Tracking polls update, 3 October

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

The daily tracking polls have been relatively stable over the last three days, since the previous polling update here; hence also the absence of intermittent updates. But today’s polls are interesting because they do not, or hardly, include any impact the Veep debate might have. So they can be used as a yardstick for measuring any such impact in three days’ time, when most of the tracking polls will have a sample completely from after the debate.

(There’s some trickiness involved, of course, in that the Veep debate will hardly be the only development impacting opinions; what about the Senate vote for the bailout bill, for example? Or, as Gallup points out, “the new Labor Department report out today, showing a bigger job loss in September than many analysts had predicted”?)

Daily tracking polls update, 3 October 2008

Daily tracking polls, 10/3 (click to enlarge)

Here’s the graph. Gallup’s poll bounced around a little the last few days, with Obama’s lead shrinking from 8% to 4% between Monday and Wednesday, and increasing to 7% again by today. The Rasmussen and Hotline poll have remained almost entirely stable and similar, showing an Obama lead of 5-7%. And the Daily Kos tracking poll, conducted by Research 2000, is off on its lonesome showing a significantly larger Obama lead of 10-11%.

QuickPost Quickpost this image to Myspace, Digg, Facebook, etc.!

Reviewing the average of the four polls, however, there’s a hint of new movement today.

Record high for Obama since DNC against a backdrop of economic anxiety

The average Obama lead was 6.3-7.0% for the past three days, which was right in line with the results of the two previous days too. But after five days of similar numbers, there’s a hint of new upward movement today, with his average now at 7.8%.

That’s a record, at least within the timeframe of this graph. It’s higher than Obama’s average lead in the daily tracking polls was even during the Democratic National Convention. Mind you, that’s also because there was no Research 2000/Kos poll during the DNC yet. But even when strictly comparing apples to apples, today represents the best day of polling for Obama since September 2, at the very highpoint of his DNC bounce.

Gallup’s Lydia Saad places Obama’s surge firmly in the context of the economic anxiety that’s gripped the country:

The pattern of voter preferences in September — with McCain’s post-Republican convention lead slipping away after the extraordinary Wall Street failures that began in mid-September, and Obama’s lead expanding to as much as eight points — suggests that Obama has benefited from Americans’ intensified economic anxiety during this period. Obama’s advantage on this issue was evident in Gallup’s post-presidential debate polling on Sept. 27, when the poll found Obama receiving much better scores from debate watchers for his performance on the economy than McCain.

The troubling new jobs report will most likely only reinforce, if not deepen, Americans’ economic concern in the coming days. McCain and Obama’s presidential debate this Tuesday could thus prove to be a critical opportunity for Obama to either cement his advantage on the economy, or for McCain to turn it around.

Rasmussen’s write-up of today’s tracking poll underlines the importance of the economic troubles:

Nationally, the number of voters who believe the country is heading in the right direction has fallen to 10%. That’s down dramatically from the already low level of 24% just before Lehman Brothers collapsed and started the recent Wall Street debacle. Eighty-six percent (86%) now say that the nation has gotten off on the wrong track.

However, it also includes a frustrating note. Despite Obama’s tax plans involving a tax increase only for the small group of those earning over $250,000 a year,

Forty-five percent (45%) believe taxes will go up if Obama is elected while 24% say the same about a McCain victory.

While the taxes issue is forever dodgy, the economy as a whole is a topic that plays into Obama’s hands, the Diageo/Hotline pollsters are agreeing today:

On the issue of which candidate would better manage the economy, Obama maintains his lead over McCain, (47% – 38%). [..] On the issue of who would do the best job managing America’s energy policies, Obama has widened his lead over McCain since yesterday’s Poll, (43% – 40% in the October 2 Poll; 45% – 38% in today’s Poll). Obama also maintains his lead over McCain on the issue of healthcare, (50% – 32%).

McCain’s sole major strength in this poll: national security. But today’s crisis gripping America is financial, not martial.

Biden versus Palin?

The Hotline poll is also highlighting the favourability numbers of the Vice-Presidential candidates:

Today’s Poll, fielded the night of the Vice-Presidential debate, finds that Joe Biden’s favorability rating has increased seven points from 42% in the September 28 Poll, to 49% in today’s Poll. Meanwhile Sarah Palin’s favorability ratings have remained stable throughout the week.

Joe Bidens favourability numbers according to the Hotline poll

Joe Biden's favourability numbers according to the Hotline poll

Joe Bidens favourability numbers according to the Hotline poll

Sarah Palin's favourability numbers according to the Hotline poll

On this count, Research 2000/Kos agrees on three out of four data points. When it comes to Biden’s favourability and unfavourability numbers, and when it comes to Palin’s favourability numbers, Research 2000 finds the same landscape as the Hotline poll. But it finds a much higher unfavourability rating for Palin – currently at 52%.

Voter outreach and candidate perceptions: further good news for Obama

Today’s Hotline analysis also has interesting snippets on voter outreach. Judging on the news reports, voter outreach must be massively increased compared to four years ago, at least, or especially, on the Democratic side. But it’s easy to forget just how many people, even in this year of expanded electoral maps, live in a safe state and are therefore largely ignored. So here’s the reality check — with an interesting additional note on Hispanic voters:

As both campaigns continue their “ground game” of registering and contacting voters, the Poll finds that 32% of voters have been contacted directly by the McCain campaign, the Obama campaign or both.

Specifically, respondents were asked if they have been directly contacted by the McCain or Obama campaigns in the last two months, either over the telephone or in-person. The Poll finds that 7% of voters say they have been contacted by the McCain campaign, 13% say they have been contacted by the Obama campaign, and 12% of voters say they have been contacted by both campaigns. [..] 21% of Undecided voters say they have been contacted by both campaigns.

The Obama campaign has been reaching out to Hispanic voters more than the McCain campaign, as 28% of Hispanics say they have been contacted by Obama-Biden, 6% say they have been contacted by McCain-Palin, and 4% have been contacted by both.

Going back a couple of days, last Wednesday’s Hotline poll had some interesting detail on two key criteria of perception. Which candidate is better prepared to lead? On this count, McCain, with his long political experience, has traditionally had the advantage. But, perhaps confirming FreeDuck’s analysis here of Obama now being seen as “the safe candidate”, Barack has been closing the gap rapidly. And which candidate “better understands the needs and priorities of people like yourself”? That was one count on which Obama struggled in the primaries against both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, who were much better in emoting regular voters’ concerns. But compared to John McCain, Obama is sailing through on this question.

Here’s the Hotline graphs:

Hotline poll: Which candidate is more preprared to lead the country?

Hotline poll: Which candidate is more preprared to lead the country?

Hotline poll: Which Candidate Better Understands Your Needs and Priorities?

Hotline poll: Which Candidate Better Understands Your Needs and Priorities?

The broader view: shrinking time means shrinking opportunities

I want to throw in a final chart in order to take more of a step back from the immediate developments in polling. This update has only covered the daily tracking polls – and even my graph merely goes back a little over a month. For a comprehensive overview of national polling, the obvious option is just to refer to’s excellent listing and charts. But Pollster now offers the option to create your own chart, using the exact parameters you prefer.

The one below (here if it doesn’t appear) is my preferred one at the moment. It shows the development of the national polls since 5 May – that is, covering the last half year before election day. And it excludes Internet polls (Economist/YouGov and the internet-based variety of the Zogby and Harris polls), as well as the ARG polls and a Sacred Heart University poll that had a surreal number of undecideds. The trendline gives a good feel for the lead Obama has now opened up. He has now surpassed the lead he enjoyed over the summer months, and that with the added advantage of being much closer to election day.

Nate Silver underlined the importance of the shrinking timeframe a couple of days ago. His site projects not just what the popular and electoral vote would be if elections were held today, on the basis of all the state polls as well as the national polls, but also projects a “win percentage”. The percentage chance the candidates have of winning. Right now he’s giving Obama an imposing 84% chance of winning – not just because of the size of his lead in the state and national polls, but because of the ever shrinking amount of time left in the race: “We are now close enough to the election where every day that goes by without McCain making gains in the polls makes him marginally less likely to win.”

Point taken. Silver is something of an optimist: when comparing his projections for each state based on the available polling with the same day’s trendline points on the overviews by state, I noticed that he consistently has Obama doing a few points better than But it’s hard to argue with this: every day in which the political race is a tie, is a good day for the guy with the lead.

1 Comment

No Comments

1 Trackback