Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

The Palin Effect I: Women

Posted Aug 31, 2008 at 1:48 AM by Maurice Berger

Pollster David Johnson of Strategic Vision reports that in OH, PA, WI, MI--battleground states central to this election--Obama is under-performing other Democratic candidates in recent cycles. According to the organization's president, Obama, in these states, is "only leading John McCain by 2% to 3% among females where traditionally there has been a double digit lead for Democrats." 

Was McCain's choice of Palin, in part, meant to appeal to these women? Over the past few days, PollTrack has noted a tendency among pundits and journalists to distort the attitudes of many of these voters, treating them as a monolithic bloc of feminists disaffected by Hillary Clinton's loss yet unwilling to vote for a candidate who supports gun rights and rejects abortion rights.

The reality on-the-ground is more complicated. Some--if not many--women in these states were Democratic or independent voters who supported Hillary Clinton. And, yes, some remain disgruntled. But many of these women are also, like Palin, pro-life and pro-gun. Thus, she may well be appealing to these voters, spurring McCain's support among women in these battleground states who continue to be disinclined to vote for the Democratic ticket.


Rasmussen: Palin Viewed More Favorably by Voters than Biden

Posted Aug 30, 2008 at 1:14 AM by Maurice Berger

Rasmussen Reports writes this morning that voters' initial response to McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, is higher than it was to Biden last week. 53% have a more favorable opinion of Palin; 26% less favorable. Biden was viewed positively by only 43% of voters.

Once again, a note of caution: public opinion takes a while to set in. So stay tuned.

Tomorrow's Map Today UPDATED

Posted Aug 29, 2008 at 9:30 AM by Maurice Berger

In addition to new calls this morning on Today's Map, PollTrack has updated Tomorrow's Map Today to reflect recent polling trends in a number of battleground states.

McCain Selects Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) New State Calls: AK, ND, MI

Posted Aug 29, 2008 at 3:19 AM by Maurice Berger

Sources within the Republican Party report that McCain has chosen Gov, Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate. Palin, a fiscal and social conservative, is a favorite of conservative activists. Pro-Life, she may help McCain solidify his standing with religious conservatives who have been slow to warm to his campaign. The second female candidate of either party to run on a national ticket (Dem. Geraldine Ferraro was the first in 1984), Palin could also help win over female voters, including some of Hillary Clinton's older and more conservative die-hard female supporters. Conversely, the freshly minted governor (she's been in office less than two years), may undercut the McCain campaign's argument that Obama is too inexperienced to lead.

As a result of McCain's selection, PollTrack will now make a series of new calls on Today's Map Today:

Alaska: Moves from "Leaning Republican" to "Safe Republican"

North Dakota: Moves from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Republican"

Michigan: Now that McCain has passed over Mitt Romney as his running mate, Michigan may be less in play for the Republicans. With Obama's numbers improving in the state recently, PollTrack moves Michigan from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democratic."

Rasmussen: Modest "Bounce" So Far

Posted Aug 29, 2008 at 1:48 AM by Maurice Berger

Like Gallup yesterday, Rasmussen reports a modest "bounce" for Obama coming out of his convention, with the Democrat now leading, 49% to 45%. But with nearly all of their daily tracking interviews completed over the post three days, but before the candidate's speech last night, we'll need to wait a few days to see the full effects of the convention on voter opinion.

Watch for McCain's selection of his running mate at noon (EST). PollTrack may be prepared to make new calls in several states based on this decision.

Gallup: Yes, A Bounce

Posted Aug 28, 2008 at 5:47 AM by Maurice Berger

The Gallup Daily Tracking Poll also discerns a convention "bounce" for Obama. The Democrat now leads by six points, 48% to 42%. In its latest analysis, "Obama Moves Ahead," Gallup writes: "The latest three-day Gallup Poll Daily tracking average (Aug. 25-27) is directly coincident with the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and is no doubt beginning to reflect the typical convention 'bounce' that Gallup has observed in most party conventions in recent decades."

Rasmussen: A "Modest Bounce"

Posted Aug 28, 2008 at 1:45 AM by Maurice Berger

While Obama's pick of Biden did not appear to lift his numbers--perhaps because it further alienated Hillary Clinton's most ardent supports--the Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll discerns a "modest" bounce for Obama as his convention unfolds: "Obama’s poll numbers have improved over the past couple of nights and today’s update shows a tie race because it includes a mix of both recent trends. But it seems likely that Obama will end the convention with a modest lead over McCain."

Is this bounce durable, however: will the Democrats maintain the lead given the imminent announcement of McCain's running mate (as early as this evening) and the start of the Republican National Convention, now four days away?


Where is the "Bounce"?

Posted Aug 27, 2008 at 1:56 AM by Maurice Berger

A Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll out this morning reports that  McCain has moved into the lead, "the first time since August 9 that [he] has held any advantage over Obama" by an albeit insignificant margin of one point: 47% to 46%. Perhaps more troubling for the Democrats: Gallup's Tuesday tracker (see, "Negative Bounce: Gallup Agrees" below) also showed McCain pulling into the lead at a time when a national candidate is usually enjoying a "bounce" due to the announcement of the VP nominee and the days of free air time afforded by the national convention.

Gallup's analysis of polling trends since the beginning of August suggests a drop off in support for Obama among conservative Democrats. The thing to watch: will Hillary Clinton's speech help improve Obama's standing with these voters? Also important: how will this convention play out with independent voters, whose allegiances have been fluid over the past nine months?

Once again, a note of caution: public opinion is often slow to form. The full effect of both conventions may not be clear for a while.

Negative Bounce: Gallup Agrees

Posted Aug 26, 2008 at 5:24 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack cautions not to read to much into a single Daily Tracking Poll, but Gallup's daily survey also suggests that neither Obama's selection of Biden--nor possibly the first night of the DNC--are helping lift the Democrat's overall numbers. In its daily report, "No Bounce for Obama in Post-Biden Tracking"--Gallup shows McCain pulling into the lead, 46% to 44%. Coupled with Rasmussen's results this morning, the Republican for the first time leads in Polltrack's daily tracking average: 46% to 45%.

We'll need a few more days to see whether this is a statistical anomoly or a real trend.

First Out of the Gate: Rasmussen--a Negative Bounce?

Posted Aug 26, 2008 at 2:00 AM by Maurice Berger

Rasmussen Reports is the first polling organization to attempt to discern voter reaction to the DNC. Their surprising conclusion: a negative bounce.  While it may well be too early to take such a reading seriously, Resmussen writes:

The Democratic National Convention has begun and the poll numbers are bouncing, but not in the direction that most people anticipated.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows Barack Obama attracting 44% of the vote while John McCain also earns 44%. When "leaners" are included, it’s still tied with Obama at 46% and McCain at 46%. Yesterday, with leaners, Obama had a three-point advantage over McCain.

PollTrack notes that Gallup Daily Tracking and CNN both reported the election dead even, in the days BEFORE the convention. So Rasmussen may just be catching up. Stay tuned as pollsters trade analyzes all week long.

Post-Convention Bounce

Posted Aug 26, 2008 at 1:46 AM by Maurice Berger

By now, you may have heard a lot about "bounce"--the ticking up in poll numbers after a presidential candidate's national convention. The average "bounce" is 5%. This week, Polltrack will be paying close attention to voter response to the Democratic National Convention (and next week to the Republican National Convention). Will Obama's numbers start nudging up in the Daily Tracking Polls? Will he get the post-convention bounce he needs to pull ahead of McCain?

And what of the unprecedented timing of the two conventions, now within days of each other? Will this rapid turn around--now a matter of a few days rather than the traditional lag of three to four weeks--combined with McCain's naming of his VP later this week blunt or distort this bounce?

Keep in mind: the two daily trackers analyzed on this site--Rasmussen and Gallup--represent a rolling average of nightly surveys over the previous three or four days. Thus, any meaningful improvement in Obama's numbers may not be felt until Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.

One problem for the Democrats, however, is the timing of the conventions relative to each other: the Republicans go last, usually the favored position, affording the party the "last word" as voters finally start focusing on the fall campaign.

CNN: Post-Biden, The Election Now A "Dead Heat"

Posted Aug 25, 2008 at 1:27 AM by Maurice Berger

A CNN poll conducted entirely after Obama's naming of Biden as his running mate shows the race a dead heat, at 47%-47%. The survey, which indicates that McCain has gained ground since July, also suggests that the naming of Biden has failed to quell the concerns of some Clinton supporters. As the CNN's polling directer notes, “The number of Clinton Democrats who say they would vote for McCain has gone up 11 points since June, enough to account for most although not all of the support McCain has gained in that time.” 

Yet, it may be too soon to tell if this trend will hold. For one, the Obama campaign plans to use the Democratic National Convention to unify the party and heal wounds left over from the primaries. Perhaps as important is the unreliability of "flash polls"--surveys completed during or immediately after an important event or news story in question. Such polling gauges the effects of the incident or event in question on voter sentiment--in this case the nomination of Biden--over a highly compressed time period. Thus, the reaction time of voters may be insufficient for public opinion to be fully formed.

Gallup & Rasmussen: Does Biden Help?

Posted Aug 24, 2008 at 1:25 AM by Maurice Berger

In a survey conducted yesterday and published this morning, Rasmussen Reports finds that 39% of voters believe that Obama made the right choice in selecting Biden as his running mate; 25% disagreed and another 35% are not sure. Women were less enthusiastic than men of the pick—33% of women say Biden was the right choice while 27% disagreed. It appears from these limited and early numbers that Biden may not resolve Obama's problem with Hillary  Clinton's most ardent female supporters.

In another flash poll completed yesterday by Gallup, the numbers suggest that the new VP nominee may have little effect on most voters: only 14% say that the selection of Biden makes them more likely to support Obama. 7% say less likely; 72% replied that it will have no effect at all.

A word of caution: it may take weeks or even months to understand the full effect of a VP pick. And most often, the VP candidate has only a modest effect, at best, on the outcome of a presidential election. In 1988, for example, Democrat Michael Dukakis lost with a running mate considered strong by most observers, Sen. Lloyd Bentson (D-Texas); his opponent Republican George H. W. Bush won, even though his choice, Sen. Dan Quayle (R-Indiana), was widely perceived as weak and inexperienced.

Key "Battleground" States Now Tied

Posted Aug 23, 2008 at 1:32 AM by Maurice Berger

Another indication of the closeness of the race: A new National Public Radio survey of likely voters in 19 key "battleground" states--states that have been competitive in recent cycles or have swung between parties, such as Ohio, New Mexico, Iowa, and New Hampshire--finds Obama with just a one point lead over McCain: 46% to 45%.

Joe Biden: The VP Effect + New Call Delaware: Leaning to Safe

Posted Aug 23, 2008 at 12:51 AM by Maurice Berger

Well, it's Sen. Joe Biden (D-DEL). The immediate question: how will his selection as Obama's running mate impact on their standing in the polls and electorally? For one, PollTrack will now move Delaware from ""likely Democrat" to "safe Democrat."

Beyond this, the implications of Biden's role on the ticket are unclear electorally. There is no one swing state that Biden can help lock in for Obama (as LBJ did for JFK in Texas in 1960, and Kaine or Bayh might have accomplished in this cycle, with Virginia or Indiana respectively). His experience, of course, could help with voters concerned about Obama's inexperience, a serious problem for him at the moment (see below, "Tightening Race: Crisis Management").

The big hurdle that Obama now faces, however--one that accounts to a great extent for the closeness of the race--is that McCain has unified his party and Obama has not. Will selecting Biden help bring disgruntled Clinton supporters into the fold, for example?  This seems unlikely right now.  And, of course, the VP selection rarely significantly alters the dynamics of an election.

How the Maps Work

Posted Aug 22, 2008 at 7:47 AM by Maurice Berger

For new visitors or for old visitors who would like a refresher course, here is a guide to PollTrack's unique mapping system. Remember, both Today's Map and Tomorrow's Map will be changing continuously throughout the election cycle, so check back often.

First, an overview: our innovative presidential election maps offer a snapshot of where things stand and where they are headed in the state-by-state hunt for electoral votes. Armed with public opinion polls, the history and demographics of each state, knowledge of the nation’s geographic and cultural diversity, and common sense and intuition, political director Maurice Berger offers continuous updates and a blog (below map) on the state of the presidential race. Today’s Map Today monitors its current status. Tomorrow’s Map Today charts its momentum in the coming days or weeks. And Election Day Today records the actual outcome of the 2012 presidential race.

Here's a guide to each map:

Today's Map Today: This map monitors the current status of the race. It gauges the relative strength of each candidate within each state as it presently stands. Each state is marked with its abbreviation and number of electoral votes. Click on a state for commentary in the ongoing PollTrack blog.

States are called on an ongoing basis: Blue and Red for “Safe” Democrat or Republican respectively, Light Blue or Light Red for states currently “leaning” toward one party or another. Determinations are based on a combination of factors, including poll averages, trends in most recent polling that contradict or call into question the accuracy of these averages, and on the ground reports and information. For diehard red or blue states (like Idaho or DC), little polling may be available, so the state will be called on the basis of on the ground reports and/or its stable voting history.

Tomorrow's Map Today: This map charts the momentum of the race. It tracks the hunt for electoral votes in each state as it might play out in the coming days or even weeks. States are called on an ongoing basis: Blue and Red for trends that suggest “Safe” Democrat or Republican respectively, Light Blue or Light Red for trends that suggest a state is “leaning” toward one party or another. Determinations are based on a combination of factors, including movement in the most recent polling, a state’s demographics and voting history, on the ground reports and information, and news about a candidate's state-wide political activities.

Election Day Map Today: This map forecasts the outcome of the 2012 presidential race. Win Democrat or Win Republican respectively. Determinations are based on a combination of factors, including long term and recent trends in state-wide polling, a state’s demographics and voting history in relationship to these trends, on the ground reports and information, and news about a candidate's state-wide political activities. States are called on an ongoing basis, with Blue (Democrat) and Red (Republican) indicating PollTrack’s long-term prediction for a state. NOTE: calls are made only when voter opinion begins to solidify in each state, thus this map will fill-in slowly over the next two and half months.


Welcome to PollTrack!

Posted Aug 22, 2008 at 2:58 AM by Maurice Berger

Welcome to PollTrack! For those joining us for our launch, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the site and its features. Remember to read, How the Maps Work and A Note on Poll Averages, both available in the menu at right.

I've been posting and analyzing for about two weeks, so please read the string of posts below to catch up.

And remember to come back often: the maps, blog, tracking the nation statistics, and tallies will change throughout the day, every day to reflect shifts, both large and small, in the direction and mood of voters on the ground.

New features will roll out in the coming weeks, including our Senate Race Map, House Race Chart, and Voices on the Ground, the latter our gallery of words, photographs, images, and video from across the nation that will document events pertaining to Election 2008, both ordinary and extraordinary.

The Clinton Factor

Posted Aug 21, 2008 at 2:28 AM by Maurice Berger

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll suggests that Hillary Clinton's supporters are sharply divided in their support for Barack Obama. While the poll directors conclude that “Whatever momentum that Obama took into the summer, he really appears to have lost it,” they attribute this erosion to the candidate's failure to unify his party, in contrast to McCain.

More troubling for Obama, perhaps, are the numbers concerning voters who supported Clinton in the primaries and caucuses: according to the survey, 52% now say they will vote for Obama, 21% are backing McCain, and 27% percent are undecided or want to vote for someone else. As the NBC/WSJ points out, voters who supported Clinton in the primaries — but do not now back Obama--"tend to view McCain in a better light than Obama and have more confidence in McCain’s ability to be commander-in-chief."

Though the NBC/WSJ numbers in contrast to other recent polls suggest a somewhat higher percentage of Clinton voters who refuse to support Obama, the implications for him in all of these surveys are dire. Thus, a major question looms about party unity: will the Democratic National Convention be enough--with speeches from both Clintons and a night devoted to women's issues--or must the Obama campaign go one step further and nominate Hillary Clinton for Vice President?

Does McCain Have New Momentum?

Posted Aug 20, 2008 at 2:40 AM by Maurice Berger

Two new polls out to day suggest that the McCain campaign may have gained momentum over the past few weeks. According to the Zogby/Reuters survey, McCain leads Obama among likely voters by 46% to 41% percent, erasing Obama's 7% advantage in July and taking his first lead in the monthly Reuters/Zogby poll. The George Washington University Battleground Poll, also published today, gives McCain a more modest 1% lead.

One problem for Obama: recent polls indicate that while McCain has solidified the Republican base, Obama has not. On average, as many as a quarter of Democrats now say they will vote for the Republican or an Independent candidate or not vote at all. The problem becomes more serious among the Democrats who supported Clinton in the primaries: as many as one third in some polls report that they will not support Obama. It will be interesting to track Democratic voter support for Obama in light of the upcoming Democratic National Convention,perhaps an opportunity to help bring the party together?

Minnesota Now Too Close To Call

Posted Aug 19, 2008 at 2:07 AM by Maurice Berger

The most recent polling from Minnesota--a key swing state--suggests that the race has tightened considerably, with McCain pulling nearly even with Obama. One of the most reliable public opinion polls in this cycle, Survey USA, shows the two in a statistical tie, with Obama inching out McCain by two points.

Once reliably Democratic, Minnesota's presidential races have been surprisingly close in the past few elections. Another reason for the closeness of the race: the Democratic challenger in the state's US Senate race--between comedian and writer Al Franken (Dem) and incumbent Norm Coleman (Rep)--has faltered, leaving the incumbent in a better position that most had predicted even a few months earlier. The locale of the Republican convention next month--Minneapolis--may also work in McCain's favor in November.

How Close is Close?

Posted Aug 14, 2008 at 4:26 AM by Maurice Berger

While Pew and most other recent surveys call the race a statistical tie--based on the closeness of the numbers and the polls' margin of error--the consistency of these results suggest that Barack Obama does maintain a modest national lead, despite losing ground since June.  All but a few national polls (the exception: Zogby and several Rasmussen Daily Tracking results) give Obama, on average, a 2-4% advantage nationally. 

The problem for both candidates: neither crosses the 50% mark, suggesting a large undecided block as well as support for neither or for third party candidates. Of course, the importance of this threshold declines in relation to third party support (now at around 5% on average for Nader and Barr combined). If these numbers increase considerably--as they did in 1992 for Ross Perot, who wound up with 19% of the vote--then, of course, it is likely that neither Obama nor McCain will win a majority of the electorate in a relatively close race. (In 1992, Clinton's margin of victory was 5.5%, but he won with only 43% of the vote).

But, of course, American presidential elections are not won on the basis of the national popular vote. Thus the literal tie seen in the poll averages of a number of key swing states--Ohio, Virginia, and Nevada, for example--may indeed suggest a race that will go down to the wire.

Tightening Race: "Crisis" Management?

Posted Aug 13, 2008 at 6:43 AM by Maurice Berger

As if to underscore the closeness of the national race, a new Pew Research poll, suggests that Obama's national lead over McCain has disappeared. The race is now a statistical tie, with Obama barely edging McCain, 46% to 43%, down from the eight point lead held by Obama in June and a result consistent with most other national polls. According to Pew, the Republican base is getting behind McCain. Another key finding: McCain rates considerably higher than Obama on the question of leadership: In contrast to June polling, "An even greater percentage of voters . . . now see McCain as the candidate who would use the best judgment in a crisis, and an increasing percentage see him as the candidate who can get things done."

The aspect of voter response concerning "crisis management"--in a survey taken over the past few days--begs the following question: Is the military conflagration between Russia and Georgia making voters nervous, and thus less likely to take a chance on a younger candidate with relatively little military and foreign policy experience? Is the McCain campaign's effort to paint Obama as a self-involved "celebrity" contributing to voter perceptions of McCain as the more serious candidate, better able to handle a crisis? To what extend does Obama's race and the perception advanced by some of his critics that he is "different" or even un-American play into voter anxieties about him? Will McCain's recent gaffes and misstatements ultimately undermine his message of stability, good judgment, and leadership?

New Swing State Analysis: FL, IW, MN, MO, OH, PA

Posted Aug 13, 2008 at 3:15 AM by Maurice Berger

Why is it so close? Indeed, since Obama's widely reported overseas trip--and the rush of anti-Obama ads and videos that paint the candidate as elitist and out of touch with most voters--McCain has shown signs of closing the gap further. In a few key swing states, such as Missouri and Florida, McCain is actually pulling ahead by a modest margin. While my polling average for Florida (for the past month) shows the election extremely close (+1.8% REP), the most recent round of polling indicates a modest surge for McCain, thus the state is now "Leaning Republican." In the mother of all swing states, Ohio, McCain has pulled even to an absolute tie (45.3% to 45.3% poll average). And the race has narrowed slightly in Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Minnesota, although the Democrat retains his lead in all three states. The candidates' inability to break the 50% mark in any swing state, suggests that neither is walking away with this race.

Terry Madonna, poll director of the Franklin & Marshall organization, says of the narrowing of the race in Pennsylvania: "[Obama's] on third base, but so far he can't seem to find a way to get home. Look at the underlying trends. The economy is a huge issue. Bush's ratings are terrible. But too many voters are concerned about Obama's experience, and don't yet have enough confidence in his ability to lead."

A Real Contest

Posted Aug 10, 2008 at 8:58 AM by Maurice Berger

The one question I have heard most often over the past month from voters is this: why isn't Obama walking way with this election? Why are the candidates virtually tied at this point? Indeed, as our own statistical indicators suggest (79% of voters believing that the nation is on the wrong track, President Bush's record low approval ratings, major storm clouds over the economy), this election should be an easy win for the Democrats. Yet, the candidates remain within a few points of each other nationally. And neither has broken the 50% mark. Over the next few weeks, I will examine the reasons for this competitiveness, tracking voter sentiment at close range, but also with an eye towards future trends.