Polls

Between a Rock and a Polling Place

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Few things excite a political reporter more than polls. They're the sports statistics of the electoral grind, giving any argument that little extra oomph. For people not necessarily known for their numerical prowess, a cleverly placed percentage point is the perfect condiment for any story. Heck, polls can even be the story.

Unfortunately, our enthusiasm for those alluring little numbers can end badly. In election off-season it's not so noticeable, with polls slowing to a relative trickle and our attentions focused elsewhere—or so far in the future that the ambitious dreams of Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton dancing in our heads outweigh any margins of error. But the polls are still there. Exhibit A: presidential approval ratings.

How E.W. Jackson Throws a Wrench into the Cuccinelli Plan

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Ken Cuccinelli’s plan for winning the Virginia gubernatorial race is straightforward. Avoid outspoken statements on social issues—the same ones that alienate most Virginians but excite his right-wing base—and focus the campaign on jobs and growth.

The Isolationists Are Coming!

AP Photo

Ask yourself: Do you oppose putting U.S. troops everywhere, all the time? If you answered yes, you might be an isolationist, according to the word’s new definition. A piece in Tuesday’s New York Times, based on a new NYT/CBS poll, warned that “Americans are exhibiting an isolationist streak, with majorities across party lines decidedly opposed to American intervention in North Korea or Syria right now.”

In the very next paragraph, however, we are told that, “While the public does not support direct military action in those two countries right now, a broad 70 percent majority favor the use of remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, to carry out bombing attacks against suspected terrorists in foreign countries.”

In other words, if you only support bombing unspecified foreign countries with flying robots, you're exhibiting an isolationist streak.

News Flash: Americans Still Don't Understand Deficits

Business Insider

At Business Insider, Walter Hickey reports results from an online survey (commissioned by the website) that show a public muddled over the consequences of going over the fiscal cliff. Per the survey, 47.4 percent of Americans said that the deficit would increase if we went over the cliff, only 12.6 percent say that it would decrease.

Takeaways from the Votemaster

President Barack Obama was re-elected president with a strong majority in the Electoral College, although not quite as big as in 2008. If he wins Florida, where he is currently leading but where the final results are not in—the vote counters got tired and went to bed instead of finishing the job last night—he will have won every state this year that he won in 2008 except Indiana and North Carolina. Those two are deeply red states that Republicans nearly always win. They simply have reverted to the norm (although North Carolina was close: Romney's margin was only three points). Noteworthy is that Obama appears to have won all the swing states except North Carolina. If Florida stays blue, Obama will have 332 electoral votes (versus 365 in 2008). If Florida becomes red in the end, Obama will still have hit 300 electoral votes, with a total of 303. Either way, a solid victory. None of the media are reporting anything about Nebraska's Second Congressional District, which Obama won last time, so let us assume that Romney won all five of Nebraska's electoral votes.

Mitt Romney Falls Short with White Voters

Jamelle Bouie

If you’re looking for reasons to be confident of a Barack Obama win tonight, it’s worth noting Mitt Romney’s share of the white vote in the final pre-election polls:

 

 

What About Today's Election Would Prove Me Wrong?

This post was originally published at The Monkey Cage.

To date, I haven’t made a formal forecast of the presidential election (though I will below). But I want to answer the question in the title of this post first, because it’s one that isn’t asked (or answered) enough.

Say Hello to President Romney

(270toWin.com)

For those of us who think Barack Obama will win re-election tomorrow, the weight of evidence is on our side. The most recent national polls—from Pew, NBC News, CBS News, YouGov, and ABC News—show the president with a slight lead over Mitt Romney. Obama holds leads by greater than two points in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada—the states that give him 271 electoral votes—and he's just as ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Like I said in my prediction yesterday, if you gave Obama every state where he held a lead, he would win with 303 electoral votes. It’s no wonder that the election forecasters—Nate Silver, Sam Wang, Drew Linzer—place Obama’s probability of winning in the 85 percent to 90 percent range: Barring a huge Obama bias in the polling, the president is virtually certain to be re-elected.

With that said, life isn’t as predictable as we’d like to believe, and anything can happen. It is possible that the pollsters have failed—or at least, are missing something important in the electorate. If that’s the case, Obama’s victory isn’t as certain as it looks. Put another way, even at this late stage, a Romney victory is still possible.

Tuesday Predictions

270toWin.com

If you read yesterday’s look at the swing states, you’ll have a good sense of how I think this election will end on Tuesday. In short, President Obama will win reelection and keep every state where he currently holds a lead. It looks like Obama will lose around 2.5 points from his national vote share in 2008.

This is a bit crude, but if you subtract that from his 2008 totals in every swing state, you end up with this map, and my prediction for November 6: An Obama win in New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada, with Romney wins in North Carolina and Florida. That means the president claims 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 235, and he ekes out a popular-vote victory of 50.4 percent to Romney’s 48.2.

How do I figure all that? Averaging the polling averages, Obama holds greater than 2-point leads in Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and New Hampshire. Unless something catastrophic happens between now and Tuesday, it’s safe to say he’ll keep them. Likewise, Romney holds a greater than 2-point lead in North Carolina and a slight advantage in Florida. I’m not sure how the latter will turn out, but my hunch is that Romney will be able to hold it.

The State of the Swing States

Electoral-Vote.com

With only three days left, where does the race stand in the nine swing states that will determine the election? The best way to figure this out is to focus on the polling averages calculated for each state. There has been a torrent of polls released in the last two weeks, and—collectively, never individually—they give us an accurate picture. Rather than use one average, we’ll average all of the averages—from Real Clear Politics, Pollster, Talking Points Memo, and FiveThirtyEight—in order to get the fullest picture. Since the swing states are divided into four regions—Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and Southwest, we’ll tackle them in that order.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s unusual—if not rare—for candidates to lose states where they lead by two points or more this close to Election Day. It can happen, but it’s far from likely.

In Nevada, Will Demographics Trump Ethics?

(AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Chad Lundquist)

If Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley still has a shot at ousting Republican Dean Heller from one of Nevada’s two senatorial seats next Tuesday, she should get none of the credit. Mired in scandal, under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, Berkley shouldn’t have a prayer in next week’s election. Yet she does—because Nevada’s burgeoning Latino population is moving the state leftward, because Heller trumpets his anti-immigrant stance, and because Barack Obama and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both have fearsome get-out-the-voter operations in the state that will get those Latinos to the polls.

The Nevada race is one of five senatorial contests this year in which the Democrats have a chance to flip a seat that’s currently Republican. (The other four are in Maine, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Arizona.) At the top of the ticket, Obama is the clear favorite to carry the state, notwithstanding Nevada’s highest-in-the-nation unemployment rate. Despite Obama’s lead, though, Berkeley has trailed Heller in ten of the 11 October polls on Talking Points Memo’s Polltracker web page, while tying in just one (a PPP poll completed on October 24.) She lags Heller by a 46-40 margin in the most recent Survey USA poll, taken on October 27 and 28 (the same poll gave Obama a four-point lead over Mitt Romney). Could it be that all those polls are wrong?

How to Poll

California’s venerable Field Poll released the first in its final series of pre-election polls today, and in the process provided a wonderful example to all its fellow pollsters. At a moment when a number of polls have come under criticism for not employing interviewers who can speak Spanish, the Field Poll responded to California’s growing diversity by conducting its interviews in English and Spanish—and Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese. The funding for these Asian-language interviews was provided by New American Media, which itself had received a grant for this project from the San Francisco Foundation.

Show Us Your Model

Nate Silver's latest electoral projection.

It might be easy to believe we're approaching Peak Trutherism, what with good old-fashioned birthers now being supplemented by BLS truthers and poll truthers. But just you wait—should Barack Obama win this election, we'll see an explosion of election trutherism that will be truly unprecedented in scope. In the meantime, we can content ourselves with the newest variant, Nate Silver trutherism, which isn't coming just from conservatives.

Chris Christie's Sly, Futile Move

(Flickr/New Jersey National Guard)

Once again, Barack Obama has proven to be the luckiest politician alive.

Just when the race was tightening to a dead heat in the election’s closing days, one spectacular betrayal and one rank miscalculation on the Republican side have turned the contest back in Obama’s favor.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who will tour his storm-ravaged state today with President Obama, was all over the networks Tuesday telling what a wonderful leader his president was.

“I spoke to the president three times yesterday,” Christie boasted, calling Obama “outstanding.” When Fox co-host Steve Doocy meekly asked Christie if he planned any events with Romney, Christie snarkily replied, “I have no idea nor am I the least bit concerned or interested.”

The Comeback Kids

Six months ago, liberals were preparing for the worst. After a winter of fast growth, the economy had begun to slow down and unemployment had begun to creep back up. Mitt Romney was close behind in the race for the White House, and there was little indication that President Obama could pull ahead and win. And the Senate, a stronghold for Democrats over the last six years, looked vulnerable.

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