Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Update: The Electoral College from a Different Angle

I'm a couple of days late getting this up, but one of our loyal readers and commenters, Scott, updated his examination of the electoral college over the weekend, and I thought I'd put a map to it so we can "see" the shifts. For those who missed the first version, you can find it here. Here's the premise (...from that post):

There are two basic questions being asked:
1) Is one of the candidates above the 50% mark in a state currently?

2) Has one of the candidates been the only one to surpass 50% in any reputable state poll?
If the answer is yes to both, then that implies there has been some consistency to the candidate being or having been over 50% in those averages. Those are the states that are designated solid states for either McCain or Obama.

If the answer to the second question is yes but the answer to the first question is no, that state is a lean state. In other words, there is some potential there for one of the candidates to cross that threshold. It has happened before. However, that support has either waned and is dormant or is latent in the current period.

If the answers to both questions are no, then that state is a toss up according to this metric. In this scenario, neither candidate has demonstrated the level of support in the polls to translate to an outright win in the state. As Scott put it:
"The idea is that if a state consistently polls 50-47, regardless of the methodology of the poll or the state of the national race, it's very hard for the trailing candidate to win. But if a state has a lot of polls like 46-40, but the leading candidate never breaks 50, the trailing candidate has a chance."
He added:
"There are two different ways a state can end up a toss-up. One is to have neither candidate reach 50 in any poll since McCain became the presumptive nominee. The other is to have both candidates do it, but to have neither break 50 in the pollster.com average."

And how does this change things on the map?

Changes (Sept. 23 - Oct. 6)
StateBeforeAfter
New Jersey
Obama lean
Strong Obama
Oregon
Obama lean
Strong Obama
Washington
Obama lean
Strong Obama
Nevada
Toss Up
Obama lean
Florida
McCain lean
Toss Up
North Carolina
McCain lean
Toss Up
West Virginia
Toss Up
McCain lean
Arkansas
McCain lean
Strong McCain
Montana
McCain lean
Strong McCain

As Scott said in the comments to the original post the other day:
"There are more toss-up EV's than previously, not less, but all of the gain came out of McCain's lean totals. In addition, Nevada moves out of toss-up status toward Obama, and New Mexico stands right on the edge of doing so."

[Click Map to Enlarge]

What we get, though, is a much darker map. The McCain lean states and the strong McCain states sum to 185 electoral votes while the total of the comparable Obama categories is at a nearly foolproof 269 electoral votes. As is the case in many of the other electoral college analyses out there, the blue states and most of the battleground states are moving toward Obama and some traditionally red states are lining up behind McCain.

Good stuff, Scott. Thanks again.


Recent Posts:
Talk About Bad Timing

The Electoral College Map (10/8/08)

Live Blog and Open Thread: 2nd Presidential Debate: Town Hall Meeting

2 comments:

SarahLawrenceScott said...

I've been updating this about every two weeks, and we're two weeks until the election, so I'll update today and then right on election eve.

Toss-up --> solid Obama: NM, VA
Obama lean --> solid Obama: CO, MN, WI, MI, PA
McCain lean --> toss-up: MO, WV
McCain solid --> McCain lean: MT, ND

New totals:
Solid Obama: 282 (!)
Leaning Obama: 5
Toss-up: 82
Leaning McCain: 17
Solid McCain: 152

While every change favored Obama, it's worth noting that Florida briefly turned solid Obama between updates, before going back to toss-up status.

I'll also note that under this methodology, the current toss-up's can't go to lean no matter what, because both candidates have had polls showing them breaking 50. They are "battlegrounds"--they can shift to one candidate's camp, but they no longer have the luxury of "leaning," as the race in these states is not due to people who have not yet decided, but rather to people changing their minds.

Josh Putnam said...

Excellent! I'll try and get a map up to go along with this tomorrow.