Polls: Race remains close, Obama with slight edge (Update)

I haven’t paid much attention to polls during the last couple weeks of convention news as they’re not very reliable. That is, if they’re ever reliable, they’re at least more reliable after all the dust settles. That being said, I’d prefer to give them at least another week to let everything flush out before I put much stock in them.

However, in the interest of a slow news day and my area getting hammered with rain and wind from hurricane Hanna, this is what we have to work with.

My favorite examination of all the polls is the RealClearPolitics poll averages and their historical chart, which you can see below:

As you can see, the polling is handing Obama a 2.4 point advantage, on average.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the close polls:

A new national poll puts Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain in a dead heat – 42 percent to 42 percent – as they begin their two-month sprint to the Nov. 4 presidential election.

The CBS poll was conducted from Monday to Wednesday, before the GOP convention ended with McCain’s speech Thursday night. It shows a convention week bounce for the Arizona senator, who trailed Obama by 8 points, 48 percent to 40 percent, in a CBS survey taken last weekend.

“There’s no question this is a lot closer than most people might have predicted three months ago, when Hillary Clinton dropped out of the race,” said Dan Schnur, a former McCain spokesman who is director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

One would think that with the amount of money Obama has spent, and with Republicans running in a bad year, that he would be pretty firmly in the lead at this point. However, had McCain not chosen Palin, giving his campaign an injection of energy and news coverage, I’m betting these polls wouldn’t be quite this close.

More from the Chronicle:

The attention being given to Republicans is reflected in the national polling numbers and could give McCain a lead when the next round of polls comes out next week, said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

“There’s a rough correspondence between the national popular vote and the electoral vote,” he said. “The national polls do provide some clues as to what will happen in November.”

But even with the national polls giving McCain a boost, it’s tough to find many political professionals, even on the Republican side, who don’t see Obama as the leader heading into the final months of the election.

Because the Electoral College – not the popular vote – determines who is president, the presidential contest isn’t one national election but rather 50 statewide contests. And polls in those states give Obama and the Democrats a commanding lead in the electoral vote.

That’s the truth, the electoral college is indeed key. Below is the RealClearPolitics electoral map average. This is based on state polling averages, estimated guesses, and recent polling trends in the past several elections. It’s nowhere near 100% accurate, however, it does serve as a snapshot for the states which will be key battleground areas for each campaign:

The 126 toss-up electoral votes are the most important. I’ve seen some people go beyond this average and try to place some of them which I think is risky. States such as Virginia and Colorado have the potential to flip this year, which would change the landscape. However, based on 2000 and 2004, both states were staunchly Republican. If you choose to view the map without toss-ups, RCP gives Virginia to McCain and Colorado to Obama.

Very interesting data to look through at this point since things are finally starting to shape up.

I would like to reexamine this exact same data in one week and see how the conventions played out factoring in McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his VP.

Update

Of course, the day after I write this, the poll averages have become nearly tied with Obama having an average lead of 0.8 percent. Many have them tied with Gallup giving McCain a 3 point lead. Good news for the McCain campaign as it seems to indicate that, on average at least, the Palin pick has paid off.

As stated above, I will revisit the polls in a similar fashion this next Saturday and reexamine the same data sources.

  • Christopher Schwinger

    We ought to have Red-White-and-Blue States that indicate dissatisfaction with both parties! 🙂 (Instead of just red or blue for Republican and Democrat.)

  • I tend to look at Realclearpolitics for the average poll results, as watching CNN or Fox pick just one poll that goes in their favour is laughable at best.

    Palin definitely throws a spanner in the works for Obama, by how much we’ll have to give it a week or so for things to settle down a bit.

    I wonder how things would change if Biden pulled for whatever reason and then Obama chose Hillary as his running mate?

  • Christopher Schwinger

    Check out this site made by one of my online friends.

    http://www.constitutionalintegrity.com

  • The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do in the closely divided battleground states, but that we shouldn’t have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral vote — that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Because of state-by-state enacted rules for winner-take-all awarding of their electoral votes, recent candidates with limited funds have concentrated their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential election.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes– 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  • Todd

    Chris,

    I have not done so yet but the premise that the federal government was tasked with educating our citizens is incorrect to begin with. One on of the pages the following quote appears

    : “The federal government clearly demonstrated that it is incapable of properly educating students and adults on the American Federal System”

    The premise that the statement is apparently based on is that it is the federal governments job to educate us. Please tell me what federal school you went to as I assume all of them are STATE facilities. The fact that the states are taking federal money is a violation of the constitution due to the fact that the states agree to follow mandates placed on them by the federal government therefore encroaching on the peoples rights to govern themselves at the state level.

    Matter of fact I hope your site speaks to the issue of taxation and how it was adopted well after the constitution was written. Matter of fact I hope to see if your friend has the b***s to challenge the fact that Lincoln and the Northern states had the right to impose a federal mandate on the southern states who “joined the “UNION” freely.

    I know I run the risk of appearing to defend slavery but how exactly did that happen ?

    From what I see so far it the “liberal” version of how Bush attacked the Constitution not a group of non- partisan people concerned with the violation which has been taking place since the civil war