Day By Day

Monday, September 08, 2008

Polls 2 [updated, bumped] The Power of Palin

The polls continue to move in McCain's favor. Today [Sept 6th] the Gallup tracking poll has Obama two points ahead of McCain 47% to 45%. [here, analysis here]. Looking at the time-series data reveals a few interesting details.

Prior to the Democratic National Convention the race was locked into a remarkably stable pattern. For several days Obama had polled 45% to 46% of the sample while McCain had polled 43% to 45% of the sample. The gap between the two candidates ranged from 0% to 2% with McCain never taking the lead.

This pattern did not break until the last day of the Democratic Convention when is suddenly shifted into a new stable pattern. On August 28th Obama opened a six point lead and over the following seven days that lead held. Obama consistently polled between 48% and 50% and McCain polled between 41% and 43% and the gap between them held steady at six to eight points.

You can see why Democrats were so jubilant in the post-convention period. Obama had indeed gotten a significant bounce and it was proving to be stable, even through the Republican Convention. On the day that McCain gave his acceptance speech Obama's lead was seven points, 49% to 42%. You can also see why McCain felt that he had to shake things up. Sarah Palin's nomination was just such a move, and it seems to have worked.

Since then things have begun to shift once again. On the first day after the convention closed McCain recovered to his previous position, polling 44% and following with 45% today. Obama's position also changed, declining to 47% today, the first time in over a week he has polled outside his post-convention range.

Right now the polls are in a state of flux. We may have returned to the pre-convention situation where the two candidates are running close to each other with a very slight advantage to Obama. Or, McCain may have evened the race or perhaps gone ahead. Certainly the momentum is in his favor. Time will tell.

One other point to note is with the undecided/neither vote. In every poll prior to the Republican National Convention undecided/neither polled 10% to 11% of the respondents. This remained stable despite a dramatic shift in support for Obama and McCain. This changed suddenly, however, with Hurricane Gustav. Since then the undecided/neither has polled 8% of the respondents with the exception of one day when it rose to 9%. This shift took place before the Republican Convention opened and has remained stable since.

Much is uncertain in these figures. To some extent the stability of patterns is due to the smoothing effect of calculating rolling three day averages, but three points do stand out. The Democrats got a significant boost from their convention, the Republican convention seems to have canceled most or all of that boost, and Hurricane Gustav helped a significant number undecided or alienated voters to make up their minds.

In other words we seem to be back to where we were before the conventions, only with more people paying attention. It's too early to say whether or not Palin's or McCain's speeches made much of a difference if any.


Zogby has released a new poll showing McCain-Palin ahead of Obama-Biden by 3.8% [49.7% to 45.9%]. The poll was taken on Sept 5-6, well after the Republican Convention and shows gains for both campaigns. In the previous week McCain-Palin gained 2.6% and Obama-Biden gained 1.3%. As of Sept. 6 undecided/neither was only 4.4% so there are few independents left to convince. Both sides have firmed up their support.

The polls internals are interesting. The Palin pick seems to have hurt McCain among independent woman voters, who have moved toward Obama, but this is more than compensated by pick-ups among men and among Catholic women and "values" voters.

Zogby reports and analyzes the poll results here.

What does this add to our understanding of the campaign? Simply this: the race is still very close and the number of uncommitted voters is diminishing fast. From this point on nearly all of the gains made by one campaign will come at the expense of the other. The Democrats seem to be firm and the disaffected Hillaryites are overwhelmingly breaking for Obama, but with the Palin pick Republicans, too, are united, gaining strongly among undecided Catholics and conservative men. This is not good news for the Democrats. As I have pointed out many times before, the historical record is clear -- in a head to head confrontation in national elections, with both parties united, the Republicans nearly always win.

And finally there is the Rasmussen Poll reported today which shows that the race between Obama and McCain is tied at 46% [with leaners they are tied at 48%].


On Sept 7th Gallup's tracking poll has McCain ahead of Obama by three points [48% to 45%], a five point swing from the previous day.

The USA/Gallup has McCain four points [50% to 46%] ahead of Obama among registered voters and leads by a whopping ten points [54% to 44%] among likely voters. What is more the Palin nomination has energized Republicans 60% of whom are now enthusiastic about voting for the Party ticket.

It is quite clear -- Sarah is having a major impact on the race -- the question is, how much of this is just convention bounce and how much is lasting?

Time will tell..., stay tuned.