The published polling in this year’s presidential race is unusually inaccurate because this is the first election in which who votes determines how they vote. Obama’s massive leads among blacks, Latinos, young people, and single women vie with Romney’s margin among the elderly, married white women, and white men. Tell me your demographic and I’ll tell you who you’re voting for and I’ll be right at least two times out of three!
Most pollsters are weighting their data on the assumption that the 2012 electorate will turn out in the same proportion as the 2008 voters did. But polling indicates a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the president among his core constituency. He’ll still carry them by heavy margins, but the turnout will likely lag behind the 2008 stats. (The 2008 turnout was totally unlike that in other years with all-time historic high turnouts among Obama’s main demographic groups).
Specifically, most pollsters are using 2008 party preferences to weight their 2012 survey samples, reflecting a much larger Democratic preference than is now really the case.
In my own polling, I found a lurch to the Democrats right after their convention, but subsequent research indicates that it has since petered out. Indeed, when one compares party identification in the August and September polls of this year in swing states, the Democratic Party identification is flat while the ranks of Republicans rose by an average of two points per state.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen has the best solution to the party id problem. He weights his polls to reflect the unweighted party identification of the previous three weeks, so he has a dynamic model which adjusts for sampling error but still takes account of gradual changes in the electorate’s partisan preferences.
Finally, with Obama below 50% of the vote in most swing states, he is hitting up against a glass ceiling in the high 40s. He can’t get past it except in heavily Democratic states like New York or California. The first time Obama breaks 50 will not be on Election Day. Either he consistently polls above 50% of the vote or he won’t ever get there in the actual vote.
So here’s where the race really stands today based on Rasmussen’s polling:
• Romney leads decisively in all states McCain carried (173 electoral votes).
• Romney is more than ten points ahead in Indiana – which Obama carried. (11 electoral votes)
• Romney leads Obama in the following states the president carried in 2008: Iowa (44-47) North Carolina (45-51), Colorado (45-47), and New Hampshire (45-48). He’ll probably win them all. (34 electoral votes).
This comes to 218 of the 270 Romney needs. But…
• Obama is below 50% of the vote in a handful of key swing states and leads Romney by razor thin margins in each one. All these states will go for Romney unless and until Obama can show polling support of 50% of the vote:
• Obama leads in Ohio (47-46) and Virginia (49-48) by only 1 point (31 electoral votes)
• Obama leads in Florida (48-46) and Nevada (47-45) by only 2 points (35 electoral votes)
If Romney carries Ohio, Virginia, and Florida, he wins. And other states are in play.
• Obama leads in Wisconsin (49-46) by only 3 points (10 electoral votes)
• Obama’s lead in Michigan is down to four points according to a recent statewide poll
• Obama is only getting 51% of the vote in Pennsylvania and 53% in New Jersey. And don’t count out New Mexico.
It would be accurate to describe the race now as tied. But Romney has the edge because:
• The incumbent is under 50% in key states and nationally. He will probably lose any state where he is below 50% of the vote.
• The Republican enthusiasm and likelihood of voting is higher
• The GOP field organization is better.
That’s the real state of play today.