June, it seems, was an Obama month. The Illinois senator both wrapped up the nomination and showed improvement in the polls, with few exceptions, across the map. The dynamic changed in July, however. Whereas McCain only had a handful of states trend in his direction in June, July was with a yellow (pro-McCain) tint. 24 of the 39 states in which polling was conducted in July pushed FHQ's weighted averages toward the Arizona senator.
By contrast Obama's June dominance gave way to a July map where his trendlines decreased in 21 of the 39 states where he gained a month earlier. Certainly the inclusion of the Zogby numbers in June inflates Obama's end of June averages, and in many cases, the Zogby polls were the last polls conducted in those states and were thus given the most weight. Any subsequent move toward McCain in July could then really have an effect on the the changes to the average, making what may have been a small change to McCain a big change. Even when the Zogby numbers are completely removed from the equation, McCain still countered Obama's June increases by pulling closer or extending his lead in 20 states (as opposed to 24). The omission of the Zogby data translated into trendlines reversing in Obama's direction in six states (AR, MI, MO, NM, OR and VA) and toward McCain in two others (NH and NJ). In other words, in nearly a quarter of the states where Zogby conducted an interactive poll in June (8 of 34), those polls affected the direction in which FHQ's weighted average was going.
The Illinois senator did manage to increase his standing in 15 states (or 19 if the Zogby data is excluded -- a number much closer to the number of states in which McCain gained in the absence of those polls) overall in July. Let's take a moment to look at the states deemed toss ups as of Sunday in FHQ's weighted average. Of those 13 states, 12 had at least one poll conducted in July. Of those twelve, half moved in Obama's direction (FL, MT, NV, NC, ND and PA) and two shifted toward McCain (CO and OH). The remaining four (MI, MO, NH and VA) were among the group of states that shifted directions based on whether the Zogby data was used. Michigan, Missouri and Virginia trended toward McCain in July with the Zogby data included, but reversed course in the absence of that data, shifting in Obama's direction. New Hampshire had the exact opposite effect: favoring Obama with the Zogby data, but away from him in their absence.
Now, the Zogby data is actually included in FHQ's average, so we'll discuss these toss ups in that light. [I have to add the distinction, though, in the interest of transparency.] As such, these swing states, where these trends are of the most consequence, are evenly distributed between the two candidates (6 to 6). However, three of Obama's seven gains and four of McCain's are states that are currently favoring the other candidate in the overall average, albeit slightly. Sure that's the nature of a toss up state, but still, that's an interesting bit of information to take away from this. Obama leads in Colorado, Michigan and Ohio, but during July those three states shifted toward McCain. Likewise, McCain holds an advantage over Obama in Florida, Montana, North Carolina and North Dakota, but is witnessing the Illinois senator gaining on him in those four states. If those seven states completed the switch to the other candidate Obama would net a gain of 2 electoral votes in the electoral college, stretching his advantage to 300-238 (McCain states: FL+MT+NC+ND=48 EVs, Obama states: CO+MI+OH=46 EVs).
| State Shift Rankings (July)*|
|* The states are ranked from biggest shift toward Obama to the biggest shift toward McCain. The darker the shade (of yellow or green) the bigger the shift during July.|
Well, that's all well and good, but there is one additional caveat we need to make, isn't there? What about those Rasmussen "leaners"? Did using the "with leaners" or "without leaners" data make any difference in how the July map looks above? Below are the July polls from Rasmussen since the "with leaners" distinction was added to the firm's polling press releases (up to and including the polls that came out just yesterday -- AL, AZ and CT):
|Rasmussen Polls Since w/Leaners Distinction was Added (7/9/08)*|
|State||Date||w/o Leaners||w/Leaners||Change||Undecideds Drop|
|*The "with leaners" distinction was added to reports that were released beginning on 7/9/08. The date on which these polls were conducted (The ones that these releases were based on) stretches back to 7/7/08.|
**Rasmussen has only conducted one poll in these states. Therefore, the difference was taken from between the with and without leaner numbers within the same poll in these cases.
***Previous poll had been taken after "with leaners" change had been made. We expect no out of the ordinary drop in the number of undecideds when comparing two "with leaners" interpretations.
The map above uses the "with leaners" data. If, however, we shift and inpute the "without leaners" data, the trends remain the same in 33 of the 35 states in which Rasmussen conducted July polls (post-July 7). Only Colorado and Texas would have taken different courses in the event the "leaners" were withheld. Colorado would have trended toward Obama while Texas would have favored McCain. In Texas that's probably not that big a deal. The Lone Star state is comfortably red currently. In Colorado, though, this is of note simply because the state is a toss up by FHQ's estimation. And while the trend would have changed, the overall average favors Obama regardless.
So who won July? Well, the map looks awfully yellow (pro-McCain), but the Arizona senator's gains are in states where he is already way out in front or too far behind to make much of a difference. The swing states are even allocated in terms of how many are trending toward each of the candidates. And when that sort of analysis is stretched to the lean states -- 11 states -- on both sides, McCain has the averages trending in his direction in only four (AK, NM, OR and SC). Of the 24 states where July polling was favorable to McCain, then, 14 of them were already solidly red. So, while the map is decidedly more yellow than it was a month ago, the Illinois senator is still moving in a positive direction in 12 of the 22 toss up or lean states where polling was done in July.
Appendix: June Revisions
One thing you'll notice immediately is that this map is even greener (pro-Obama) than the original map was. This revised version incorporates several polls that were released after I posted the first look at the changes during June. Granted, I posted that on July 1 and Rasmussen released a series of polls during the latter half of that holiday week. Additionally, all those Zogby polls are factored as well, making for an inclusion of around 40 new polls.
Those Zogby polls were seen as favoring Obama, so they tend to have biased the map in the Illinois senator's direction. McCain, for example, had six states that trending toward him in June with the late releases excluded. However, when those are added in, the McCain total drops to four. Missouri, Oregon and South Carolina all flip to Obama, while the Zogby poll in Illinois pulled the average for the Land of Lincoln down. How is it then that the Zogby polls favor Obama, yet his home state is trending against him? Well, Illinois, prior to June, had had only one poll conducted in the state -- a February Survey USA poll that gave Obama a 29 point edge. In other words, Obama pretty much had nowhere to go but down there. And despite the shift, Obama still maintains a strong advantage over McCain in the state. With the inclusion of the additional (late-breaking) polls, Obama's bounce throughout June looks even bigger.
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