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.