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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who Is Up, Who is Down?

I’ve been listening to a bunch of people in the last week talk about polls and fretting about a daily tracking poll that shows Obama behind McCain here or there where he was ahead before and so on. I keep seeing that Obama is 'falling behind' in this swing state or other. The pundits keep crying that Obama isn't connecting with the voters, or he has a 'problem' with this demographic group or other - expecting the pandering as usual to rush and repair the damage.

So I decided to do a little more prospective and retrospective looking at polls and trend lines. Data used is from www.pollster.com No data was available for Washington DC so it is not included in the Electoral College totals. Data is long-term from the beginning of the primaries in 2007 when both candidates had lots of competition from others in their respective parties, and the trend lines started out usually reversed from the position they are now. Of course, Obama’s primary didn’t ‘end’ until June, while McCain was done in March. But the trends had already begun shifting before June, and after March when the comparisons started becoming about McCain only versus Obama most likely. If the Electoral College numbers are off – it’s my fault – brain dead doing this at 3 am but couldn’t sleep, so please forgive.

Trend lines are actually a better indication of what is going on than a single day or weeks worth of tracking polls. A daily or even a weekly poll is a snapshot in a very short period of time, and with the 24-hour news cycle and a bit of media ‘push’ can push a poll anywhere up to 10 points either in the up or down direction. A nasty attack ad can do the same thing - and then the response to it can either nullify or amplify that. And after a few days the same thing can happen in the opposite direction. Using a graph, you plot the poll numbers for both candidates over time, and after a while, you either can directly notice a trend up or down, or using some statistical calculations, can determine a mean over your determined time frame.

Nationally, McCain started ahead of Obama but Obama quickly gained ground and stayed ahead of McCain until around the end of December/beginning of January when their positions were essentially tied. McCain pulled ahead of Obama in March, but then Obama reclaimed the upper hand. The national trend line has quite a lot of ups and downs, but it is trending upward overall for Obama, and McCain keeps sliding. There are still 14% undecided and 5% voting for other candidates so there is still some room to move for both candidates.

Bob Barr was polling at about 5% in a couple of states at the beginning of his race, but support has dropped off steeply in the interim and he is currently at about 1% in both those states. Ralph Nader is holding at about 5% in Georgia, the only state where he has meaningful numbers currently.

Some interesting trends showed up. Currently both candidates are leading in 25 states each. McCain’s trend line is downward in 18 of his states, flat in 3, and up in 4 (ND, NE, NV, UT) In AK Obama’s trend line is also upward while in LA and SC, Obama matches McCain’s downward trend line. In SD Obama is flat against McCain’s downward trend so if he just stays steady, McCain may eventually drop below. In TN, both candidates are flat. McCain’s list of states currently gives him 229 Electoral College votes.

NOTE: Flat usually means there was only one poll, or there were two or three, both taken in the same or nearly the same time-frame.

Obama’s trend line is upward in 17 states, flat in 3 and downward in 5 states (IA, IL, ME, OR, WA). Obama’s downward trending states are interesting because in IA, ME, OR, WA McCain’s trend is also in the downward direction so at present there seems to be no danger of Obama losing those states. In IL, Obama’s trend line is steeply downward, however McCain’s is flat, and Obama currently leads the state with 60+% . Obama’s Electoral College total is currently at 306.

FL, IN, MO, NC, and TX are all within the margin of error, and while McCain is on top currently, his trend line is down in all five states, and Obama’s is up. These data strongly suggest that Obama will be in the lead there within the next two-three weeks, adding 98 Electoral College votes to his total, and of course subtracting them from McCain.

So…..most of the so-called battleground states are already in the Obama column, and given the trend lines, will stay that way. A couple that aren’t yet are among the five ‘cross-over’ states where the race is within the margin of error and the trend lines are in Obama’s favor.

Obama needs to keep doing what he is doing – and if McCain keeps doing what he is doing – it will truly be a landslide.

1 comment:

SeattleTammy said...

If you want to see the end all and be all of polls, check out Darryl.

He usually makes my brain hurt and then I have to go lie down. But his Friday Night recaps are brilliant!