Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Is Rasmussen's Inclusion of "Leaners" Affecting the Electoral College Outlook Now? An Update

It has been about three weeks since FHQ last checked in on the effect the early July decision by Rasmussen to report "leaners" in their polling releases had on our electoral college projections. At the time, only Ohio switched from favoring Obama to favoring McCain based on which version (with leaners or without) was used. In the period since though, there have been 27 new Rasmussen polls in 27 states. For 18 of those, that means the second (or third in the case of Minnesota) poll since the switch. The point of the comparison between the two types of numbers initially was to account for the discrepancy in the comparison of with leaners polls to previous without leaners polls. It just wasn't an apples to apples comparison.

With multiple "leaners" polls now out in 18 states, that really isn't the concern anymore. There are still nine states that had their first "with leaners" results reported since the beginning of August (and 13 others that have yet to have had their first with leaners poll conducted), but this is now primarily an exercise in examining how the electoral college projection would change -- and not a critique of the wholesale switch over to using the "leaners" numbers that took place in the aftermath of the change. We have the data, why not look at it? The more information we have from a "with leaners"/"without leaners" perspective, the more likely we are to begin seeing differences in the electoral college projections.

What we saw initially was that the leaners were breaking for McCain nearly across the board, but that around the time of Obama's trip abroad, that began to switch. And since that point, McCain's advantage in the "with leaners" numbers has almost been cut in half (from +1.08 to just +0.64 now). [Since the table is getting so large, I've decided to just simply append it to the end of the post instead of breaking up the text with such a mammoth figure. The new data are below the re-labelling of the columns.] Regardless, McCain continues to maintain an advantage over Obama with the leaners in these polls. And in an election that looks like it could come down to who is swinging the most independents, that's an important distinction.

But let's look at that more closely, focusing on the more recent polls (the new additions this time). Of those 27 states, eight are red states, eleven are blue states and the remaining eight are toss ups. In nine of the eleven blue states, the leaners are going for Obama (Though, it should be noted that in five of those nine, the leaners margin is exactly the same as the without leaners margin.), and in five of the red states, the leaners move in McCain's direction. So McCain in red states and Obama in blue. No real surprise there.

In the toss up states though, there are some differences. McCain holds slight advantages in 5 of those eight toss up states. The leaners broke for him in 60% of those cases (Missouri and Montana being the exceptions.). The picture for Obama was different. Of the three toss ups that favored the Illinois senator, the leaners moved toward him in one (Colorado), against him in another (Michigan) and broke even in the third (Nevada). That list of states was the very same as the one I discussed yesterday in the post about the benefits McCain could gain from tapping Mitt Romney as his running mate. Those three plus all the states in various shades of red add up to 271 electoral votes. And it is a very small consolation that Obama gains leaners in Colorado yet has the overall lead in the poll go to McCain. Nor is it beneficial to break even in Nevada when the overall poll favors McCain -- a switch from the month prior. In other words, having leaners break for him in Missouri and Montana is about all Obama can hang his hat on in this instance.

But what about the electoral college projection? Well, no matter which measure you use -- with or without leaners -- the projection (as a function of our weighted average) remains the same: 298-240 in favor of Obama. In fact, it is interesting that some of these leaner gains are cancelling each other out when subsequent polls are released. That has happened in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Also, Nevada and Oregon have shown the same margins in both versions of the polls across two releases now.

One additional pattern that we can glean from these Rasmussen polls is the line up of states that are likely to have new polling data released in the next week. If everything holds to form, there should be new data in Arkansas, California, Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the near future. The last five of those are certainly worth keeping an eye on. All are toss ups with the exception of New Mexico. Given how other western states favoring Obama (Colorado and Nevada) have fared lately, it will be interesting to see if New Mexico follows suit.

Rasmussen Polls Since w/Leaners Distinction was Added (7/9/08)*
StateDatew/o Leaners
w/Leaners
Change
Undecideds Drop
Missouri
7/7+5
+50
-10
New Jersey
7/7+5
+3+2
-4
Illinois
7/8+13
+11+2
-6**
North Dakota
7/80
+1+1
-7**
Wisconsin
7/8+13
+10+3-6
Louisiana
7/9+20
+19+1
-2
South Dakota
7/9+4
+40
-4
Washington7/9+9
+8+1-6
Iowa
7/10+10
+100
-9
Michigan
7/10+8
+80
-5
Minnesota
7/10+18
+17+1
0
Kansas
7/14+20
+23+3
-9
North Carolina
7/15+3
+30
-5
Oregon
7/15+9
+90
-5
Nevada
7/16+2
+20
-5
Virginia
7/160
+1
+1
-6
Alaska7/17+5+5
0
-7
Arkansas7/17+10
+13+3-4
Georgia7/17+9
+11+2
+1
Maine
7/17+10
+8+2
-2
Colorado
7/21+7
+3+4-13
Ohio
7/21+6
+10+4
-7
Florida
7/22+1
+2+1-7
Minnesota
7/22+12
+13+1--***
New Hampshire
7/23+6
+4+2-5
Pennsylvania
7/23+5
+6+1-8
New Mexico
7/24+5
+6+1-6
California
7/24+12
+10+2-6
StateDatew/o Leaners
w/Leaners
Change
Undecideds Drop
Mississippi
7/28+11
+12+1-2
Nebraska
7/28+18
+19+1-3
Kentucky
7/29+10
+9+1-9
Montana
7/29+1
0+1-3
Alaska
7/30+5
+6+1--***
Arizona
7/30+16
+19+3-6
Texas
7/30+9
+8+1-7
Alabama
7/31+18
+20+2-9
Connecticut
7/31+15
+13+2-6
New Jersey
8/4+8
+10+2--***
New York
8/4+20
+19+1-2
Massachusetts
8/5+15
+16+1-6
Wisconsin
8/5+4
+7+3--***
Washington
8/6+12
+120
--***
Iowa
8/7+5
+50--***
Michigan
8/7+7
+4+3--***
Missouri
8/7+7
+6+1--***
Oregon
8/7+10
+100
--***
Kansas
8/11+15
+14+1--***
Nevada
8/11
+3
+30
--***
Illinois
8/12+15
+150
--***
Maine
8/12+13
+14+1--***
Virginia
8/12+1
+1+2--***
Colorado
8/13
+2
+1+1--***
Minnesota
8/13
+4
+40
--***
North Carolina
8/13+4
+6+2--***
Georgia
8/14+7
+9+2--***
Avg. Change+0.64-5.57
*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.



Recent Posts:
The New Ohio Poll and McCain's VP Choice

The Electoral College Map (8/17/08)

Which States are Underpolled in the Presidential Race?

2 comments:

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Rasmussen has announced Florida will be out this afternoon, along with Louisiana.

Incidentally, does anyone know who's paying for all these Rasmussen polls? The regularity and wide coverage suggests it's Rasmussen doing it as a form of advertising for their polling services.

But yes, they should poll Delaware...

Josh Putnam said...

Excellent. Thanks for the heads up. Those will make nice additions to tomorrow's update.

Not surprisingly, Rasmussen's "about us" doesn't reveal anything about the funding of these polls. I didn't dig too deeply, but neither did a quick google search.

I'll need to look back at the data, but if memory serves, Rasmussen's efforts in 2008 have far surpassed the effort in 2004. Notable four years ago were the number of month long polls they conducted. They have apparently abandoned those efforts.