Daily tracking polls update: the nervous edition

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

Is John McCain’s evil masterplan working?

I’m a bit confused about what masterplan, evil or otherwise, McCain would be implementing right now – I mean, ginning up a red scare about Obama the Socialist, really? But it wouldnt be the first time that a tack I considered wholly idiotic seems to work with American voters. (They sometimes work with Dutch voters too, for that matter – though probably not the red-baiting one.)

Either way, the daily tracking polls are showing some tightening of the race. Could be statistical noise, could be real. The movement would probably not be enough to decide the race either way, but still, the lowest estimates of Obama’s lead are getting disconcertingly close to zero:

  • Gallup has Obama’s lead down 3 points today, both in its expanded likely voter model (from 10% to 7%) and its traditional model (from 5% to a perilous 2%);
  • Rasmussen has Obama’s lead down 3 points in two days, from 8% to 5%;
  • Research 2000 has Obama’s lead down 4 points in two days, from 11% to 7%;
  • Zogby has Obama’s lead down a point today to just 4%, after it already fell from 10% to 5% the day before yesterday.
  • The IBD/TIPP poll is stubbornly stuck at a modest 3-4% Obama lead since the 22nd.

All in all, Obama’s average lead in the daily tracking polls has fallen from 8.3% three days ago to 6.0% tonight.

Chart 1: All daily tracking polls

Chart 1: All daily tracking polls

It should be said that there is one non-tracking poll that paints a seriously different picture. A Pew poll out today is showing a delirious 15-point lead for Obama among likely voters, with McCain down at just 38%. John Judis flagged that one (using the poll’s even more favourable numbers for registered voters) to tell us to “start popping the corks”.

The balance is evened out again, however, by the GWU Battleground tracking poll (which I dont include in the graphs because it’s not a daily tracking poll), which has Obama’s lead unchanged at just 3%. So count me in with his colleague Noam Scheiber, who is “still sweating” it.

For an overall picture of all national polls, check out …

… pollster.com’s trendlines. It now has Obama at 50.6%, with a comfortable lead of 6.7%. That is down, however, from an 8.7% lead three days ago (and if you use the interactive tools to opt for the more sensitive trendline, it’s down to 6.0% as well). This also involves McCain hitting the best numbers he’s had since late September, though polling some 44% is admittedly still not exactly something to write home about.

Again, it could all just be statistical noise. But since the last-minute trend tends to be magnified in the outcome (I didn’t actually doublecheck that, but that’s always been my impression), it’s a little unnerving to see four out of seven daily tracking polls decreasing Obama’s lead and the other three (or four, including GWU) stable at mostly modest levels, a week out from the elections.

Daily tracking polls, Chart 2

Chart 2: In this chart, every time a new tracking poll started it was added into the Average All line, but an alternate line continued on its way reflecting only the polls that existed before

Daily tracking polls, chart 3

Chart 3: This chart plots how the average varies when you include all but one of the daily tracking polls, each line representing the exclusion of one of them.

So is it all the attacks against Obama for being a closet socialist, because he wants to up the top tax rate by a couple of percentage points? Hard to say. Only two polls today say something you could tie in with this. The WaPo does flag movement in the perception of how the candidates would cope with the economy:

McCain has [..] nudged up among “economy voters,” the 54 percent of the probable electorate who said the economy is the single most important issue in their vote. Last week, Obama led by nearly 2 to 1 among these voters; it remains a hefty, but diminished 58 to 39 percent advantage for the Democrat.

The nine-point edge Obama currently holds as the candidate more trusted to handle the economy is half what it was in the middle of last week when he was up 56 to 38 percent and lags behind his post-convention average of 13 points. The decline has been most pronounced among whites with household incomes below $50,000.

Here, however, is the contradiction:

McCain has attempted to woo voters across income categories with an appeal on taxes, but this poll shows little evidence of movement. For example, white voters from under $50,000 households are about evenly split on the issue now: 46 percent favor Obama’s approach, 44 percent McCain’s. That is almost exactly where they were a week ago (45 percent Obama, 43 percent McCain).

Among all voters, Obama remains on top on dealing with taxes. Likely voters side with him over McCain, 51 to 41 percent, about the same as the Obama advantage throughout October.

To further confuse things, the Diageo/Hotline poll has Obama leading by 11 points on who would do the best job handling the economy, with barely a change in the margin.



  1. Drewdad  •  Oct 29, 2008 @6:49 am

    I think Democratic complacency is the issue that Obama should be most concerned about right now….

  2. Jo  •  Oct 29, 2008 @3:01 pm


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