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.


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.