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New Gallup Polls Show Kerry Finishing Strongly

Sunday night, Gallup released their final national poll, based on an unusually large sample (over 2,000 adults), plus six polls in key battleground states (OH, FL, PA, IA, WI and MN). The results indicate that Kerry is finishing strongly and should be in a good position to pull off a victory on Tuesday.

In the national poll, Kerry is ahead by a point among RVs in a 2-way race (48-47) and by 2 points in a 3-way race (48-46). In 2000, it's worth recalling, Gallup's RV result was a better predictor of the final outcome than their LV result, as it has been in three of the last four presidential elections.

After allocating undecideds, Gallup's LV result is a dead heat, 49-49. That's a considerable improvement from their last poll, where Bush was running a 5 point lead, 51-46, among LVs. And keep in mind that in 2000 Gallup's final LV result gave Bush a 2 point lead, while Gore went on to win the popular vote by half a point. In that context, a dead heat final estimate from Gallup makes Kerry look pretty good heading into election day.

Alan Abramowitz below has discussed the significance of Kerry's solid lead among independents in the national poll (8 points among RVs; no LV breakdown available). The poll also shows Bush's approval rating at just 43 percent in the battleground states and Kerry beating Bush by 10 points in those states (52-42).

Speaking of the battleground states, it struck me as quite significant that Gallup's state polls showed Kerry with solid leads in both Ohio and Florida among both LVs and RVs, since those were the two states in the "big three" (OH, FL, PA) that seemed most competitive and were red states in 2000. And, while Gallup's PA poll did show Bush with a lead among LVs, it also showed him trailing among RVs in a state where polls have very consistently shown Bush behind. The most reasonable assumption, it seems to me, is that Kerry is still the odds-on winner in that state.

The other results--a strong Bush lead among LVs in WI (but a small lead among RVs), a big lead for Kerry among both LVs and RVs in MN and close to a dead heat in IA--don't change my impression that this is a good set of polls for the Kerry campaign. But I was surprised about how CNN and other media outlets played these polls, implying that they were too much of a mixed bag to be good news for either candidate. Ohio and Florida to Kerry? Ho-hum. Just another symptom of a dead-locked race, etc.

Reader Lawrence Becker shared my surprise and contributed this entry in what could be a new game: "How can CNN......."

Again, I am amazed. But this time, it is the interpretation of the Gallup poll that amazes me, not the poll itself. As you know, Gallup just released a set of battleground state polls that (if accurate) are remarkably positive news for John Kerry and pretty devastating news for George Bush. And yet, CNN's interpretation of these polls is, "President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry were almost evenly split among likely voters in six major battleground states the weekend before the election." Well, that's techinically true. Among likely voters, Bush is ahead in 3 of these states and Kerry is ahead in 3. But CNN, perhaps knowing Gallup's "likely voter" model is very suspect goes on to say, "the figures were mostly the same among registered voters, except in Pennsylvania, where Kerry had a 2-point lead." Well that's a pretty big "exception," wouldn't you say?

Let's take a look at how "split" the race really is in these states among BOTH likely voters AND registered voters.

Florida (27)
(LV) Bush 46, Kerry 49
(RV) Bush 45, Kerry 49

Iowa (7)
(LV) Bush 48, Kerry 46
(RV) Bush 47, Kerry 46

Minnesota (10)
(LV) Bush 44, Kerry 52
(RV) Bush 43, Kerry 51

Ohio (20)
(LV) Bush 46, Kerry 50
(RV) Bush 44, Kerry 51

Pennsylvania (21)
(LV) Bush 50, Kerry 46
(RV) Bush 47, Kerry 49

Wisconsin (10)
(LV) Bush 52, Kerry 44
(RV) Bush 49, Kerry 46

In these six states, 95 electoral votes (as well as the presidency itself) are up for grabs. I distribute the all the other states to Kerry and Bush exactly as they voted in 2000 with one exception. I give New Hampshire to Kerry based on countless polls that show Kerry with a lead there. That leaves Bush with 227 electoral votes and Kerry with 216. If we just take Gallup's likely voter results (a very risky proposition, indeed), we find that Kerry would win 57 of these 95 electoral votes (Florida, Minnesota, and Ohio). Kerry would end up with 273 electoral votes and the presidency. And that assumes Kerry really would lose Pennsylvania, a possibility I find very
hard to believe since Kerry has led EVERY ONE of the last 20 polls reported by NowChannel.com. But okay, we'll settle for 273 electoral votes if we have to. It isn't horseshoes and it isn't hand grenades, right? So Kerry wins even with Gallup's likely voter data -data we already know to be biased against the Democrats.

Now if we just take Gallup's registered voter results, we find that Kerry would win 78 of 95 electoral votes (including the entire trifecta commonly known as "FLOHPA"). That would put Kerry at 294 electoral votes giving him some room for error in New Hampshire, New Mexico, etc. But wait, the news gets worse for Bush and better for Kerry. Bush is not at at 50% or above in any of these six states among registered voters. By now, we all know that Bush is highly unlikely to improve at all on his showing in poll numbers on the eve of Election Day. Gallup seems to acknowledge this fact by pointing out in their interpretation that while their national poll shows Bush at 49 and Kerry at 47 among likely voters nationwide, "Using voting behavior data from previous elections, the Gallup organization attempted to estimate how the undecideds would vote Tuesday. The result was a tie of 49 percent each for Bush and Kerry ..."

Can Bush win if these registered voter numbers are accurate? Simply put ...no. Can he even win among Gallup's biased formulation of likely voters? Probably not. Are these poll numbers accurate? Who knows? But I ask the key question of our new game. How can CNN ... read these numbers and come up with the headline, "Poll: Bush, Kerry split six key states?"? To use a favorite term of the President's, that seems like a bit of an "exaggeration."

Comments

There are two reasons I can see for CNN calling the race close:
1. They do not want to be accused of depressing turnout on either side by indicating the race is "over."
2. A race perceived to be close will generate more viewer interest and higher ratings for the news channels.
I do not think that calling the race close will hurt Kerry (or Bush for that matter) so I don't have a problem with this.

Ruy,

Please review the Wisconsin data contained in the Gallop poll. I am looking at the presentation on the CNN website and find that they list the LV advantage to Bush as +8 in their narrative, yet their detail by state (with pie charts and sampling detail) lists the LV for Wisconsin as +8 Kerry. This is very critical to clear up.

Thanks,

Dave

Dear Ruy,

What states are you considering a "Battleground" state as it various depending on the poll anywhere from 12-20 states. Which do you say?

I so relieved things are still looking good with less than two days to go! Especially since "Shrub's" internal polling team reportedly was giddy with excitement four days ago, when their poll numbers indicated a huge "Bush surge" underway in the battleground states. Sorry Jim Geraghty/NRO, but I have not noticed any poll movement in the President's direction *at all* I suspect Karl Rove & co. were merely trying to give a misleadingly optimistic assessment to rally their troops.

MARCU$

I have just returned to Boston after five days in Cleveland doing canvasing with labor folks in NE Ohio and see no evidence of any Bush field operation in NE Ohio. I heard the same thing from my sister in Milwaukee. Does anyone else think the Rove/Republican 72 hour plan for GOTV is mostly smoke and recorded phone messages? The intensity of political feeling in Cleveland was palpable and completely toward Kerry.

It seems unlikely that Kerry will get New Mexico, right? Although, if that outcome were certain, then Dick Cheney wouldn't have been dispatched to Hawaii. I don't feel that much heartened by the analysis, Ruy, if there are consistent other polls that show Bush ahead in Florida and Ohio, that would negate your treatment of Pennsylvania, here. And, Wisconsin? Are there other polls that show a significant Bush lead there?

I have the same question that is asked above about Wisconsin. They show it as Kerry ahead by 8 (LV) in one of their graphics. If this is a mistake, I would appreciate it if you would draw attention to it in your post and note that they posted it incorrectly.

Bob,
I've been canvassing in Cincinnati, and while we did here of Bush/Cheney teams out in the neighborhoods, we didn't see them. Meanwhile, between ACT, Moveon, and K/E, we had the place covered like a blanket. Whle I can't say there was overwhelming Kerry support, it was substantial and we found it in unexpected places, and if it comes down to GOTV, we're in great shape.

Thanks for the good news. I have a bad case of pre-election jitters. Although I am feeling better about my beloved Minnesota.

A question for Ruy. Do you think Sunday sermons will have any effect

I had to sit through a right wing tirade from our priest. I doubt it changes much in the big picture, but I'm sure that Repubs were doing a lot of windshield flyers on sunday morning.

Will this site make a prediction about the electoral college tomorrow??

Make an effort to get one additional voter for Kerry today!

True Believer

gallup/cnn/usatoday:

cnn (on their website) state they split undecideds 3 to 1 for kerry thus adding one point to kerry's polling.

On the how can CNN....? question: This seems to me pretty simple. Since CNN's main concern is eyeballs on their screens, the best thing for them is a close race. They are just seeing in the data what they want to see. The best analogy for me is to weather reports that announce dramatic weather is on the horizon, so stay tuned.

What about the Bush surge in the NYT poll? The horse race isn't so bad, but all the "internals" (Bush approval rating, Kerry disapproval) scream "Republican surge."

Challenge to whoever is still reading blogs instead of DOING SOMETHING (including yours truly): stop it right now! Our addiction is in violation of the Gambler rule: you don't count your money while you're sittin' at the table. If you still don't have anything better to do, sign up at...

http://calls.johnkerry.com/

...all we need to know is that it's close enough for each of us to make a difference. And in the spirit of my own advice, I pledge this will be my last post until the last shift is filled with battleground GOTV'ers.

There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

What no one has yet noted here is something that has now happened for two consecutive presidential elections: Gallup has shown outlandish Bush leads in the weeks leading up to balloting, then suddenly at the last minute conjures up a face-saving dead heat poll. I flatter myself that I've told friends for weeks to expect this. Will the venerable organization be held accountable for this?

As a (needless to say) Kerry guy, I'd of course prefer more conclusive numbers across the board. But what I see today are a slew of polls that show Bush betwen 46-49% -- pretty much what he's had for the last month -- with who's in the lead varying by what number is assigned to Kerry. If the incumbent/50% rule applies, Kerry's clearly in good shape, all the moreso in the big battlegrounds, and by stronger margins if turnout lives up to early suggestions.

It's still going to be a somewhat sleepless night.

There is one possibility that hasn't been mentioned as to why CNN might downplay the Kerry strength in the final polls: they don't want to discourage Kerry supporters from going to the polls to vote! If people think Kerry will win easily, they might not bother to vote! I would rather have JK's supporters WORRIED about the outcome, and thus MOTIVATED to go vote, than to stay home and assume it's in the bag. Remember, those radical rightwing extremists are all pumped up and they WILL show up to vote. I do think in watching CNN (eg., Paula Zahn, Aaron Brown, Lou Dobbs), they seem to be much more balanced, and even rake Bush over the coals occasionally. I wouldn't be surprised each of these individuals is secretly pro-Kerry. So let's let Kerry's supporters BE scared. It's healthy. We must not take anything for granted, much less that Bush won't win anyway through some Diebold manipulation of touch screen voting results.

Polls bounce around. The ones showing Bush get us worried. It's helpful at that point to look at trends so that a single poll here doesn't carry excessive weight, particularly when the polls differ from each other. I looked at the Mason Dixon and Zogby tracking polls, using data from www.nowchannel.com. [For these two polls, I looked at change from first tracking poll to most recent.] I then went to race2004.net and added any poll that was not a GOP or Dem poll and had the following two characteristics: a) a poll dated 10/24 or more recent on that site; b) another poll released earlier in October. I looked at 5 states, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Now the intervals and methods for these polls will vary some, but they should give us some sense of trends. The executive summary is that 30 polls met the criteria. In 22, the change was toward Kerry. In one there was no change. In 7 there was a change toward Bush. [3 of those 7 were in Rasmussen polls, fwiw...] In every state, more polls were breaking toward Kerry than toward Bush. Here's the list. I list the state, the name of the poll, the dates of the first poll and the last poll, and the shift in the margin. Dates for polls other than Mason Dixon and Zogby are the dates on which the poll was posted at race2004.net.

Florida
Mason Dixon 10/14-16 to 10/27-29 Kerry +1
Zogby 10/21-24 to 10/28-31 Kerry +4
Quinnipiac 10/20 to 10/31 Bush +5
Gallup 10/24 to 10/30 Kerry +11
Insider Advantage 10/24-10/29 no change
Rasmussen 10/17 to 10/29 Bush +1
ARG 10/5 to 10/25 Kerry +1
SUSA 10/17-10/24 Kerry +1

Iowa
Mason Dixon 10/15-18 to 10/27-29 Kerry +1
Zogby 10/21-24 to 10/28-31 Kerry +8
Gallup 10/25 to 10/30 Kerry +2
SUSA 10/20 to 10/30 Kerry +6
Rasmussen 10/21 to 10/28 Kerry +2
ARG 10/12 to 10/27 Bush +1

Minnesota
Mason Dixon 10/15-18 to 10/27-29 Kerry +1
Zogby 10/21-24 to 10/28-31 Kerry +1
Rasmussen 10/17 to 10/30 Bush +1

Ohio
Mason Dixon 10/14-16 to 10/27-29 Kerry +2
Zogby 10/21-24 to 10/28-31 Kerry +1
Gallup 10/20-10/31 Kerry +3
Ohio Poll 10/17 to 10/31 Bush +3
Opinion Dynamics 10/18 to 10/31 Kerry +2
Rasmussen 10/18 to 10/30 Bush +2
ARG 10/5 to 10/25 Kerry +2
SUSA 10/3 to 10/25 Kerry +2

Wisconsin
Mason Dixon 10/15-18 to 10/27-29 Kerry +2
Zogby 10/21-24 to 10/28-31 Kerry +10
Gallup 10/19 to 10/30 Bush +2
Rasmussen 10/14 to 10/28 Kerry +1
ARTG 10/19 to 10/27 Kerry +1