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Obama’s Early Voting Advantage

The Obama campaign’s secret weapon in what is promising to be a very close election is turning out to be early voting:

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are neck and neck in opinion polls, but there is one area in which the incumbent appears to have a big advantage: those who have already cast their ballots.

Obama leads Romney by 59 percent to 31 percent among early voters, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data compiled in recent weeks.

The sample size of early voters is relatively small, but the Democrat’s margin is still well above the poll’s credibility interval – a measurement of polls’ accuracy – of 10 percentage points. (full graphic: bit.ly/RmeEen)

With the November 6 election just more than three weeks away, 7 percent of those surveyed said they had already voted either in person or by mail (full graphic: bit.ly/SWm5YR).

The online poll is another sign that early voting is likely to play a bigger role this year than in 2008, when roughly one in three voters cast a ballot before Election Day. Voting is already under way in some form in at least 40 states.

Both the Obama and Romney teams are urging supporters to vote as soon as possible so the campaigns can focus their door-knocking and phone-calling operations on those who are still undecided or need more prodding to get to the polls.

When you drill down to the state level and actually look at numbers, they appear to indicate both that early voting will be higher than it was in previous elections and that this is tending to favor the President:

George Mason University professor Michael McDonald, an expert on early voting, said it was difficult to tell how the results so far could affect the outcome of the race.

In North Carolina and Maine, Democrats seem to be voting in higher numbers than 2008, while Republicans seem to be voting in slightly lower numbers than four years ago, he said.

In Ohio, where voters do not register by party, early voting appears to be higher than normal in both Republican and Democratic areas, McDonald said.

In Iowa, about twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans have voted by now – a potential warning sign for the Romney campaign, he said.

Part of the reason for the Democratic advantage here, of course, is the enormous ground operation that the Obama Campaign has had at its disposal since the 2008 primaries. Much like the Romney campaign did during the Florida primary in January, the Obama team has been able to use the vast database of supporters its collected over the past several years as the catalyst for a Get-Out-The-Vote operation that is among the best we’ve ever seen in a national campaign. We can see the signs of this in the numbers out of Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio, where Democrats seem to be very active in early voting as they were four years ago. The other factor that has been used to explain the Democratic early voting advantage is that they tend to attract voters for whom the convenience of being able to vote at any time is appealing while Republicans tend to attract voters who prefer to actually vote on Election Day. I’m not sure if anyone’s actually done any research on this point, but it would be one reason for the disparity between the parties that we’ve seen in early voting statistics over the past two election cycles. It also suggests that relying solely on early voting data as an indication of which way a state may go in the election may not be the way to go because the early voting cohort may not fully represent voters as a whole.

In any case, though, it strikes me that the GOP misses out on an opportunity by not pushing early voting more aggressively among its supporters. After all, if you’ve got a  voter who knows they’re going to vote for you, why not get their vote locked in early and concentrate on the ones who haven’t made up their mind yet?

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James in LA says:

    I mailed my ballot yesterday. Broke my hand voting for all the bloody proposals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Gustopher says:

    Given that much of Romney’s strength comes from rural areas and suburbs, where states tend to allocate a reasonable number of voting machines and the lines are not usually long, the Republicans don’t really need to focus on early voting as much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. JKB says:

    This is easy to explain. Democrats who are voting for Romney are voting early to avoid the intimidation and possible violence of union members and Black Panthers at their polling stations on election day.

    And we shouldn’t forget Obama’s 47%. The ones that will go hard for him are the ones who don’t have jobs or do productive work during the day so they can vote early.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 56

  4. EddieInCA says:

    @JKB:

    At the risk of getting banned…

    “EFF you”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 3

  5. @JKB: Cretin.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  6. @JKB:

    Democrats who are voting for Romney are voting early to avoid the intimidation and possible violence of union members and Black Panthers at their polling stations on election day.

    Quoting the Onion?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  7. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m going to be incredibly gracious and believe that JKB was just having a little fun there. Tsar would post that and mean it — I think JKB was tweaking for a response…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. JKB says:

    Such nastiness. I am simply believing in Hope and Change. I intend to keep my hope for productive change until sometime late on the first Tuesday of November, perhaps till the following Wednesday when I will be forced to face the cold reality. After which, I will either find that reality bracing and invigorating or bitter and cold depending on which way the wind is blowing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  9. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Quoting the Onion?

    Ah, but these days, the Onion is often the more reliable and balanced news source.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  10. Jr says:

    The early voting may save Obama’s ass.

    The ground game and spending a ton of money in Ohio looks like a stroke of genius by Team Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  11. @Jr:

    I can’t find the link for it right now (if I do, I’ll post it in a comment) but I read recently that in 2008 the reason that Obama won Iowa was because of early voting. He and McCain were close to even among people who voted on Election Day, but early voting put Obama over the top.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. Jr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yeah, I think it was Sam Stein who made that point about early voting in Iowa in 2008.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. PJ says:

    @JKB:

    Ah, but these days, the Onion is often the more reliable and balanced news source.

    You probably should stop watching Fox News.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  14. jan says:

    @JKB:

    Such nastiness.

    Don’t you know JKB, that only certain people are allowed to post cutting remarks, and apparently you are not one of them.

    In any case, though, it strikes me that the GOP misses out on an opportunity by not pushing early voting more aggressively among its supporters. After all, if you’ve got a voter who knows they’re going to vote for you, why not get their vote locked in early and concentrate on the ones who haven’t made up their mind yet?

    Conservatives stick longer to earlier voting rituals, such as voting on election day. I think this characteristic tends to be at least one component as to why Obama has the lead on early voting.

    Years back, the GOP had the edge on absentee ballots, because it was older folks who relied more on this ease-in-voting option, and they tended to be politically conservative. However, the reasons behind early voting are all different now — it’s used more to pinpoint, isolate and then drag unlikely, unmotivated, oftentimes low-information voters out to cast their ballots in a rather politically manipulated way — “don’t stop at go and collect the money, just vote straight party ticket”. The push-pull of union might is also involved, on the democratic side, in the GOTV strategy.

    In the meantime, republicans, rely more on neighbor-to-neighbor contacts, probably fewer paid volunteers, and trail the dems in some of the latest cyberspace technology to nail votes. If the republicans win it will be more of a shoe-leather impetus rather than a cell phone one.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 20

  15. john personna says:

    I did not up or down vote JKB. I found his post funny, but I was nagged by the suspicion that he didn’t have real awareness of where humor stopped and parody began.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  16. mattb says:

    @john personna:
    That’s an ongoing problem he seems to have.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  17. rudderpedals says:

    Historically the GOP is the early vote leader and the changed state is definitely atypical & will worry the Romney campaign a great deal. Historically most early voting has been by absentee ballots. In recent cycles of course early in-person voting with machines and and poll workers has been a Dem advantage, which is why it’s being suppressed where it can be suppressed, but these figures and the time of the year suggest the early results are all absentee ballots. That’s new.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. anjin-san says:

    The father of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in the attack in Benghazi last month, said his son’s death shouldn’t be politicized in the presidential campaign.
    “It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue,” Jan Stevens, 77, said in a telephone interview from his home in Loomis, California, as he prepares for a memorial service for his son next week.
    Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has criticized President Barack Obama for not providing adequate security in Libya, saying the administration has left the country exposed to a deadly terrorist attack.
    The ambassador’s father, a lawyer, said politicians should await the findings of a formal investigation before making accusations or judgments.
    “The security matters are being adequately investigated,” Stevens said. “We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.” Stevens said he has been getting briefings from the State Department on the progress of the investigation.

    http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-14/libyan-ambassador-s-death-not-a-political-issue-says-dad.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Davebo says:

    In the meantime, republicans, rely more on neighbor-to-neighbor contacts, probably fewer paid volunteers

    Oxymoron

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  20. bk says:

    JKB and Jan, my sincere thanks. I haven’t seen such penetrating analysis since I last looked at the comments on Redstate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  21. tps says:

    Is this the poll where the number people polled in Ohio for it were eleven? Not eleven thousand, eleven.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. jan says:

    @bk:

    JKB and Jan, my sincere thanks. I haven’t seen such penetrating analysis since I last looked at the comments on Redstate.

    As I rarely go over to Redstate (it’s boring), I’m nevertheless happy to see there is continuity in the political analysis going around everywhere.

    Jeff Zeleny, of the NYT, own political assessment was that since the Obama/Romney debate a new light has been cast on Romney. More people are now voting for him, rather than just casting a vote against Obama by voting for him. In contrast, I actually think more dems are voting against Romney, when voting for Obama, than actually voting for Obama because they like his policies or leadership. This is a major shift, IMO, and I think it is further indicated by a greater R enthusiasm out there, in getting signage for their lawns and the growing size of rallies in swing states, such as Ohio.

    All of this dovetails into an earlier comment made by Kirsten Powers, in looking at the post-debate numbers as being less of a bounce and more of a realignment in the vote. So far, the higher percentages are continuing to hold for Romney. This next debate Tuesday, will shed more light on whether or not there is greater durable support for Romney, or if it is simply fleeting and of the moment.

    Lastly, Zeleny made a comment about the early voting advantage for Obama, saying that in turn it could act as greater motivation for the R’s to get their vote out on election day — taking nothing for granted. I also remember that places like Ohio, in ’08, democrats had something like a 14 pt. margin in their early/absentee vote versus the republicans. McCain, I believe actually won the vote on election day, but couldn’t overcome the huge early vote advantage the dems had. Consequently, Obama won the state. This time around, there is a dem advantage, but a markedly lower one — something like 6 pts (so far). If this smaller margin holds, and if more R’s come out to vote than dems on Nov 6, it could spell a different outcome in 2012.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  23. An Interested Party says:

    Such nastiness…

    For once, you’re right…your ramblings don’t deserve nastiness, but rather, ridicule…

    Ah, but these days, the Onion is often the more reliable and balanced news source.

    Awwwww…poor conservative victims…the media is against them, the universities are against them, Hollywood is against them…how can they ever hope to prevail with so many institutions against them…

    In the meantime, republicans, rely more on neighbor-to-neighbor contacts, probably fewer paid volunteers, and trail the dems in some of the latest cyberspace technology to nail votes. If the republicans win it will be more of a shoe-leather impetus rather than a cell phone one.

    Awwwww…a variation on the victim complex…those scrappy, plucky Republican Davids win by hanging in there to defeat that horrible Democratic, er, excuse me, Democrat Goliath…talk about quoting the Onion

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  24. john personna says:

    @jan:

    Jeff Zeleny, of the NYT, own political assessment was that since the Obama/Romney debate a new light has been cast on Romney. More people are now voting for him, rather than just casting a vote against Obama by voting for him.

    Which “him?”

    Romney got his post-debate bump by pretending to be “Obama but with a GOP chorus.” You are part of that chorus. He has near-Obama policies on everything now, but at the same time is “Nobama.”

    He has a huge tax plan that he promises will not raise the taxes on the rich or the middle class. A lot of effort for nothing … or just to insure that the richest don’t get a minor tax increase.

    It’s funny really. You never would have supported an Obama-clone in the primaries, and now you revel in having one in the general.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  25. David M says:

    @jan:

    McCain, I believe actually won the vote on election day, but couldn’t overcome the huge early vote advantage the dems had. Consequently, Obama won the state. This time around, there is a dem advantage, but a markedly lower one — something like 6 pts (so far). If this smaller margin holds, and if more R’s come out to vote than dems on Nov 6, it could spell a different outcome in 2012.

    In fact the swing state early voting favors Obama more in 2012 than it did in 2008 and is likely to be larger in 2012 as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  26. john personna says:

    Romney moves to center, shows new ease on campaign trail

    Basically, you should not be involved at this point, Jan. If you believe him, he isn’t your candidate any more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  27. C. Clavin says:

    All those early voters must have heard about the Joint Commitee On Taxation report that says repealing all deductions would only cover a 4% tax cut…so they’ve decided to take a pass on Romney’s Trickle-Down Voodoo Bullshit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  28. C. Clavin says:

    @ JP..
    Low information voters like Jan don’t care what the candidate stands for. She only interested in team sports. Change QB’s…she’s still a fan. It doesn’t matter if Romney is a Massachusetts Liberal or Severely Conservative…only that he calls himself a Republican. She voted for Bush when he ran up the deficit. And she’s voting against Obama even though he has flattened spending. She voted for Bush even though 9.11 happened on his watch and he failed to bring OBL to justice. She’s voting against Obama even though he did bring OBL to justice.
    Jan doesn’t care that Romney is a serial liar or that he says different things to different groups of people. It takes principles to care about those things. That’s something Jan is in no danger of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  29. C. Clavin says:

    The truth is that there is only one Conservative in the race…well two if you count Johnson. Romney is just a guy that has always wanted to be President…and will say or do anything in the service of that ambition.
    If you are voting for a guy whose economic plan is mathematically impossible, over a guy that has flattened spending and shrunk Government…then you are not a Conservative.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  30. mattb says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Low information voters like Jan don’t care what the candidate stands for.

    The thing is, Jan isn’t a low information voter. It’s clear she reads a lot of political material. It’s just she reads (based on her citations) from a pretty closed bunch of sources (granted she occasionally links to the NYT’s and the WP, but only to conservative authors).

    You are correct in that she is a team voter. I’d suspect most of the posters and authors here are.

    The issue, I guess, is how honest you are about your team (and the opposing team).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @ MattB…
    Reading is not understanding.
    Jan called Romney an “ethical” man…clearly she is lacking some information.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. Mr. Replica says:

    “Ethical” and “insert X politician here” should never be used in the same sentence.
    To say any politician is ethical is viewing them in severely tinted rose colored glasses. No matter which team/tribe they are affiliated with.

    A far as Romney…just searching the words “Romney Ethics” or “Romney Ethical” reveals a treasure trove of unethical behavior.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Mr. Replica says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    Speaking of searching the words “Romney Ethics”… I was unaware of this Romney/Ryan connection even before this campaign. Not Paul, his brother Tobin.

    The Republican presidential candidate appears to have profited from a marketing company that was contracted by the state of Massachusetts after receiving $5 million (£3.2 million) in financial backing from Bain Capital, Mr Romney’s investment firm.

    One of his vice-presidential candidate’s brothers, who is a former Bain consultant, was at the time of the investment a senior executive at the marketing company, Imagitas, which was co-founded by another former Bain executive.

    Both Mr Romney and Tobin Ryan, who omits his work at Imagitas from his corporate biography, also apparently stood to benefit from the $230 million (£146 million) sale of the company in 2005, while Mr Romney remained in office.

    Massachusetts law requires that all state employees divest themselves of financial interests in private sector contracts with state agencies. At the time, failure to do so could have resulted in a $2,000 (£1,273) fine or a 2.5-year prison sentence. The potential punishments are now stronger.

    Asked repeatedly by The Daily Telegraph throughout this week whether Mr Romney had indeed profited from the company, had been aware of the potential conflict of interest, or had taken any action to avoid one, his campaign and Bain Capital declined to comment.
    (…)
    The finding also sheds light on previously unnoticed connections between Mr Romney’s involvement in the private sector, government and campaign finance.

    Imagitas donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican Governors’ Association while it was chaired by Mr Romney. A former Imagitas investor and director donates to both Mr Romney and Paul Ryan, who also received thousands of dollars in contributions from his brother Tobin.

    Pro-transparency groups said that Mr Romney should have declared his interest, and lamented the cycle of cash through business and politics. Melanie Sloan, of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the case showed that “the problems of money in politics are legion”.

    “Mitt Romney should have been extra careful,” said Ms Sloan. “That is part of the deal in politics. This appears to be a conflict of interest, and he should have disclosed his stake in a company that stood to gain from its work for his administration”.

    For three years from 1995, Tobin Ryan, who is now 47, was a senior manager at Bain & Company, the consulting firm where Mr Romney made his name. Mr Romney was at the time leading Bain Capital, the firm’s investment arm, inside the same Boston headquarters.

    In March 1998, Mr Ryan left Bain to become a vice-president at Imagitas. The company had been co-founded by Tom Beecher, another former Bain consultant. Their company secured the $5 million (£3.2 million) from Bain Capital in June 2000. Mr Ryan declined to say if he was involved in the deal. Mr Beecher declined to be interviewed.

    There is more information in the article, too much to copy+paste.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/us-election/9483845/US-election-Mitt-Romney-may-have-breached-ethics-laws-through-company-linked-to-Paul-Ryans-brother.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. mattb says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Reading is not understanding.

    Sorry, but if you are reading the sources that Jan is (again based on her previous links), it’s easy to see how she would think Romney is an ethical man.

    Beyond that, I have a hard time with terms like ethical, broadly applied, as its largely a useless term as most people employ it — especially in trying to separate personal and professional dealings.

    And as Mr. Replica points out, it’s probably more than useless when dealing with a political office like the presidency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. David M says:

    @mattb:

    I have a hard time with terms like ethical, broadly applied, as its largely a useless term as most people employ it — especially in trying to separate personal and professional dealings.

    I don’t know about that, Romney is explicitly running on his business record, which is profoundly unethical. Relative to almost any other profession, private equity doesn’t come out looking good, and starting Bain should be seen as a giant negative. Short of things that are actually illegal, it’s hard to come up with professions that should reflect worse on a candidate for public office. It’s on par with starting a short-term, payday loan chain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  36. Tony W says:

    Early voting has been a blessing to me – I can’t tell you how many years I made snap decisions based on name familiarity in the high-pressure voting booth.

    Now with my permanent absentee ballot I have the luxury of researching my positions on each candidate and ballot measure. My votes may be largely meaningless – low information voters get the same vote I do – but I feel like I am doing it correctly now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  37. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @jan:

    If the republicans win it will be more of a shoe-leather impetus rather than a cell phone one.

    Jan – thanks for the tour of imagined yesteryear… Tell me now: how dial phones kept all the bad bad democrats away, or maybe how FM radio was the death of America because of PBS. And the internets! What about the god forsaken internets! It’s TUBES !!!

    ———–

    Early-voting or day-of-election voting, there are only 22 more days and a few hours (depending on timezone) until Obama is reelected.

    I., for one, will be glad to put this all behind me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. jan says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    You’re funny…yes it will be all over soon. And some of us will be happy, and the rest will be gloomy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  39. JKB says:

    @David M: it’s hard to come up with professions that should reflect worse on a candidate for public office.

    Except maybe community organizing since that entails agitating poor people till the politicians pay you off with some “grant” that never seems actually do anything for the poor people. Funny how community organizers all seem to end up very wealthy while all they leave behind are signs on empty lots proclaiming some never to exist government project.

    On the other hand, Bain has a long list of successful companies that employ hundreds if not thousands of people.

    I know this is the way you feel but reality doesn’t care how you feel.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  40. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    So a day or two ago Jan was talking about old-fashioned “get out the vote” for Republicans. That would be totally different than “community organizing,” right?

    You poor guys. Buy some self-awareness for a dollar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  41. David M says:

    @JKB:

    David Stockman, Reagan’s budget director would disagree with you about any Romney / Bain “success”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. mattb says:

    @JKB:

    Funny how community organizers all seem to end up very wealthy while all they leave behind are signs on empty lots proclaiming some never to exist government project.

    I see your actual real world experience and knowledge of community organizers matches your deep understanding of higher ed and liberal arts.

    I know a number of community organizers… let me assure you non of them are particular wealthy even though they have been at it for years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0