Weekly Polling Report: The Dog Days of Summer
by CA Pol Junkie
People who follow politics closely don't generally vacillate about who will get our vote. We won't be swayed by what the ads say or even the convention speeches since we alraedy know far ahead of the election about each candidate, their records, and their proposed policies. Political campaigns, therefore, are about people who aren't excited by politics. They aren't reading The Left Coaster in their free time every day, but instead are on vacation, relaxing by the pool, having barbecues with friends, and watching TV. Sorry, but anyone reading these words (much less writing them) is a geek and, contrary to what was written during the dot com boom, geeks do not rule the world.
Lacking a passionately informed electorate, polling before the conventions carries with it a flavor of the day phenomenon, reflecting the latest press coverage without reliably showing a long-term trend. Here's a snapshot of where pre-convention polling was according to Gallup in summer of previous election years:
2004 (final result Bush +2.5): Kerry 46, Bush 44
2000 (final result Gore +0.5): Bush 45, Gore 36
1996 (final result Clinton +8.5): Clinton 51, Dole 35
1992 (final result Clinton +5.6): Bush 33, Clinton 31, Perot 28
1988 (final result Bush +7.7): Dukakis 47, Bush 41
1984 (final result Reagan +18.2): Reagan 50, Mondale 40
1980 (final result Reagan +9.7): Reagan 40, Carter 38
1976 (final result Carter +2.0): Carter 49, Ford 28
From recent history, the margin in summer polling has differed from the November results by 5, 10, 8, 8, 14, 8, 8, and 19 points. That's a pretty big margin of error when it comes to predictive power. By that measure, this year's election is up for grabs, although Obama would obviously be in the better position being up by 4.3% in the pollster.com average. Still, we'll know alot more about where the electorate is going after the conventions.
Even though obviously we shouldn't take the polls too seriously at this point, it's still fun to follow them so here is a summary of the polls in competitive states for the last week. The poll averages used are from pollster.com. A 10 point lead puts a state in the base for each candidate, which means it's not going to be the state to put one candidate or the other over 270. Since those states are boring, their status is not updated here.
Obama Base (207 EV): California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, DC, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine
McCain Base (64 EV): Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia
Research 2000 7/21-23 (5/19-21)
McCain 51 (54)
Obama 42 (39)
Strategic Vision 7/25-27
Rasmussen 7/23 (6/19)
Obama 51 (46)
McCain 45 (42)
There's a pretty clear trend of tightening after Obama's post-primary bounce. Again, don't take anything too seriously before the conventions.