the first presidential debate, John Kerry held an average lead of 1.2 points over George Bush among likely voters in Ohio. Kerry led Bush in four of the five polls. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.

In nine polls conducted since the first presidential debate, George Bush held an average lead of 0.8 points over John Kerry among likely voters in Florida. Kerry led in four polls, Bush led in four, and one was tied. In the four most recent polls, conducted since October 10, Kerry led in two, Bush in one, and one was tied. Kerry led by an average of 0.5 points in these four polls.

Kerry also led Bush by an average of 4.4 points in five polls conducted in the small but important state of New Hampshire--a state that George Bush carried in 2000. Kerry led in four of the five polls with one poll tied.

George Bush is not leading in a single state that Al Gore carried in the 2000 election. And remember, recent history shows that an incumbent president needs a lead of 3-4 points in the final polls in order to win because undecided voters tend to break heavily for the challenger.

New Poll Shows New Jersey Is Not in Play

By Alan Abramowitz

This poll of New Jersey likely voters is by the Eagleton Institute of Politics, a long-established, very reputable polling organization. Kerry leads by 13 among likely voters. Kerry's firm support is 48 percent; Bush's firm support is 36. Kerry is likely to carry NJ by about the same margin as Gore did four years ago. This state is not in play.

Democracy Corps Poll: Kerry Leads by 3%

John Kerry leads George Bush 50-47 percent of nation-wide LV's, according to a Democracy Corps Poll, conducted 10/17-18.

Kerry Ahead by 2% in Ohio

John Kerry leads George Bush 48-46 percent of Ohio LV's, according to a poll by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinatti, conducted 10/11-17.

NYT/CBS News Poll: Kerry, Bush Locked in Dead Heat

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 46 percent of nation-wide RV's, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll, conducted 10/14-17. Bush's approval rating is 44 percent.

No Further Comment Necessary Department

"They're the ones I pay attention to"

--Matthew Dowd, Bush's chief campaign strategist, on Gallup relative to other polling organizations, quoted in today's New York Times

October 18, 2004

Kerry Leads, Gains in Key Swing States After 3rd Debate

John Kerry leads George Bush among LV's in: in FL +1; PA +6; OR +9 and WA +7. He trails Bush in: AR -5 and NC -3 (stat. tie), according to SurveyUSA Polls conducted 10/15-17.

Bad Gallup! No Biscuit!

Readers of the USA Today were treated to the following headline splashed in huge type across the front page today: "Poll: Bush leads by 8 points". The headline referred to a 52-44 lead that the new Gallup poll found among likely voters. The accompanying story pointed out this was quite a turnaround compared to the Gallup poll of one week earlier, which had Kerry ahead by a point among likely voters (LVs).

A 9 point swing. That's pretty impressive. Of course, if you read the story closely, it does mention that Bush was ahead by just 3 points (49-46) in their registered voter (RV) sample. And, as it turns out--though this isn't mentioned in the story--that's a shift of only 3 points from a week ago, when Kerry and Bush were dead-even in the RV sample.

Much less impressive. Well, which is more believable? I think this a good time to review the basic case against Gallup's LV data:

Sampling likely voters is a technique Gallup developed to measure voter sentiment on the eve of an election and predict the outcome, not to track voter sentiment weeks and months before the actual election. There is simply no evidence, and no good reason to believe, that it works well for the latter purpose. In fact, the evidence and compelling arguments are on the other side: that the registered voters are the more reliable guage of voter sentiment during the course of the campaign.

Here’s why. Gallup decides who likely voters are based on 7 questions about their interest in voting, attention to the campaign and knowledge about how to vote (e.g., where their polling place is located). The interested/attentive/knowledgeable voters are designated “likely” and the rest are thrown out of the sample. But as a campaign progresses, the level of interest among voters tends to change, particularly among those with partisan inclinations whose interest level will rise when their party seems to be mobilized and doing well and fall when it is not. Because of this, partisans of the mobilized party (lately, Republicans) tend to be screened into the likely voter sample and partisans of the demobilized party (lately, Democrats) tend to get screened out. But tomorrow, of course, the Democrats could surge, in which case their partisans may be the ones over-represented in likely voter samples.

That suggests the uncomfortable possibility that observed changes in the sentiments of “likely voters” represent not actual changes in voter sentiment, but rather changes in the composition of likely voter samples as political enthusiasm waxes and wanes among the different parties’ supporters. And that is exactly what political scientists Robert Erikson, Costas Panagopoulos, and Christopher Wlezien find in their analysis of Gallup's 2000 RV/LV data in their forthcoming paper, “Likely (and Unlikely) Voters and the Assessment of Campaign Dynamics” in Public Opinion Quarterly: “shifts in voter classification as likely or unlikely account for more observed change in the preferences of likely voters than do actual changes in voters’ candidate preferences.”

That means that, instead of giving you a better picture of voter sentiment and how it is changing than conventional registered voter data, likely voter data give you a worse one since true changes in voter sentiment are swamped by changes in who is classified as a likely voter.

So: focus on the RV data, ignore the LV data. Indeed, in my view, it's time for Gallup to drop reporting these data altogether because they are highly likely to give an inaccurate picture of the state of the race and, by doing so--especially given the high profile of Gallup's polls and how they tend to drive media coverage--unfairly pump up one side of the race and demoralize the other. That doesn't seem acceptable to me. At a minimum, Gallup and other polling organzations that use similar approaches to defining likely voters should lead with their RV data and provide the LV data as a supplement, not the other way around.

That would make a difference in how the race is covered. Based on the Gallup LV result plus a couple of other recent LV results with fairly solid Bush leads (50-44 among Newsweek LVs and 50-46 among Washington Post (WP) LVs), other media outlets had stories today and yesterday on how Bush was surging and even breaking the critical 50 percent barrier in voter support (see, for example, this story by Ronald Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times which prominently features the three 50+ LV results).

But here are the same three polls, with RV results (all 3-way to match the data released by Gallup):

Gallup: 49-46
Newsweek: 48-46
WP: 48-47

So these three polls would then all have Bush under 50 (average: 48 percent) with only a 1-3 point lead. A very different picture and much dicier for Bush.

And probably much more accurate. Consider these other recent data, all of which paint a very different political picture than that implied by the Gallup LV data and the gaudy USA Today headline:

1. The Gallup RV data, while preferable to their LV data, may themselves be flawed. Their RV sample has a 2 point edge for the Republicans in party ID. If that sample is re-weighted to conform to the 2000 exit poll party ID distribution, Kerry leads Bush by 2 points, 49-47.

2. The latest Democracy Corps survey, conducted October 14-16, the exact same dates as the Gallup survey, has Kerry up by 3, 50-47. (And see this post for evidence on the superior accuracy of the DCorps survey, relative to Gallup, in the 2000 election.)

3. The Zogby and Rasmussen tracking polls have both closed by 4 points in the last two days, eliminating Bush's leads in these polls. Indeed, as Jerome Armstrong points out over at MyDD, if you include leaners in their trial heats (as most reported national results do), Kerry is now slightly ahead in both polls: 47.2-46.6 in Zogby and 49.5-47.7 in Rasmussen.

Doesn't sound like an 8 point Bush lead to me. Or much of a lead at all, for that matter.

October 17, 2004

You Know, I Think We're Finally Getting to 'Em

At least over at Newsweek, where their latest poll has Bush up by 5 points (50-45) in their 2-way LV matchup (50-44 in their 3-way). But here's the headline and lead of their polling release:

Bush/Cheney in Dead Heat With Kerry/Edwards in Two-Way and Three-Way Matchups Among Registered Voters

In a two-way matchup, the presidential race remains in a dead heat in the latest Newsweek Poll. Among registered voters, Bush/Cheney gets 48 percent and Kerry/Edwards 47 percent of the vote....

And here's the headline and lead of the polling story they posted on their website:

Too Close to Call: With the debates behind them, the contenders in the race for the White House remain locked in a dead heat in the latest NEWSWEEK poll

With just 17 days remaining in the race to the White House, President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry remain locked in a dead heat, according to the NEWSWEEK poll, taken after Wednesday’s final debate in Arizona. In a three-way race with Independent candidate Ralph Nader, 48 percent of all voters say they would reelect Bush while 46 percent prefer Kerry.

Good job, Newsweek! They don't even get to their LV results until the third paragraph of the above story.

As to the data themselves--leaving aside the LV issue--there are some rather odd things about it. One is that their RV sample--where the race is close to even--shows a strong swing to the Republicans in party ID, compared to Newsweek's last survey, conducted right after the first debate.

While Newsweek rather unhelpfully only provides their (demographically) unweighted party ID distributions for RVs, one can infer from other data they provide that there has been about a 6 point swing toward the Republicans in their demographically weighted party ID distributions between the two polls. That means that, if one party-weighted their current poll to match their previous party ID distribution (which was pretty close to that of the 2000 exits), the horse race results between the two polls would look remarkably similar: a 2-3 point Kerry lead.

Newsweek provides a number of interesting subgroup horse race numbers for their 3-way RV matchup that are worth taking a look at:

1. Independents favor Kerry/Edwards by 11 points, 51-40.

2. First-time voters favor Kerry/Edwards by 21, 57-36.

3. Early voters favor Kerry/Edwards by 9, 52-43.

4. Young voters (18-29) favor Kerry/Edwards by 9, 50-40, and seniors (65+) favor Kerry/Edwards by 15, 54-39.

5. Men favor K/E by 50-46 and women favor Bush-Cheney by 49-43.

Huh? Boy, I had to look over those gender breakdown data several times to make sure I wasn't seeing things. And I'm still not sure they didn't somehow mislabel their categories. But if they didn't, it's certainly a head-scratcher. Perhaps they not only oversampled Republicans in general but Republican women in particular. Who knows.

It's also interesting to note that, even with a Republican-leaning sample, the poll still gives Bush only 47 percent approval rating, basically the same as he received in their last poll. And his re-elect number, at 47 percent, is also about what he received previously.

As for the rest of the poll, it generally shows Kerry and Bush with advantages where you'd expect them to have them. However, in contrast to the Time poll I posted on earlier, Kerry's margins on given issues and attributes are smaller and Bush's larger than they were in Newsweek's previous poll. But it is difficult to assess how much of this is real movement and how much of can be attributed to the effects of a substantially more Republican sample.

Follow-up on Gallup Poll

By Alan Abramowitz

If you just look at their results for registered voters, there has actually been very little change in the Gallup Poll results since early October. Bush had a 1 point lead then, he has a 3 point lead now. Not that different from what most other polls have been showing. Almost all of the change since their last poll is in the results for likely voters. Unfortunately, the likely voter number is the only one the media will focus on now.

So how do you go from a 3 point lead among registered voters to an 8 point lead among likely voters? By projecting that 89 percent of registered Bush supporters will vote but only 81 percent of registered Kerry supporters will vote. But as we know, this is totally unrealistic.

Gallup Vs. Democracy Corps Redux

By Alan Abramowitz

A new Gallup poll has George Bush leading John Kerry by 8 points among likely voters. A new Democracy Corps poll has Kerry leading Bush by 3 points among likely voters. Who should you believe? Hint: If you've been following my previous messages, you should know the answer to this question.

Remember, in 2000, Democracy Corps' final poll, released five days before the election, was right on the money. In fact, every D.C. poll in the final weeks of the 2000 campaign showed the race to be very, very close.

Remember, a Gallup poll released on October 26, 2000, less than two weeks before the election, had George Bush leading Al Gore by 13 points! Numerous Gallup polls during the final weeks of the 2000 campaign had Bush with ludicrously large leads.

And this time, Gallup has Bush ahead by 8 among likely voters but by 3 among registered voters. This is just too large a gap between registered and likely voters.

It looked for a while, after the first debate, like the Gallup Poll was getting reasonable again. Looks like they were just teasing us.

New Time Poll Has Race Tied

The new Time poll, conducted October 14-15, has the race tied 46-46 in a 2-way RV matchup. That's pretty bad for an incumbent seeking re-election, but the rest of the poll has even worse news.

Start with the debates. The poll confirms that voters see Kerry as the winner of the final debate (37-28), though not by the crushing margin of the first debate (59-23). But when asked to consider all three presidential debates, voters do indeed see Kerry as the victor by a crushing margin, 57-27.

Moreover, voters give Kerry very high marks on specific aspects of the last debate, despite the fact that they were less likely to see him as the overall winner. This presumably reflects the extent to which (positive) impressions of Kerry are settling in voters' minds.

For example, by 49-40 voters thought Kerry, rather than Bush, had the best understanding of the issues. That's actually better than after the first debate, when voters saw the candidates tied on this attribute.

And then there's this one: on who "took positions on issues that are closer to your own", voters gave Kerry a wide 54-39 margin after the last debate, compared to 48-42 after the first debate.

And how about this one: after the first debate, voters gave Bush a slight one point edge on who seemed more presidential; after the last debate, voters gave Kerry the edge, 49-44.

On which candidate can be trusted more on different issues and in different areas, the poll finds little change from their post-first debate poll. Kerry's gains after that debate have apparently stabilized.

Here are some of these gains, as summarized in the SRBI release on the poll:

Handling of the economy: Kerry has opened a 6 point lead over Bush, 49% - 43%. Just before the first debate, the candidates were even, 44% for each.

Health care: Kerry has widened his lead to 13 points, 51%-38%. Before the debates, Kerry had an 8 point edge.

Understanding people's needs: Kerry is up by 7 points, 49% - 42%. Before the debates, he was up by just 4 points.

Commander-in-Chief: Bush is ahead by 10 points, 51%-41%, but this has narrowed from a 16 point advantage before the debates.

Providing leadership in difficult times: Bush leads by 8 points, 52%-40%. Before the debates, he dominated by as much as 21 points.

War on terrorism: Bush tops Kerry 51%-40%, after leading Kerry by as much as 18 points before the debates.

The poll also asked about some of the specific issues Kerry and Bush differed on in the last debate.

Assault weapons. By 73-22, voters favor the ban on assault weapons; by 49-8 they feel gun control laws should be more strict, not less strict; and by 41-40 they say Kerry is closer to their position on gun control than Bush.

Embryonic stem cell research: By 69-22 voter favor using discarded embryos to conduct stem cell research; by 49-34 they say Kerry is closer to their position on this issue than Bush.

Abortion. Voters say by 45-40 that Kerry is closer to their position than Bush on this issue.

Gay rights. Voters say by 44-41 that Kerry is closer to their position than Bush on this issue; by 54-41 they oppose amending the US constitution to ban same-sex couples from marrying.

Supreme Court appointments. By 43-38, voters say the issue of Supreme Court appointments makes them more likely to vote for Kerry rather than Bush.

October 16, 2004

Inside Scoop on Rove's View of the Election

By Alan Abramowitz

I just received the following message from a colleague at another university who is totally trustworthy:

"I have friend who is a co-chair of the Bush Cheney campaign. Rove believes that Bush needs to have a 4 point lead going into the last weekend to win given the undecideds that will break againt the president."

Fasten Your Seat Belts, Turbulent Polls Ahead

By Alan Abramowitz

Fasten your seat belts and make sure that your tray tables and seat backs are in their fully upright and locked positions. The 2004 presidential campaign is coming in for a landing and it's going to be a bumpy ride. You're going to see some strange poll results over the next two weeks and the most important thing to keep in mind is that if a poll's results don't make sense--if they seem to be out of line with most other polls or if they show a big difference between registered voters and likely voters--don't believe them.

We've already pointed out that during the final week of the 2000 campaign, 39 out of 43 national polls showed George Bush leading Al Gore. A look back at the state polls released during the final two weeks of the 2000 presidential campaign shows that while most of the polls were reasonably accurate, there were some that were way off the mark.

The final Zogby tracking poll in California showed Al Gore with a razor thin 1 point lead over George Bush. Maybe that's why Bush ran off to California during the final few days of the campaign. Gore won the state by 12 points.

In Delaware, which was considered a swing state by many analysts in 2000, a late Mason-Dixon Poll had Bush leading Gore by 4 points. Gore won the state by 13.

In Illinois, which many pundits did not consider safe for Al Gore either, a Mason-Dixon Poll had Gore with only a 3 point lead and a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll had Bush with a 3 point lead. Gore carried the state by 12.

In Michigan almost all of the polls showed Al Gore with the lead. But a Market Research Group Poll completed on October 26 had Bush ahead by 6. Gore carried the state by 5. Market Research Group was a Republican polling organization and this year we're seeing a lot more of those Republican polls, a lot of them from an outfit called Strategic Vision. Take their results with a very large grain of salt.

In New Jersey, three late polls, two by Quinnipiac University and one by the Gannett newspapers, all showed Al Gore with a fairly narrow lead--ranging from 5 to 8 points. Gore carried the state by 16. This year we're again seeing some state polls showing that New Jersey is close. We'll see if they're any more accurate this time than they were four years ago.

In Ohio, two late polls, one by the University of Cincinnatti and one by The Columbus Dispatch, gave George Bush a 10 point lead over Al Gore. On Election Day, Bush's margin was only 4 points.

Finally, in Wisconsin, a swing state in 2000 and in 2004, the final Zogby tracking poll and a late poll by Market Shares had Bush ahead of Gore by 6 and 5 points respectively. Al Gore carried the state by less than 1 percentage point.

Kerry Leads by 4 in New FL Poll

John Kerry leads George Bush 48-44 percent of Florida RV's, according to a new Florida Insider Poll conducted 10/12-14 --- a 7 point gain over the previous Insider poll taken just before the 3rd presidential debate.

The Mary Cheney Ploy: Brilliantly Dirty Politics or Just Kinda Weird?

I lean toward the second possibility. Ed Kilgore over at NewDonkey gets it about right:

It's bizarre, to say the least: at precisely the moment when the Bush-Cheney campaign has fully committed itself to an 18-day drive to demonize John Kerry as a Massachusetts Liberal, BC04 and its conservative media echo chamber are suddenly focused on a different L-word: Lesbian, as in the sexual orientation of Mary Cheney.

No, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless you hypothesize that BC04 don't quite know what to do and figure anything that generates a campaign story that isn't about jobs, health care or Iraq is a net plus. But this kind of campaigning is a sign of weakness (see post below) not strength.

It's probably also a sign they're pretty worried the Kerry-is-a-Massachusetts-liberal strategy won't work. And they should be.

Take Two Articles and Call Me in the Morning

Presumably the post below has calmed down most of those who need to be calmed down. But for the rest let me recommend a couple of articles that came out today, one from each side of aisle, so to speak.

Both articles deal with how the fundamentals of the election have turned against Bush and make his re-election a difficult proposition.

Here is the first part of Jonathan Chait's article in TNR online:

In June of 2003, Fred Barnes wrote an article for The Weekly Standard's website arguing that "the stars could be aligning for a Bush landslide in 2004." Barnes offered six reasons for this prediction: an improving economy; a successful war in Iraq; a successful Medicare expansion; a huge financial advantage; a Democratic Party in disarray; and a news media discredited by its gloomy coverage in Iraq.

Need I point out that none of these six has panned out? And it's not just one article that looks bad in retrospect. The basis for President Bush's reelection has essentially collapsed.

And here is the key paragraph from Frank Luntz' article in the Financial Times:

Step by step, debate-by-debate, John Kerry has addressed and removed many remaining doubts among uncommitted voters. My own polling research after each debate suggests a rather bleak outlook for the Bush candidacy: many who still claim to be “undecided” are in fact leaning to Mr. Kerry and are about ready to commit.

Feeling better? Good. Now back to work, with a smile on your lips and a song in your heart, for John Kerry.

October 15, 2004

Kerry Up by 1 in WP/ABC Tracking Poll

Today's WP/ABC tracking poll has Kerry up by 1 among RVs. (I explain my preference for the WP RV data in this post.). But the LV data are not much different: a dead heat.

Both results differ substantially from today's Zogby tracking poll result, which had Bush up by 4 and occasioned considerable rending of garments in Democratic circles.

What accounts for the differences between the two polls? Certainly not their party ID distributions. Zogby, as is well-known, weights to the 2000 exit poll distribution, which was +4D. WP, on the other hand, does not (though, as I explain in the post cited above, they may use some modified party-weighting scheme, at least on their LV data). Based on data WP releases on vote by partisanship, their LV sample appears to be currently running at about +2-3D on party ID (no comparable data are released on RVs, so no comparable estimate can be made). That means the differences between the two polls, controlling for party ID distribution, are actually slightly larger than they seem on the surface--if you weighted the WP LV sample to the Zogby/exit poll distribution, Kerry would actually be ahead of Bush by a point, rather than tied.

So: what does account for the differences between the two polls? Try this one on for size: Zogby has Kerry winning Democrats by just 64 points (79-15), while Bush wins Republicans by 83 points (89-6)--almost a 20 point gap in partisan support margins. In contrast, in the WP LV poll, Kerry wins Democrats by 73 points (85-12), while Bush wins Republicans by 80 points (90-10)--a much more modest 7 point gap in partisan support margins (commensurate, incidentally, with the gap we saw in 2000 between partisan support margins).

In short, the primary driver of the differences between the WP and Zogby tracking polls is the unusually low margin for Kerry among Democrats in the Zogby poll. I personally don't find that margin particularly plausible, since it is contradicted by the WP poll, by numerous other recent polls and by the 2000 exit poll results.

Lesson: don't let any particular tracking poll result get you down and, to the extent possible, look at a poll's internals to see what might be driving the result.

A note on Nader: A front-page story in The New York Times today (and see also Ryan Lizza's piece in the new TNR) on the threat Nader poses to Kerry no doubt caused some additional garment-rending in Democratic circles. And there's no doubt he does pose some kind of threat--pretty much by definition even a very small Nader vote could tip a state if that state were close enough.

But the smaller Nader's vote, the less likely such an outcome will occur. And Nader's vote is likely to be quite small indeed. Currently, he is running at 1-2 percent in the national polls and most relevant state polls as well. Looking at analagous polls from the analagous time period in the 2000 campaign, he was running at 3-5 percent of the vote.

Take Zogby's tracking poll as an example. In 2000, Nader was polling 5 percent at this time in October. This year in the same poll, he's getting 1 percent support, very close to the support being received by Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate.

So: worry some about Nader. But not too much. I'd worry much, much more about turnout and mobilization.

Scripps Survey Research Center: Kerry Leads by 5%

John Kerry leads George Bush 50-45 percent of nation-wide RV's according to a poll conducted 10/3-13 by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University.

How Much Did Kerry Gain from the Debates?

I know I keep flogging these debate data....but I just can't help myself! Democracy Corps did pre-post debate surveys for each debate, which have all been released, including the last one. But, as Paul Waldman points out at the Gadflyer:

...instead of looking at the differences from Wednesday to Thursday, we should look at how far the candidates have come since before all the debates began.

The DCorps data allow us to do that--compare pre-first debate to post-third debate--and here's what the data say, according to Waldman:

...people's opinions of Bush after the debates are just where they were before the debates, while Kerry has improved dramatically on every measure. Bush's average improvement was one-half of a percentage point, while Kerry's average improvement was 9.5%.

Waldman goes on to give the changes for Kerry on each individual candidate attribute, as well as the changes for Bush. It's quite eye-opening. See the link above for all the data. (Note: I am told that DCorps will be releasing charts summarizing these changes and others over the course of the debates very shortly. I will provide a link to these charts when they are posted.)

October 14, 2004

Tracking the Tracking Polls

Right now, you're probably asking yourself: what do the latest tracking polls have to say about the presidential race? Well then, you really must toddle over to Bob Poulsen's most excellent 2.004k.com site, where he has a special little page that displays the latest tracking polls side-by-side and updates that page every time new results come out. And as with all the rest of the pages on his site (he has great coverage of all other national polls, as well as data from all the states) topline results are presented crisply, LVs and Rvs distinguished and correct links to the full data provided.

Drop on by. You'll be glad you did.

It's a Beautiful Thing

....to look at all the basic results from all the debates all in one place. Kos thoughtfully organized these data and posted them over at the Daily Kos but I couldn't resist putting them up here as well. So, feast your eyes on these numbers--as the data show, Kerry won every single poll after all three debates and consistently did even better among uncommitted voters and independents. That's got to put a spring in your step as we move into the last weeks of the campaign.

Debate 1

ABC: Kerry won 45-36

CBS, uncommitted voters: Kerry won 44-26.

CNN/USA Today Gallup: Kerry won 53-37, 60-29 among independents

Democracy Corps: Kerry won 45-32

ARG: Kerry won 51-41

Debate 2

ABC: Kerry wins 44-41

CNN/USA Today Gallup: Kerry wins 47-45

Democracy Corps: Kerry wins 45-37

Debate 3

CBS, undecideds: Kerry wins 39-25. Before the debate, 29% said Kerry had clear positions on the issues, after, that number doubled to 60%.

ABC: Kerry won 42%-41% in a poll that surveyed 8% more Republicans than Democrats. Independent voters thought Kerry won, 42-35

CNN/USA Today Gallup: Kerry wins 52-39. Among independents, Kerry won 54-34.

Democracy Corps: Kerry wins 41-36.

Great stuff, huh? On to November.

DCorps Survey Confirms Kerry Win in Third Debate

Democracy Corps has released the third in their series of panel surveys on the debates. I urge you to check out the entire survey, but here are some of the main findings, as summarized in their release on the survey:

John Kerry won the final presidential debate and produced the biggest shift yet in the actual vote for president. In this national representative survey of 1,030 likely voters, with data collected by Knowledge Networks, Kerry moved into a 3 point lead over Bush, 50 to 47 percent, after the debate. The survey participants began the evening evenly split, 48 to 48 percent, as the country as a whole. But Kerry got a clear a boost from Wednesday's debate, which will very likely reverberate in the coming days.

Kerry gained 2 points in the first presidential debate, according to the Democracy Corps survey,and 1 point in the 2nd Town Hall Debate.

Kerry also gained 2 points in the battleground states, where his lead is substantial, 54 to 44 percent after the debate.

As with nearly all other polls, the Democracy Corps national survey shows Kerry winning the debate by 5 points, 41 to 36 percent. Among independents, he won by 6 points and by 9 in the battleground states. While there are a small number of undecided (61 respondents), Kerry won by 8 points. (Among college educated women, Kerry won by 20 points.)

The biggest vote shift came among older men, an important target group in the election. Kerry moved from a deficit of 2 points to an advantage of 4 points, 51 to 47 percent.

This was very much a personal victory for Kerry. There was a net 8-point shift in favorability: positive responses rose 5 points to 48 percent; negative ones dropped 3 points to 42 percent. Bush gained only 2 points on favorability. Kerry’s gains reflected sharp rises on personal attributes, without a comparable gain for Bush.

· On strong convictions, Kerry rose 6 points to 63 percent.
· On honest and trustworthy, up 6 points to 57 percent.
· On gives me confidence, up 5 points to 52 percent.
· On likeable, up 5 points to 62 percent.
· On having clear plans, Kerry gained 6 points in comparison to Bush and ended up ahead (45 to 42 percent).

Makes you kind of wish there were a fourth and fifth debate, too, doesn't it?

October 13, 2004

Kerry Wins Third Debate

According to a CBS News poll of uncommitted voters:

Kerry [was] the winner by 39-25 percent over Mr. Bush, with 36 percent calling it a tie. Sixty percent said Kerry has clear positions on the issues. Before the third debate, only 29 percent of the same voters said Kerry had clear positions.

I particularly like that movement on clear positions on the issues.

Kerry also emerged a strong winner in the Gallup/CNN post-debate flash poll:

According to the Gallup organization as reported by CNN, Kerry won the debate with 52% while only 39% felt that George Bush had the better night.

For comparison, the first debate's flash results left Kerry the winner 53% to 37% and the second debate was closer with Kerry leading 47% to 45%.

Note how close tonight's results are to the results from the first debate, which is now viewed as a Kerry blow-out. Very interesting.

Finally, in an ABC News poll of "likely voters":

42 percent picked Kerry as the winner, 41 percent chose Bush and 14 percent said they tied.

The network said 38 percent of its respondents were Republican, 30 percent were Democrats and 28 percent were independent.

Hmmm. Wonder how that poll would have turned out without an 8 point Republican party ID advantage. Ah, those pesky ABC likely voters.

Expect Kerry's winning margin to grow as this debate settles in the public mind.

Kerry Still Ahead in the WP/ABC News Tracking Poll

Data on the WP website show that Kerry still leads by 2 among RVs in the WP/ABC tracking poll. Moreover, he now also leads by 1 among LVs, the first time this has happened in their tracking poll.

Speaking of LVs and RVs, it has come to my attention (thanks, Mark Blumenthal) that ABC News does now do some sort of party-weighting with their likely voter samples--but apparently not their RV samples. Just to confuse things even more the WP half of this partnership draws a different likely voter sample which may or may not be party-weighted and even reports different registered voter results than those reported by ABC--which may or may not reflect a different weighting approach on the part of the WP.

Clear? I thought so.

I feel somewhat less charitable toward Blumenthal for implying (well, saying) that my and Alan Abramowitz’ failure to embrace the ABC LV results shows deplorable hypocrisy on our parts. After all, he reasons, they’re party-weighting their LV results so shouldn’t we be delighted with these data and prefer it to their RV data?

But this doesn’t follow at all. I couldn’t have made my views clearer on how useless I think these sort of LV samples are for tracking changes in voter sentiment during a campaign and applying some sort of party-weight to them does not change my viewpoint. Indeed, RVs vs. LVs and party-weighting vs. not party-weighting are two separate issues and should not be collapsed, as Blumenthal, for some reason, insists on doing.

Now if ABC (or WP) were party-weighting their RV samples as well, I would be more sympathetic. And I suspect if they were, that would amplify, rather than reduce, the horse race differences we currently see between their weighted LV and unweighted RV samples. The reason for this is simple: the way ABC weights their likely voter sample is by averaging the unweighted party ID distribution in their LV sample with the average exit poll distribution from the last three elections (which is about +4D). Therefore, if they applied the same methodology to their RV sample it would likely increase the Democrats' party ID advantage in that sample, unless it was already over +4D, and therefore move the RV sample even farther toward Kerry.

Of course, I don't really know how much weighting would affect the RV results, since neither ABC nor WP release the party ID distributions or vote by party ID for their RV samples. (For that matter, these organizations don't release the analagous information about the LV samples either, with the exception of vote by party ID in the WP LV sample.)

In short, we lack enough information to sort out the the LV vs. RV issue and the party-weighting vs. not party-weighting issue--which, as I stressed, are two separate issues--and how they affect these data. But I welcome the release of this information, should these organizations see fit to do so.

Presumably, Blumenthal would agree with myself and Alan Abramowitz that this information should be released. I might add that we're both pleased to note that he has come out of the closet as a "third way" party-weighter, who has parted company with the "purists" who think party-weighting is a thought-crime of the highest order.

Welcome to the club, Mark. Now we can argue about how to do it, not whether to do it. And--who knows?--perhaps avoid casting aspersions on each other's intellectual integrity.

Midwest Battleground State Polls from Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune today released four midwest battleground state polls and they provide additional evidence of Kerry’s strength, and Bush’s weakness, in these states.

Kerry leads in three of these states (OH, 49-45; WI, 47-43 and MN, 45-43). and only trails in IA (45-47).

But that’s not the worst part for Bush. Even in the state where he has a slight lead–IA–his 47 percent support level is dangerously low for an incumbent. Moreover, his overall approval rating in the state is just 46 percent, while his ratings on the economy (41 percent) and Iraq (43 percent) are even lower, suggesting a hostile environment for reaching undecided voters.

And his support level and ratings in the other states are even worse. In those three states, he averages only 44 percent support in trial heats, 45 percent in his overall approval rating, 41 percent on his Iraq approval rating and 40 percent on his economic approval rating. Ouch.

The most important issues in these four states? Health care in IA, MN and WI and job loss in OH. Double ouch. On to the domestic issues debate.

Democracy Corps Poll: Kerry, Bush in Dead Heat

On the eve of the third presidential debate, John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 48 percent of nation-wide LV's, according to a new poll by Democracy Corps conducted 10/10-11.

Quinnipiac Poll: Kerry Leads by 4 in PA

John Kerry leads George Bush 46-42 percent of Pennsylvania RV's, with 10 percent don't know, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University conducted 10/9-11.

Kerry Leads by 9% in Oregon

Kerry leads Bush 53-44 percent of Oregon LV's, with 4 percent for others, according to a SurveyUSA Poll for KATU-TV Portland conducted 10/9-11.

Bush Ahead By 2% in New ICR Poll

Bush leads Kerry 43.4-41.4 percent of nation-wide RV's with 15.2 percent for others/undecided, according to a new poll by International Communications Research, conducted 10/9-11.

Kerry Leads in New Economist Poll

Kerry leads Bush 47-45 percent of nation-wide RV's, with 1 percent for Nader, according to a Economist/YouGov Poll conducted 10/11-12,

October 12, 2004

Kerry Takes Lead in WP/ABC Tracking Poll

Not in the silly LV data they like to feature, but where it counts: in their RV data. Kerry now leads by 2 points among RVs in the WP/ABC tracking poll, compared to 2 points down 3 days ago and 6 points down a week ago.

Alan Abramowitz adds this note on the WP tracking poll's idiosyncracies:

The latest ABC/Washington Post tracking poll is showing a 3 point lead for George Bush among likely voters but a 2 point lead for John Kerry among registered voters. This means that the ABC/WP poll is projecting that 85.1 percent of registered Bush supporters will vote but only 76.6 percent of registered Kerry supporters will vote--an 8.5 point Republican turnout advantage. Over the past several days, there has been a consistent LV/RV discrepancy of about this magnitude in the poll. However, data from the past three presidential elections shows that the Republican turnout advantage has never been larger than 3 points. In 1992, the highest turnout election of the three, the difference was only 1 point. In a high turnout election, and 2004 will certainly be a very high turnout election, is is simply not plausible that there will be such a large difference between the prefernces of registered and likely voters. During the final week of the 2000 campaign, George Bush held a consistent lead of 3-4 points among likely voters in the ABC/WP tracking poll. I wonder what the poll's results were among all registered voters? I suspect that they were much closer to the actual results of the election and I suspect that that will also be the case this year.

Notes on the Latest Gallup Poll

1. Tomorrow's debate is about domestic issues. Here is Kerry versus Bush in ten domestic issue areas polled by Gallup (issue data summary provided by Alan Abramowitz):

The environment: Kerry 60 percent, Bush 31 percent
Stem cell research: Kerry 53 percent, Bush 33 percent
Health care: Kerry 56 percent, Bush 37 percent
Medicare: Kerry 53 percent, Bush 38 percent
Federal budget deficit: Kerry 53 percent, Bush 40 percent
Social Security: Kerry 50 percent, Bush 41 percent
Education: Kerry 50 percent, Bush 43 percent
The economy: Kerry 49 percent, Bush 45 percent
Abortion: Kerry 46 percent, Bush 42 percent
Taxes: Kerry 44 percent, Bush 51 percent

Average of all ten domestic issues: Kerry 51.4 percent, Bush 40.1 percent

2. While the race is tied 48-48 in Gallup's 2-way RV matchup, Kerry leads by 5 in the battleground states and by 8 among independents.

3. The gender gap is alive and well. Kerry leads Bush by 9 among women and trails Bush by 9 among men.

4. While the party ID distribution seems more reasonable in this poll than in many recent Gallup polls, if you re-weight their 2-way RV data by the 2000 exit poll distribution, you actually get a 4 point Kerry lead, not the dead heat they report.

That result would tend to imply that the party ID distribution is about even in this poll. However, Steve Soto got Gallup to give him the party ID distribution for the RV sample in this poll and they reported a 36R/34D/29I distribution. Interesting. That distribution, based on their reported internals for the RV sample, would actually give Bush a 1 point lead among RVs, not the dead heat they report.

I can't explain this discrepancy, I merely report it. It's also a bit puzzling that Gallup reports a 4 point Republican party ID advantage in their LV sample--i.e., 2 points more Republican than they say their RV sample is--but that same LV sample yields a 2 point Kerry lead. In other words, the LV sample is 2 points more Republican yet produces a result that's 2 points more Democratic.

Go figure.

October 11, 2004

State of the Race

With the second presidential debate under our belts, and the third and final one coming right up, it's a good time to take a step back and assess how the race has changed since very late September--that is, since right before the first debate.

At that time, Bush was running a consistent lead over Kerry though, as I argued repeatedly, the magnitude of that lead was likely fairly modest, despite the gaudy results obtained by some public polls.

Not only that, Bush was continuing to display a number of underlying weaknesses that made even that small lead quite vulnerable. As Guy Molyneux pointed out in his excellent article, "The Big Five-Oh":

...in incumbent elections, the incumbent’s percentage of the vote is a far better indicator of the state of the race than the spread. In fact, the percentage of the vote an incumbent president receives in surveys is an extraordinarily accurate predictor of the percentage he will receive on election day -- even though the survey results also include a pool of undecided voters. Hence the 50-percent rule: An incumbent who fails to poll above 50 percent is in grave jeopardy of losing his job.

And, before the debates, Bush was consistently averaging under 50 percent of the vote in trial heats. Not only that, but:

...polls in [the battleground] states actually reveal an even more precarious position for the president. Taken together, Bush receives a bit less support in these critical states than in the nation overall. In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, Bush receives 49 percent support nationally but only 47 percent in the battleground states, a typical finding. (Bush and Al Gore split the vote in these states evenly, 48 percent to 48 percent.)

More importantly, if we take an average of recent published polls of registered voters in individual states, Bush falls short of the 49-percent benchmark in nearly every one, including Ohio (47 percent), Florida (47 percent), and Pennsylvania (46 percent). Wisconsin (51 percent) is the only crucial battleground state in which Bush appears to have a fairly solid lead. Bush even fails to clear the 49-percent bar in such 2000 Bush states as West Virginia (47 percent), Missouri (49 percent), and Arkansas (48 percent).

The root of Bush's weak support in these terms was pretty simple: people still thought he was doing a lousy job running the country, especially in key areas like the economy, Iraq and health care. These indicators stubbornly refused to budge during the entire time Bush was maintaining a lead.

In sum, Bush was ahead before the first debate not because his campaign had succeeded in convincing voters that Bush was doing a great job, but rather because his campaign had managed to shift a significant amount of attention away from Bush's poor performance and onto Kerry's alleged character flaws. Therefore, Bush's lead was likely to dissipate as soon as voters' attention was drawn back to his actual performance in office and the concrete policy alternatives proposed by Kerry.

That is, in fact, what has happened. The debates have allowed Kerry-Edwards to re-focus the campaign around Bush's record and Kerry's alternatives, thereby taking advantage of the weaknesses Bush never managed to fix in August-September. This was particularly true of the first debate where Kerry's strong performance put Bush on the defensive in what was supposed to be his area of strength: foreign policy.

The immediate post-debate polls all showed Kerry a clear winner:
43-28 percent among uncommitted voters (Knowledge Networks for CBS News); 45-36 (ABC News); 45-32 (Democracy Corps); and 53-37 (CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll). And, across the latter three polls, no matter Kerry's overall margin, he always won by more among undecided and independent voters. For example, in ABC News poll, he won independents by 20 points and in the DCorps survey, he won undecided voters by 31 points.

Moreover, by the weekend, when the debate had had a chance to "settle" in the public mind, Kerry's winning margin widened dramatically--to 57-25 in the Gallup Poll and a crushing 61-19 in the Newsweek Poll.

The most important result of the subsequent vice-presidential debate was not who won overall (where Cheney had a slight edge) but the way Edwards kept the focus relentlessly on Bush's record and Kerry's alternative proposals and repeated Kerry's success in reaching undecided voters.

The second presidential debate was another Kerry win, albeit less spectacular than the first: 44-41 (ABC News); 47-45 (CNN/USA Today/Gallup ); and 45-37 (Democracy Corps ).

As before, Kerry won easily in all these polls among independents and undecided voters. And, as before, his overall winning margin has widened as impressions of the debate have settled among voters (the latest Gallup poll, for example, has his winning margin rising to 15 points from Gallup's initial debate night margin of just 2 points).

These debates, and the dynamic they set up, have transformed the race from a referendum on the challenger and his character to a referendum on the incumbent and his record. And, in the process, voters have received a lot of direct, unmediated exposure to John Kerry and his ideas that has been nothing but helpful to his candidacy, leading more voters to conclude that he is an acceptable alternative to a poorly-performing incumbent.

Here are a number of indicators of how much the race has changed:

1. The horse race. Even if one accepts all current polls at face value--i.e., making no adjustments for any possible over-representation of Republicans--polls taken in the last week indicate, on average, a dead heat. In other words, Bush's pre-debate lead has been completely eliminated. Moreover, Bush's average support level since the first debate has only been running at 47 percent, a very bad sign for an incumbent (see the "50 percent rule", discussed above).

And we find particularly sharp swings toward Kerry among the very public polls that had given Bush his largest pre-debate leads: Gallup shows a 13 point swing toward Kerry among RVs; Ipsos-AP, a 9 point swing toward Kerry among RVs; and Newsweek, CBS News and ABC News, 7 point swings toward Kerry among RVs.

2. Favorability ratings. Kerry now leads Bush in favorability in most recent polls. For example, Newsweek has Kerry at 52 favorable/40 unfavorable, compared to 49/46 for Bush. Similarly, Time has Kerry at 50/34, compared to 48/42 for Bush, while Gallup has Kerry at 52/44 and Bush at 51/46.

3. Job ratings. Bush's job ratings, never very impressive, even when he was leading, now are sinking further. The most recent Gallup poll has his approval rating at 47 percent, his worst rating in that poll since July and Newsweek has it at 46 percent, also his worst rating since July. His ratings on Iraq, the economy and foreign policy are also headed south.

4. Bush vs. Kerry on the issues. Across polls, Kerry shows substantial gains on every issue. Where he was leading before the debates, he now leads by more. Where he was losing to Bush, he is now losing by less or, in some cases, has actually taken the lead. For example, in the Newsweek poll, Kerry is now favored by 13 on the economy, but was only favored by 2 before the first debate and is now favored by 22 on health care/Medicare, compared to 10 points before the first debate. And while Bush is still favored in this poll by 5 points on Iraq and by 2 points on foreign policy, before the first debate he was leading Kerry by 15 and 16 points, respectively. Note also that in the Time poll, Bush was ahead by 6 points on taxes before the first debate, but now trails Kerry by 2 points on the issue.

5. Bush vs. Kerry on candidate attributes. Same story: substantial gains for Kerry on every attribute, widening his lead on attributes where he was already leading and cutting his deficit where he has been trailing Bush. In the Time poll, Kerry widened his lead to 9 points on understanding people's needs (up from a 4 point lead), tied Bush on honest and trustworthy (up from an 8 point deficit to Bush) and took a 5 point lead on having good judgement (up from a 4 point deficit to Bush). Kerry has even opened up a 5 point lead on being "likeable" (up from a 4 point deficit to Bush).

And, critically, both the Time poll and the new Gallup poll now show Kerry leading Bush--albeit by slim 1-2 point margins--on who has clear plans to solve the nation's problems.

The task for Kerry seems clear as he heads into the third debate and the final weeks of the campaign: keep the heat on Bush's terrible record and keep telling voters--in the simplest possible terms--how he would do a better job. The voters, it would seem, are starting to listen.

New Gallup Poll Shows Progress for Kerry, Weakness for Bush

Alan Abramowitz writes:

John Kerry leads George Bush by 49 to 48 percent among likely voters in a new Gallup poll. Other key findings: Bush's approval rating has fallen to 47 percent, another sign of danger for the incumbent, and respondents in the poll chose Kerry as the winner of the second debate by a decisive margin of 45 to 30 percent.

A Note on Who Posts What

Now that we're doing a lot more posting on DR, perhaps it's time to clarify who posts what on the blog.

1. The posts I do personally all say "Posted by Ruy Teixeira" at the bottom.

2. Most other posts, especially the short notices on new polling data, are done by EDM staff and say "Posted by EDM Staff" at the bottom.

3. There are occasional guest posts by commentators like John Belisarius that are clearly indicated as such at the top of the post, though they may have "Posted by EDM Staff" at the bottom.

4. There are friends of the blog, like Alan Abramowitz, who send us material which is included in posts by myself or by EDM staff. These contributions are clearly attributed to their authors and typically set off as indented material in the post.

Hope that clears up any confusion. Now, back to the (analysis) salt mines.

October 10, 2004

A Note on the ABC News/Washington Post Tracking Poll

Alan Abramowitz points out:

The Washington Post tracking poll seems to be suffering from the same ailment that afflicted the Gallup tracking poll four years ago, albeit on a smaller scale so far. In the past few days we have seen Bush's lead among registered voters shrinking while his lead among likely voters has increased. This means that the likely voters and the unlikely voters are moving in the opposite direction, just as they frequently did in the Gallup tracking poll four years ago. This makes no sense, of course. With the WP tracking poll, as with the Gallup tracking poll, the registered voter results are probably a better indicator of the actual standing of the race.

Well said. It's also worth notiing that, in 2000, the ABC/WP tracking poll missed the final vote pretty badly, having Bush up by 3 points at the very end and 3-4 points up on every night of the final week. Looks like they're poised to repeat their fine 2000 performance.

October 9, 2004

Democracy Corps Post-Debate Panel Survey Gives Kerry Solid Win

Democracy Corps, which has been conducting the most extensive post-debate surveys, using larger and more representative national samples than the other public polls, finds John Kerry a solid winner in last night's debate. Here are their key findings:

· Kerry wins debate by 8 points (45 to 37 percent).

· Kerry moves up his vote margin over Bush by 2 points.

· Kerry makes significant gains in personal favorability.

· Kerry made his biggest gains on likeability, giving people confidence, and having clear plans.

· Kerry won especially strongly in the swing electorate -- independents, the undecided, and battleground state voters.

You can find the full results from the survey here.

Kerry Edges Bush in ABC News, Gallup Post-Debate Polls; Wins Independents Easily

John Kerry beat George Bush 44-41 percent of RV viewers of the 2nd presidential debate, with 13 percent undecided in an ABC News Poll. But Kerry beat Bush among self-identified independents 44-34 percent. (The respondents were self-identified 35 percent Democrats, 32 percent Republicans and 29 percent Independents.)

Kerry beat Bush 47-45 percent of RV debate-viewers in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. But Kerry beat Bush among self-identified independents 53-37 percent. (The respondents were self identified 38 percent Republicans, 32 percent Democrats and 30 percent Independents.)

October 8, 2004

Battleground States Results

More from Alan Abramowitz.

Here are the results in the 10 battleground states in which polls have been conducted since the first debate. The number shown is the mean difference between Bush support and Kerry support in the polls. A positive number means that Bush was leading and a negative number means that Kerry was leading. The number of polls is shown in parentheses.

Colorado: 0.0 (1)
Florida: +2.2 (5)
Iowa: +1.0 (2)
Minnesota: -4.0 (2)
New Hampshire: 0.0 (1)
New Mexico: -1.3 (3)
Ohio: -1.0 (1)
Pennsylvania: -5.0 (3)
Washington: -4.0 (2)
Wisconsin: +0.7 (3)

All of these results are based on three-way contests including Ralph
Nader in states where Nader is on the ballot. All of the results are
for likely voters when available or for registered voters when results
for likely voters were not provided. The source for these numbers is
pollingreport.com.

On Day of Debate, Election is a Dead Heat

Alan Abramowitz reports that "a look at the polls that have been conducted since the first debate reveals a race that is close to a dead heat in the nation as a whole and in the key battleground states. There have been 14 national polls conducted since the first debate. In those 14 polls, George Bush holds an average lead of just 1.1 points."

Strategy Notes:
John Belisarius

Democratic Unity is More Important than Yesterday’s Debates

An opinion piece in Tuesday’s Washington Post -- written by Mark Penn, the leading pollster of the “new Democratic” or centrist wing of the Democratic Party -- raises a critical long-term issue – one that must be faced now, even in the midst of the presidential campaign.

The question is whether, after the election, the Dems are going to fall back into the bitter internal warfare that divided the party from 2000-2003 or whether they will be able to preserve the remarkable level of unity that has been achieved during this election. Penn’s article does not directly address this question, but it inescapably arises from the ideas he presents.

Penn essentially argues that swing voters remain the irreplaceable key to any Democratic victory. In his view, these voters can still be accurately visualized as middle aged white women -- “Soccer Moms” as new Democrats used to portray them during the Clinton years. In consequence, Penn asserts that Dems should “learn a lesson from Bill Clinton” and update many of the centrist strategies Clinton employed in the 1992 and 1996 elections.

These two opinions, by themselves, are more a restatement of long-standing New Democratic perspectives than an invitation to controversy. But Penn’s article also strongly suggests two additional ideas – that Dems have to make an either/or choice between strategies to energize the base versus those that reach out to swing voters and that Kerry’s September shift to an energetic attack on the administration’s policies in Iraq was, at best, a very risky departure from a consistently centrist strategy.

One can almost visualize populist/progressive Democrats charging up to the well-worn ramparts where they fought the intellectual battles of 2000-2003 as they finish Penn’s piece and one can almost hear the rhetorical questions beginning to be fired across the ideological divide: “Hasn’t Kerry’s rebound in recent weeks proved that he needed to aggressively take Bush on about Iraq?”, “Didn’t the elections of 2002 prove Democrats have to offer clear alternatives and not come across as ‘Republicans-Lite?’ ”

These are excellent questions, and, like Penn’s initial propositions themselves, they deserve serious and thoughtful discussion after the election is over.

But before Democrats from both wings of the party reflexively sink back into the polarized atmosphere and dialog of 2000-2003, it is vital that both recognize and acknowledge the extraordinary accomplishment that the current Democratic unity represents and the overwhelming common interest that both sides have in maintaining it after November. Democratic unity was only achieved with substantial effort and compromise – Kerry was not, after all, the first choice of either the centrist or progressive wings of the party – and it represents the most important achievement of this campaign season for the future of the party in the coming years.

And, ironically, one of the clearest demonstrations of how far today’s Democratic unity has allowed the party to progress actually comes directly from the work of Penn himself and his direct counterparts on the populist/progressive wing of the Democratic community. It can be seen by comparing the opinion surveys and strategy papers prepared under Penn’s direction for the Democratic Leadership Council and the New Democratic Network in recent months with those produced by the populist/progressive Democracy Corps, headed by Stanley Greenberg and James Carville.

After the 2000 election strategy papers by these two polling and strategy groups often appeared almost systematically crafted as mirror opposites – from their initial assumptions to empirical findings. Since January of 2004, in contrast, this is emphatically no longer the case. Rather, strategy papers prepared by Penn for the New Democratic Network in recent months and those produced by Democracy Corps exhibit three distinct patterns or tiers of agreement and disagreement.

First, on many basic issues, there are now actually large areas of agreement. This is particularly notable in the areas of core Democratic values and policy preferences. Second, there are a number of areas where disagreements of fact exist, but not of basic perspective. They are the kinds of disputes that further examination of existing data and new surveys using more focused follow-up questions can in principle resolve. Finally, there remain some areas where basic disagreements do indeed exist because the research methodologies and approaches chosen reflect underlying differences in political and moral outlook.

This hierarchy of agreement and disagreement between the two wings of the Democratic Party clearly suggests a framework for how both sides can best learn to coexist after the election is over.

First, in the areas where there is already underlying agreement, these common views need to be clearly defined and formalized. These are the ideas, principles and strategies that can provide the glue to hold the party together in the coming years.

Second, in areas where there is disagreement about facts, new institutions and forums need to be created within the Democratic community where Democrats from both wings of the party can meet and work in a spirit of collaboration rather than conflict to examine these areas of disagreement and figure out how to minimize or eliminate them entirely.

Finally, in areas where there are inescapable differences based on principles and values, centrists and populist/progressives need to define certain basic standards of civility and mutual respect that both wings agree to follow and uphold.

It is by following a three-tiered approach of this kind, rather then by allowing a return to the intra-party warfare of recent years, that the Democratic Party can convert today’s hard-won unity into the foundation for long-term development and growth.

But it is vital that the vicious cycle of intra-party fratricide be broken now, before it can once again take hold. The habit of conducting internal warfare is deeply ingrained within the Democratic Party and debates about ideas will quickly spiral into bitter antagonisms after the election if a conscious effort is not made to avoid that outcome. Dems must break the mental habit of seeing debates over political strategy as inevitably representing a clash between positions that are either totally right or wrong.

The relative importance of mobilizing base voters and reaching out to swing voters, for example, may be difficult to quantify, but it is ultimately an empirical issue and not a theological one. Equally, while many Democrats may feel that challenging Bush on Iraq was the right thing to do on moral and social grounds, whether or not it will prove the best political strategy will remain a reasonable and legitimate question even after the election, one that should not be confused with the moral arguments about the war itself.

More generally, Dems must keep in mind that this election cycle has created a renewed and reinvigorated Democratic party with two candidates virtually all Democrats – and most independent voters as well - perceive as vastly superior in intellect, character, ethics and competence to the current administration. These attractive candidates are undergirded by new and powerful grass-roots mechanisms for fundraising, voter mobilization and internet-based organizing. In the long run there is no question that the preservation of the unity which made all these advances possible will be more important to the Dems future success then any potential benefits from renewed conflicts over the issues that divided the party in the recent past.

WSJ/Zogby Poll: Kerry Ahead or Tied in All Battleground States

On the eve of the 2nd presidential debate, Senator John Kerry is ahead or in statistical tie with President Bush in all 16 "battleground states," according to a new poll by Zogby Interactive, conducted 9/30 to 10/5 for the Wall St. Journal.

Kerry LV leads (%): AR 0.2; FL 0.4; IA 6.6; MI 9.7; MN 8.3; NV 1.0; NH 6.6; NM 11.4; OH 0.3; OR 10.1; PA 5.4; WA 9.9; and WI 2.5.

Bush LV leads (%): MO 2.2, TN 0.9 and WV 6.1.

According to the analysis of the Zogby Poll published in the Wall St. Journal, "Mr. Kerry holds leads outside the margin of error in 6 states...None of Mr. Bush's leads are outside the margin."

October 7, 2004

New AP--Ipsos Poll: Kerry, Bush Tied

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 47 percent of nation-wide RV's on the eve of the second presidential debate, according to an AP-Ipsos Public Affairs Poll conducted 10/4-6. (Kerry leads Bush 50-46 percent among LV's)

According to AP's Ron Fournier, "Fewer voters than a month ago believe Bush is the best man to protect the country and fight the war.

"The AP-Ipsos Public Affairs poll, completed on the eve of the second presidential debate, charted a reversal from a month ago, when the Republican incumbent had the momentum and a minuscule lead. Since then, bloodshed increased in Iraq, Kerry sharpened his attacks and Bush stumbled in their initial debate.

"Nearly three-fourths of likely voters said they had watched or listened to the first presidential debate last week, according to the poll. Only 8 percent came away with a more favorable view of Bush while 39 percent said they felt better about Kerry."

Swing State Polls: Kerry Running Strong

Bush ahead by 4% Florida LV’s (Mason-Dixon Poll 10/4-5).

Kerry leads by 2% Florida LV’s (American Research Group Poll 10/2-5).

Kerry, Bush tied at 47% NH LV's (American Research Group Poll 10/3-5)

Kerry ahead by 3% New Mexico LV’s (Albuquerque Journal Poll 10/1-4)

Kerry, Bush tied at 48% Ohio LV's(American Research Group Poll 10/4-6)

Kerry leads by 7% PA LV’s (WHYY-TV/Westchester University Poll 10/1-4)

Kerry ahead by 3% PA LV's(American Research Group Poll 10/2-4)

October 6, 2004

Stanley Greenberg Analyzes Early Debate Data

Leading Democratic pollster and public opinion analyst Stanley Greenberg, Co-founder of Democracy Corps, has made available the following analysis of the early data from last night's debate.

The only national representative panel survey shows Edwards with a slight edge in the vice-presidential debate among key swing groups in the electorate, though overall Cheney had a slight edge of 40 to 37 percent on who won the debate. Where it matters, Edwards had the edge.

o Among independents, Edwards by 37 to 34 percent.
o Among undecided voters (with only 60 cases), Edwards won by 43 to 25 percent.
o Among battleground states, Edwards had 40 to 38 percent advantage.

That is probably why the presidential race remained tied before and after the debate, though Kerry's vote rose from 47 to 49 percent.

The debate produced a yawning gender gap, with Cheney winning by 16 points among men (47 to 31 percent) and Edwards winning women by 9 points (43 to 34 percent) -- a 25-point gender gap.

Fully 1,000 respondents watched the debate, and completed pre- and post-surveys. Data was collected by Knowledge Networks, a survey research firm that maintains the only nationally representative web-based survey platform.

The other national survey conducted tonight by ABC News had Cheney with an 8-point advantage, but note that the survey gave the Republicans a 7-point advantage in party identification. (They did not report the presidential vote.) That is consistent with a stable race and a likely tie in the debate.

Stan Greenberg

Kerry and Bush Remain Tied

Professor Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, one of the leading academic analysts of American politics, sends along the following update on the polls:

John Kerry and George W. Bush remain tied in the race for president both among Americans registered to vote and among likely voters according to a nationwide survey from the American Research Group, Inc. In the ballot preference between Kerry and Bush among registered voters, 48% say they would vote for Kerry and 45% say they would vote for Bush. When Ralph Nader is added to the ballot, 47% of registered voters say they would vote for Kerry, 44% say they would vote for Bush, and 2% say they would vote for Nader.

Among registered voters considered likely to vote in November, Kerry is at 47% and Bush is at 46% in a two-way ballot. With Nader in the race, Kerry is at 46% and Bush is at 46% among likely voters and Nader is at 2%.

The results presented here are based on 1,005 completed telephone interviews conducted among a nationwide random sample of registered voters. Of the total sample of 1,005 registered voters, 800 are likely voters in November. The interviews were completed October 2 through 4, 2004. The theoretical margin of error for the total sample of registered voters is plus or minus 3 percentage points, 95% of the time, on questions where opinion is evenly split. The theoretical margin of error for the sample of likely voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 95% of the time, on questions where opinion is evenly split.

Fox News Poll: WH Race in Statistical Tie

Bush leads Kerry 48-45 percent of nation-wide LV's, with 7 percent for other, according to a Fox News Poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics 10/3-4. (margin of error +/-3)

Edwards, Cheney Split Debate Polls

Senator John Edwards beat Vice President Dick Cheney 41-28 percent of "uncommitted voters" who viewed the debate, with 31 percent saying it was a tie, in a CBS News Poll conducted by Knowledge Networks immediately following the debate. The poll concluded that "Edwards also greatly improved his standing among the uncommitted voters. Cheney made more limited gains."

Cheney beat Edwards 43-35 among RV viewers, with 19 percent saying it was a tie in an ABC News Poll conducted by TNS after the debate. One cautionary note in the ABC News report on the poll: "One factor is that more Republicans tuned in — 38 percent of viewers were Republicans, 31 percent Democrats, the rest independents." Nonetheless, the poll showed a 1 point gain for Kerry-Edwards in the WH horse race among the poll's respondents following the debate.

October 5, 2004

Summary of the Post-Debate Polls – Kerry Closes the Gap

Professor Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, one of the leading academic analysts of American politics. contributes this cogent summary of the post-debate polls.

An analysis of six national polls released since the first presidential debate last Thursday shows that John Kerry has made significant gains against President Bush, reducing the president's lead from an average of 6.6 points before the debate to only 1.8 points after the debate.

The six polls included in the analysis are:
CBS/New York Times
Gallup
ABC/Washington Post
Pew Poll
Zogby Poll
Newsweek

In the six pre-debate polls, Bush's support averaged 49.3 percent compared with 42.7 percent for John Kerry and 2.0 percent for Ralph Nader. In the six post-debate polls, Bush's support averaged 47.8 percent compared with 46.0 percent for Kerry and 1.8 percent for Nader.

These results are based on likely voters when available. Otherwise they are based on registered voters.

Note: as a number of our sharp-eyed readers have pointed out, a typographical error combined the separate CBS/New York Times and Gallup polls on a single line, making it appear that there were only five polls rather then six. The error has been corrected.

Granite State Gains

Thomas F. Schaller, associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore county, author and executive editor of The Gadflier contributes this important analysis of voter registration trends in New Hampshire


My fellow political scientist Dante Scala, who literally wrote the book on the history and significance of the New Hampshire primary, alerted me earlier today that registration rates in the Granite State don’t look very positive for the Republicans.

New Hampshire’s Board of Elections reports registration rates after its September state-level primary concludes, and Scala reports that the GOP has not made much registration headway since the last registration totals were taken, in advance of the 2004 presidential primary last January.

Digging a bit deeper, I analyzed the final partisan registration totals for each of the past four presidential election cycles, then compared them with this year’s September figures. Now, reader beware: New Hampshire permits same-day registration, so things can change between the September 14 totals and November 2. The figures for 2004, therefore, are only the best set of estimates we have in advance of the election; those registering between now and November could move the numbers.

Year    DEM%    GOP%    IND%    2PD%
2004    28.2    33.6    38.2    45.7
2000    26.2    35.3    38.4    42.6
1996    28.9    38.7    32.4    42.8
1992    33.4    39.1    27.5    46.1
1988    30.4    38.9    30.7    43.9

Having said that, the September figures lend credence to Scala’s finding that the GOP is stagnating this year. Indeed, the Republicans seem to be losing ground. From left to right, the table reports the share of all state voters registered as Democrats, Republicans and Indpendents. The final column, which I calculated, reports the simple two-party share of Democratic registrants (that is, 2PD% = D divided by D+R).

Notice that the Democratic high-water mark in terms of two-party share of registrants was 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected. It dropped back about three points during the following 12 years…until this year, when it has (again, at least through September) returned nearly to its 1992 two-party ratio.

One final note of caution: The share of state registrants self-identifying as Independents has grown steady during the past decade or so. Scala attributes this to a legal change permitting cross-over primary voting for Independents. So,it may be that the GOP is not actually losing registrants to the Democrats, but rather that a significant number of Republicans have re-registered as Independents.

Still, if those independents break proportionally between Kerry and Bush the way they have in previous elections, the registration gains for the Democrats during the past two years may be good news for Kerry.

NYT/CBS News Poll: Kerry, Bush in Dead Heat

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 47 percent of nation-wide RV's in a head-to-head match-up, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted 10/1-3.

WaPo-ABC News Poll: Bush Up 5

Bush leads Kerry 50-45 percent of nation-wide RV's, with 2 percent for Nader, according to an ABC News/Washington Post Poll, conducted 10/1-3.

Bush Ahead by 7 in Pew Poll

Bush leads Kerry 48-41 percent of nation-wide RV's, with 2 percent for Nader and 9 percent undecided, according to a Pew Research Center Poll conducted 10/1-3.

October 4, 2004

Zogby Poll: Bush and Kerry Statistically Tied

Bush leads Kerry 46-45 percent of nation-wide LV's, with 8 percent undecided, according to the new Zogby International Poll conducted 10/1-3. The poll also found that 59 percent of respondents said Kerry won the first presidential debate, compared to 21 percent for Bush.

As pollster John Zogby noted, "The post convention bounce for Bush is over and his biggest hurdle is among undecided voters who give him a 31 percent positive job performance rating and a 69 percent negative rating. Only 13 percent of undecided voters feel that the president deserves re-election (his lowest yet) while 37 percent feel it is time for someone new."

Gallup, LA Times Polls: Kerry, Bush in Statistical Tie

Bush leads Kerry 49-47 percent of nation-wide RV's, with 1 percent for Nader, 1 percent other, 1 percent none and 1 percent no opinion, according to a Gallup Poll conducted Oct. 1-3. In addition, 51 percent of respondents said Kerry was "better able to handle the economy," compared to 44 percent for Bush.

John Kerry leads George Bush 49-47 percent in a head-to head match-up among nation-wide RV's who saw the first presidential debate, according to a Los Angeles Times Poll conducted 9/30-10/1. The respondents chose Kerry as the winner of the debate by a 54-15 percent margin.

In addition, 50 percent of respondents in the LA Times Poll agreed that Kerry had "better ideas for strengthening the economy," compared to 37 percent saying the same about Bush. By a margin of 47-44 percent, the respondents said Kerry was "more likely to develop a plan for achieving success in Iraq."

October 2, 2004

New Newsweek Poll: Kerry 49, Bush 46

John Kerry leads George Bush 49-46 percent of nation-wide RV's in a head-to-head match-up, according to a Newsweek Poll conducted Sept. 30-October 2nd, after the first presidential debate. The poll also found that 61 percent of those who watched the debate said Kerry won, 19 percent said Bush won and 16 percent said it was a tie.

Leading Pollster Guy Molyneux Explains Why the Media Is Overestimating Bush's Lead

Guy Molyneux is a highly respected analyst and pollster who serves as a Senior Vice President and Partner of Peter Hart Research Associates. In an article now available on the American Prospect's website he presents an extremely important analysis of why the media is overestimating Bush's lead and underestimating how close the race actually is.

As poll results fluctuate dramatically during the next several weeks, it becomes increasingly critical that Democrats understand and can articulate the real situation and challenge both media misinterpretation and Republican spin.

The following are excerpts from Molyneux's American Prospect article.

"Media analysis [of the 2004 election] is marred by a failure to take account of a phenomenon well-known to all political pollsters, the “incumbent 50-percent rule.”

Almost all poll reporting focuses on the “spread,” that is, the difference in the percentage supporting Bush and John Kerry...However, in incumbent elections, the incumbent’s percentage of the vote is a far better indicator of the state of the race than the spread. In fact, the percentage of the vote an incumbent president receives in surveys is an extraordinarily accurate predictor of the percentage he will receive on election day -- even though the survey results also include a pool of undecided voters.

[The reason is that] elections are fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent. The first step in voters’ decision-making process is to answer the question “does he deserve re-election?” Undecided voters have basically answered that question in the negative, and their undecided status reflects the fact that they don’t know enough about the challenger (yet) to feel comfortable stating a public preference.

Think of it this way: The percentage that Bush receives in polls represents his ceiling of support; he may get a little less, but won’t get more. In contrast, Kerry’s percentage represents his floor, and he will almost certainly do better on election day.

How should political journalists deal with the misleading nature of poll spreads that appear to give Bush a significant lead? ...Political reporters can and should put these results in the proper historical context, informing viewers and readers that polls showing an incumbent president receiving 49 percent of the vote are consistent with a very close election result [even if the challenger's support is several percent less].

The alternative, continuing to focus on the spread, ensures press coverage that remains one step behind the real story. If and when Kerry succeeds in narrowing or eliminating the polling gap between him and Bush, the media will report a “dead heat” when, in fact, Kerry will be positioned for victory.

And there is one final factor to consider that isn’t captured in the polls at all: the ground war. Democratic 527s such as America Coming Together are conducting massive voter-registration and mobilization campaigns that could easily add 2 or 3 percentage points to Kerry’s vote. As the Service Employee International Union’s Andy Stern has observed, this field operation is “the greatest field-goal unit in history” -- if Kerry can keep the race close, voter mobilization will give him the last few points he needs.

The polls tell us it may already be close enough.

New Democracy Corps Poll Finds Substantial Gains For Kerry as Result of First Debate

A new and methodologically innovative survey of 1318 likely voters who watched the first debate confirmed that John Kerry won a decisive victory in that encounter. In this sample, much larger and more statistically reliable then the smaller surveys conducted by ABC, CBS and CNN on Thursday night, Kerry was judged the victor by a margin of 45 to 32, confirming the trends found in the earlier polls.

Kerry’s victory resulted in a significant tightening of the overall race. While George W. Bush’s support remained at 50% both before and after the debate, Kerry’s support rose from 46% to 48%, significantly closing the gap between him and the president.

More important, the survey, conducted by Democracy Corps in coordination with Knowledge Networks, found that had Kerry substantially improved his image among voters in four key respects. The following quotes from the study’s summary and analysis indicate the scope of Kerry’s gains:

1. Kerry made major gains on personal favorability. John Kerry’s performance was very well received by the debate watchers, who gave him a 7-point increase in his thermometer score (up 8 points in “warm” responses and down 5 points in “cool” responses).

2. Kerry achieved broad increases on the issues pertinent to the debate. In a debate that covered issues that were considered by many to be Bush’s strongest points, John Kerry realized major gains. Kerry gained 9 points on who will do a better job on homeland security, 8 points on the war on terrorism, and 3 points on Iraq.

3. With the opportunity to be heard unfiltered for the first time since his convention, Kerry broke through on leadership qualities. Polling by Democracy Corps and other outlets has clearly demonstrated that consistent attacks by Bush and his allies have led to significant losses for Kerry on key measures of personal strength and leadership over the last two months. But after seeing Kerry’s
performance in this debate, likely voters gave him increases of 11 points on having good plans for Iraq, 9 points on strong leader, and 9 points on having confidence in him.

4. The critical bloc of Independent voters moved considerably toward John Kerry. Kerry’s most notable achievement of the night was the vote shift among Independents where his vote increased 4 points from 50 to 54 percent while Bush’s vote dropped 3 points from 45 to 42 percent. Kerry’s favorability among independents jumped 12 points, and he addressed many of their concerns, both on security - up 10 points on making America safer and more secure, and 16 points on having good plans for Iraq - and leadership qualities - up 13 points on strong leader, up 10 points in having confidence in him, and a drop of 11 points on flip-flopping.

Taken together these improvement in Kerry’s image and position have dramatically transformed the race, making the two remaining debates potentially decisive encounters.

October 1, 2004

Instant Polling Results Helped Limit Republican Spin

A small but important point for Democrats to notice about the Thursday’s debate was that the instant polls conducted by CBS, ABC and CNN played an important role in limiting the advantage that relentless message discipline gives the Bush campaign and the Republican party in manipulating media interpretation. Frequently, the near-robotic repetition of a few key sound bites by one Republican spokesperson after another forces the media to give these views half the overall coverage, regardless of how widely held or plausible such views actually are.

Last night, however, in the “Spin Ally” area where key campaign spokespeople met the press after the debate, something different happened. As Ryan Lizza described it in today’s New Republic Online:

“In Spin Alley last night, a weird dynamic takes place. Both sides start on almost equal footing, but as everyone shares note and impressions about Kerry's "control" or Bush's weird facial ticks, as the first wave of instant polls overwhelmingly crowning Kerry the winner roll in, as the pro-Kerry punditry on cable gets passed around, things shift. Kerry's surrogates start to seem more caffeinated and giddy, while Bush's sound defensive...Tad Devine, who lived through Al Gore's disastrous trio of debates in 2000, is bouncing up and down and shouting after an aide reads poll results off a blackberry. "CBS, two-hundred fence-sitters," he says, "forty-four Kerry, twenty-six Bush. ABC, forty-five Kerry, thirty-six Bush." Devine is ecstatic. "Ha! Killer!" he yells, head cocked, eyes bulging. "That's crushing. Crushing!"

A few minutes earlier, Karl Rove had tried to float the notion that "It was one of the president's better debate performances and one of Kerry's worst." But, in sharp contrast to other occasions, he couldn’t make it fly. As Lizza noted “Vince Morris of The New York Post stares at Rove and asks, "Can you say that with a straight face?"

Kerry Sweeps Debate Polls

Respondents choices on who won the 1st Presidential debate:

Kerry beat Bush 43-28 percent uncommitted voters, with 29 percent chosing a tie. - Knowledge Networks for CBS News

Kerry beat Bush 45-36 percent among debate viewers, with 17 for tie. Kerry won independents by 20-point margin - ABC News poll

Kerry beat Bush 53-37 percent of RV debate viewers with 8 percent for both, 1 percent neither, 1 percent no opinion - CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll