Saturday, August 23, 2008

Swoon? What Swoon? A Look at the Changes During Pre-Convention August

Well, swoon may be a bit strong, but the perception is that the momentum is headed in McCain's direction. Is that the case, though? Sure it is. "They" told us so. However, just for fun, let's look at what has happened in August so far and see. The plus here is that this will give us a baseline in which to begin assessing VP selection and convention effects. Due to the compression of all four events (Democratic and Republican selections and conventions), it is difficult to definitively say, but we'll have these numbers as a jumping off point when that time comes, though.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

Thus far there has been polling conducted in 34 states during August, including 12 of FHQ's 14 toss up states. And that is where we'll keep the focus for this examination, on those toss up states. Coming into the month, McCain held advantages in 8 toss up states totaling 86 electoral votes and Obama was ahead in 6 states with 76 electoral votes. In that time only Ohio's 20 electoral votes shifted (from Obama to McCain), though -- spoiler alert! -- that will change tomorrow. Regardless, that was the state of play heading in to the heat of August.

Let's look at those states:
McCain -- AK, FL, IN, MO, MT, NC, ND, VA

Obama -- CO, MI, NV, NH, OH, PA

Immediately, we can take Montana and North Dakota out. Neither has been polled this month, but among the rest there was some movement of note. Among the six Obama states, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio shifted away from the Illinois senator while Michigan and Pennsylvania moved toward him. As we've said over the last couple of weeks, Colorado, Nevada and Ohio are among the closest of states now. Having all three move away Obama is not a welcome sight for those within the campaign. While that is certainly negative, the movement among the McCain states is also noteworthy Of those six McCain states where surveys took place, only two moved in the Arizona senator's direction while the remaining four trended in Obama's direction. So while McCain is making strides in the closest of states, Obama is actually pulling some of those McCain toss ups further into play, going against the prevailing perception of the moment. Alaska made a strong move toward Obama and Florida, North Carolina and Virginia edged ever so slightly to the left.

Now, I should note that this data includes the new release of Zogby Interactive polling in a series of battleground states. I'll have more on this in tomorrow's electoral college post, but in this context I should make some comments about how those numbers affect our weighted averages in those ten states. Despite the sample being self-selected, most of these numbers jibe well with recent polling in those states.

Battleground States

Obama

McCain

Barr

Nader

Not Sure/Other

Colorado

44%

38%

8%

2%

8%

Florida

40%

43%

5%

1%

12%

Michigan

46%

37%

5%

1%

12%

Nevada

39%

38%

10%

3%

10%

New Hampshire

38%

42%

11%

1%

9%

New Mexico

46%

37%

5%

1%

11%

North Carolina

47%

39%

3%

2%

9%

Ohio

41%

36%

8%

1%

13%

Pennsylvania

46%

37%

5%

3%

8%

Virginia

43%

41%

5%

1%

10%


The exceptions are Colorado, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Ohio. And while the Ohio result shifts -- as you'll see tomorrow -- the Buckeye state back to Obama, it is still a very small change overall (and it only takes a little bit of one). Of the rest, only North Carolina changes the direction of the trend for August up to this point. And even then, the move toward McCain was minimal before the Zogby numbers were incorporated.

In the end, while it looks like an even distribution as far as the number of toss up states (and all states for that matter -- 19 - 14 in McCain's favor) heading in one candidate's direction or the other, McCain has to be given a slight edge because he has moved the three closest states (on the Electoral College Spectrum) in his direction. We should also note that Minnesota has crept toward McCain for the second consecutive month (or partial month in this case), yet remains on the upper end of Obama lean states. The situation is similar in Iowa as well. Though the Hawkeye state hasn't moved toward McCain in consecutive months, it has inched closer to McCain during August. It too remains solidly within the lean category for Obama, but if the current trend continues that could change.


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18 comments:

Jack said...

The map strikes me as ambiguous. McCain and Obama both gained in some swing states. The three darkest states on the map are all unimportant states (yes, I know Al Gore was the first man since Kennedy to win the election without winning Tennessee).

As for the moderate (1-2 point) swings, Obama probably won't win the election without Minnesota; I think it's liberal enough that it's barely a swing state. I mean, Al Franken is doing okay in the Senate race according to recent polls. If a man who has made such comments as he has about Republicans can be competitive, that says something about the state. Indiana is starting to look a bit tougher, and if it stays this way for too long might become unwinnable.

As for the states experiencing smaller swings, Obama's gained in most of them, but less than 1 point is quite a small gain even with this metric.

Allen said...

election-projection.net now displays the states that have changed in the last 10 days. It displays changes in the probability of win in the state, not the raw poll margin, and that can be more useful in determining whether the shift was significant.

The current #'s show McCain gaining significantly in several states (IN+26 OH+14 NH+13 MO+6 PA+4 NM+4), while Obama gained a smaller amount in only two states (NV+9 FL+4).

In other words, there was a shift toward McCain in August, but the shift was not as large as the media is making it out to be.

It also appears to me that the shift has ended, and we'll now be entering a new phase.

Josh Putnam said...

Jack,
I actually went to bed last night thinking I should have made at least some comments about the direction in which Iowa and Minnesota are moving. I'll add that in an updated version of the post.

I agree that less than one point is small, but that's a function of the growing number of polls that are determining each state's weighted average. In Obama's case though, having any states move in his direction, much less 15 of them (and not all blue states) in the midst of this current media narrative is revealing.

Allen is correct, though. There has been a move toward McCain, but it is smaller than it has been made out to be in some circles. That is the story of this race though. McCain makes small gains that are countered (at least in the polls) by a return to the "normal" trendlines in most states.

Allen said...

That is the story of this race though. McCain makes small gains that are countered (at least in the polls) by a return to the "normal" trendlines in most states.

In fact, what we might have seen is the opposite--Obama made a large gain following Clinton's withdrawal, and the Aug drop for Obama was a return to the (pre-convention) normal. Its a new game though, starting Friday.

BTW- slightly off-topic. I think the Obama campaign may have delayed the Biden announcement to Sat am to get as much mileage as possible out of "Homegate". Friday at 7 pm EDT, while I was eagerly waiting the announcement, I got an email from David Plouffe suggesting I should get enraged about homegate and write a letter to my local newspaper. I was like, WTF, that's yesterday's news, get on with it already!

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Very interesting.

I think the change on this map that is the most likely to be lasting is Indiana. It was always a surprise that it looked so close, and now it's moved more to the kind of states that's only like to go Obama if it's a significant win.

Minnesota, I think, is an anomaly based on problems with likely voter screens in that state.

I need to see another poll or two to see if Alaska is a Stevens effect.

It's possible we're seeing some consolidation of Mexican-Americans by Obama, particularly since the overall trend is slightly toward McCain, but the states that border Mexico moved slightly toward Obama.

The rest, I think, will be overwhelmed by effects of the VP picks and the conventions.

Jack said...

I think Mexican-Americans were generally in Obama's corner. I remember a poll a few weeks back that had Hispanics (and yes, I know not all Hispanics are Mexican-American, though I have no idea what the percentage is) going for Obama something like 66% - 23%. Certainly he couldn't have had that big a lead without very significant Mexican-American support.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Jack--we're saying the same thing. I think in the past month that Obama has gone from ahead with that group to way ahead with that group. That shift was cited by Chuck Todd as moving New Mexico away from toss-up status, if I remember correctly.

Jack said...

Well I'm glad we agree then! And thanks Scott for that one comment on 538 on gun control. I probably understand the issue more based on that one comment than anything I've read elsewhere. I hadn't really thought about it that way before but it makes sense.

(sorry about the deleted posts, just wanted to consolidate my comments into one)

Josh Putnam said...

I think that's right, Allen. They seem to have delayed for that reason and the Homegate issue was even worked into Biden's speech yesterday. I suspect we may hear it a time or two at the convention this week as well.

My statement referred more toward the overall narrative of the race. The underlying sentiment is that Obama "should" be ahead given current conditions. However, McCain has cast doubt on that, both during July and this month. But both times Obama has counteracted that with decent (though not as good as before) polling.


Scott,
Alaska definitely fits in the "need to see more to believe it" category. The tie and the five point Obama edge in recent polling has made it interesting, but I'll he'll need more results like that before I start talking about reverse coattails working in that race.

Also, sorry for the delay on the electoral college update. I'll save you the excuses, but promise that I'll have that up sometime tonight.

We've had a good discussion going with this one. Good stuff.

Josh Putnam said...

I know, you're working me to death here with all these deletions, Jack. Can you post the link to the comment from Scott? It may be off topic (and I'm lazy), but people's interest may be piqued by that. Thanks.

Jack said...

Of course "Obama 'should' be ahead given current conditions." It's just that there are a rare number of Democrats this year who are, well, you know. Even if they only make up 2% of the voters, that's very significant.

I'd like to see state-by-state numbers on supporters of Clinton who are not sure they'll vote for Obama. I wonder if people are more willing to do that if they're in a solid red/blue state, while perhaps Clinton supporters in swing states will hold their noses and vote for Obama.

(And it's not just Clinton supporters. I know someone (a liberal Democrat who can't stand Bush) who supported John Edwards and isn't sure whether he'll vote Obama or just not vote for president. Like me, though, he's in New York. If he was in, say, New Hampshire, I have little doubt he'd vote for Obama. That's why I'd like to see a state-by-state breakdown of the PUMA numbers.)

Jack said...

Sure, I'll link you to the comment.

Scott's comment

It's the fourteenth comment, after I had been debating the virtues of gun control with a really sarcastic conservative.

Josh Putnam said...

Thanks Jack.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Jack--this isn't quite what you want, but it's an attempt.

Rasmussen Obama support among Democrats by state, with leaners, in order of the Electoral College Spectrum. If you're hypothesis is right, we'd expect to see the numbers the highest near the Victory Line (Colorado):

Illinois: 91%
Maine: 77%
California: 86%
Minnesota: 89%
New Hampshire: 83%
Pennsylvania: 75%
Colorado: 83%
Nevada: 79%
Ohio: 77%
Virginia: 87%
Indiana: 80%
Florida: 80%
North Carolina: 74%
Georgia: 89%
Mississippi: 89%
Louisiana: 74%
Tennessee: 82%

Nope. If anything the states most in play also tend to have the lowest levels of Democratic support for Obama. I don't see evidence from this that Hillary die-hards are thinking of voting "strategically" at this point.

Jack said...

%#&!.

Josh Putnam said...

Scott,
Do we have a sense of what the partisan breakdown is in each of those states in these polls? Like in Georgia, are we talking about 89% of 40% of the folks in the poll (or in the state for that matter) or 89% of the 60% of respondents considering themselves Democrats?

And also, what are the GOP numbers for McCain?

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Give 'em a little data, and they always want more!

Ramussen hides the partisan breakdown...maybe they're adjusting for partisan ID on a state-by-state basis?

But I can give you the McCain GOP numbers:

Illinois: 91%
Maine: 79% (with Obama getting an eye-popping 17%)
California: 89%
Minnesota: 91%
New Hampshire: 90%
Pennsylvania: 86%
Colorado: 90%
Nevada: 85%
Ohio: 87%
Virginia: 86%
Indiana: 81%
Florida: 87%
North Carolina: 87%
Georgia: 92%
Mississippi: 91%
Louisiana: 93%
Tennessee: 91%

Maybe a hint of the same thing as for Obama: a few more crossovers in the competitive states.

Is it possible that people in battlegrounds take their vote more seriously because they think it might "count," and thus are more likely to crossover (in either direction)?

In this polling set, here's the breakdown by strong, lean, or toss up:

Strong and lean states:
Obama 85% McCain 90%

Leans:
Obama:80% McCain:87%

That's a kind of noticeable effect, at least for Obama.

Josh Putnam said...

You should know now that data is valued around here. Of course we prefer as much of it as we can get.

Thanks for those numbers, Scott.