Daily Poll Roundup

Polls are flooding in during the final days of the campaign. While most show the race to be tight, they are all over the map as to whether Bush or Kerry leads the national head-to-head race. More significantly, however, Kerry seems to be gaining ground in the all-important race to 270 electoral votes.

Votemaster updates his Electoral Vote Predictor to Kerry 291, Bush 247 with the addition of 41 new polls.

Zogby has released new polls conducted in the battleground states Oct. 13-18 and there is good news and bad news for each candidate. For Bush, the good news is that he is now leading in seven of the 16 battleground states (Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia), his best showing ever in the Zogby poll. The bad news is that all of these leads are within the margin of error, so they are statistical ties. For Kerry, the good news is that his leads in Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington are all outside the margin of error, which ranges from 2% to 4%.

But there are other polls today as well. A new poll from the University of Cincinnati shows Kerry ahead in Ohio, 48% to 46%. Rasmussen’s tracking poll shows Bush and Kerry tied at 47% each in Ohio, the first time Bush has not led there for weeks. ABC News says its Kerry 50%, Bush 47%, but Fox News says it is the other way: Kerry 45% and Bush 47%. On the other hand, Survey USA has Kerry ahead 49% to 47%. All in all, Ohio is a complete tossup at the moment; it could go either way. My rule is still: most recent poll (based on the middle date) wins, with ties resolved in favor of the shortest poll. If two or more polls with the same dates are most recent, they are averaged. Currently, The Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll is the most recent by 0.5 day, so it is being used today. The complete list of polls is given at the Polling data link to the right of the map.

Some people have said I should average over some time interval, but when I did that in early October, there was massive objection to the idea, so I am going to stick with the most recent poll from here to election day. No more discussion. It is the most objective system. But it should be obvious that many states are locked in an exact tie. The get-out-the-vote efforts will be crucial. Rasmussen also shows Bush and Kerry tied in Florida at 47% apiece, again for the first time in weeks. Early voting has already started in Florida and other states. In fact, it is expected that up to a third of all votes may be cast before election day.

The methodology is suspect, of course, but there is no consensus on how best to do this. I’m more comfortable with the RCP average method–which currently shows the race at Bush 227 – Kerry 210–but it has the disadvantage of often including older polls that may not reflect current trends.

Slate’s Election Scorecard was tweaked last night but still shows a slight Kerry lead: 276-262.

We don’t trust today’s automated, Naderless poll showing Kerry ahead in Florida. The state stays with Bush. On the other hand, Kerry is regaining his lead in New Jersey. Toughest calls: Iowa for Bush, New Mexico and Wisconsin for Kerry. Kerry wins today even if he loses New Mexico. But without Wisconsin, he’s finished.

Votemaster also provides this:

A new Gallup poll taken in Colorado Oct. 15-17 on amendment #36 to split the electoral vote in proportion to the popular vote is now behind, with 53% against it and 39% for it.

That’s a good thing, not just because it likely means Bush will get all 9 of Colorado’s electoral votes rather than splitting them 5-4 with Kerry. It demonstrates that Colorado residents have grasped that the measure will effectively render their vote irrelevant. More importantly, it means that we won’t have to face lengthy court battles over whether changing the rules post hoc–and by other than direct action of the state legislature–is legal.

One bright spot for Bush is last night’s Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll.

Two weeks before Election Day, President George W. Bush leads Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry in the race for the White House, according to a FOX News poll released Tuesday. In the days following the final presidential debate, Bush has not only continued to solidify his position with independent voters, but he is also holding his ground with women voters — a traditional Democratic voting group that Kerry needs in his column.

Today Bush has a five-point lead, receiving 48 percent to Kerry’s 43 percent among likely voters. When independent candidate Ralph Nader is included he receives 2 percent, Bush 49 percent and Kerry 42 percent. Two weeks ago Bush had a two-point lead over Kerry in the three-way race, and a three-point lead in the head-to-head matchup.

Men are more likely to support Bush over Kerry (51 percent to 41 percent), and women also give a slight edge to the president (47 percent to 45 percent). Married women, a voting group many are watching this year, give their support to Bush (49 percent to 43 percent), while single women support Kerry (49 percent to 41 percent).

By a margin of 52 percent to 34 percent, self-identified independent voters today are backing Bush. This is up from an 11-point advantage the president had among this group two weeks ago.

While I have no reason to doubt these findings, their bearing on the outcome of the race is limited. For one thing, Ralph Nader isn’t on the ballot in several states. Including a non-existent option skews the results (a flaw in most of the national polls). More importantly, of course, is that what matters is the outcome of the electoral count, not the national popular vote. While I don’t expect it to happen–I think Bush will carry a couple of the swing states currently leaning Kerry, including Ohio–it’s not inconceivable that Bush could win the popular vote and lose the election, reversing the 2000 result.

Update (0950): Stephen Green, presumably under the influence of potent potables, has come to a startling conclusion:

It’s all a bunch of crap.

The polls all suck, for reasons gone into by people way smarter than I am. The predictions all suck, because everybody is working from the same assumptions, based on voting patterns from the last election. In 2000, the world was as at peace as it ever is, the economy was still in the final giddy stages of a really good drunk (and I should know), and an untried George W. Bush was challenging a not-quite-human, not-quite-incumbent Al Gore for the White House.

He then posits two maps: One with Kerry winning 325-213, the other with Bush winning 310-228. I was hoping for a Bush landslide before the debates but, absent some huge development “on the ground,” I just don’t see how it happens. It would take a scandal of epic proportions for Kerry to win more than one or two states Bush carried in 2000. While the scenario for a Bush blowout is easier to concoct, it just doesn’t seem likely absent another terrorist attack or some other huge event.

Stephen is right about one thing for sure, though: We don’t have any idea how this is going to come out. The pros are all over the place on this one. Why? They have no clue how to screen for likely voters in such a hyper-charged race.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    I thought I was only losing hair over the last pitch in game 6 of the ALCS last night… This is a razor’s edge between your worst nightmare or realizing your dreams (Well, at least avoiding your worst nightmare, in the case of politics).

    I will open my eyes and peek between my fingers on Nov. 3. I really, really hope Americans do the sensible thing, and the majority vote goes to the President.

    Go Red Sox, and Go Bush!

  2. McGehee says:

    The pros are all over the place on this one. Why? They have no clue how to screen for likely voters in such a hyper-charged race.

    I’ll have something to say about this after the election, but until then I think it is strategically preferable to agree with Stephen and yell “Panic! Kerry might win!” to every Bush supporter I can reach. The only way to ensure Stephen’s blue map doesn’t happen is to assume it could, and act accordingly at the polls.

  3. How about a link to the poll banner that you and Kevin are running?

  4. James Joyner says:

    Added underneath it.