This month, ARG is polling every state in the presidential contest. Recently, they released the first 20 of these polls and the results looked pretty good for Kerry. How much faith should we put in these polls? How well did their polls turn out in 2000 when they also polled all 50 states?
Alan Abramowitz has looked at ARG’s track record and here’s what he found:
My analysis of ARG’s September, 2000 poll of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia indicates that, in general, the poll was highly accurate. On average, the state by state results yielded an average lead for Al Gore of about 1 percentage point in September. On Election Day, Gore actually lost the average state by an average margin of 3.6 percentage points even though he narrowly won the national popular vote. This is due to the equal weighting in the average of heavily populated states and sparsely populated states. Gore carried 6 of the 9 most populous states while Bush carried 15 of the 20 least populous states.
The 4.6 point shift to Bush between the ARG poll and Election Day can easily be explained by the fact that the poll was conducted at a time when Gore was leading in almost all of the national polls, before the first presidential debate. By Election Day, of course, the race had narrowed to a virtual dead heat.
The ARG September poll accurately predicted the winner of 45 of the 50 states, missing only Missouri, West Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. I am, of course, counting ARG’s poll showing Al Gore leading George Bush in Florida as a correct prediction since Gore did actually receive more votes, or at least intended votes, than Bush in Florida.
The correlation between the ARG September poll results and the actual election results is a very impressive .95. This means that the results of the ARG poll explain about 90 percent of the variation in the state-by-state election results.
The ARG 50-state poll, done well before Election Day, provided to be a much more reliable predictor of the actual results of the 2000 presidential election than the Gallup tracking poll which gyrated wildly in the weeks leading up to the election, sometimes showing sizeable leads for Bush, sometimes showing sizeable leads for Gore, and sometimes showing a close race. Indeed, only 10 days before Election Day, Gallup’s tracking poll had George Bush leading Al Gore by 13 points–similar to Bush’s lead over John Kerry [among likely voters] in Gallup’s most recent 2004 poll.
Therefore, we can have a good deal of confidence in the accuracy of ARG’s 2004 50-state poll which, based on the first 20 states that have been released thus far, seems to indicate that, contrary to some (but not all) recent national polls, we have a very close presidential contest. Kerry is leading by a comfortable margin in every blue state. More importantly, he is leading in 4 of the 5 battleground states included in the first wave and is only trailing by 1 point in Colorado–a state that George Bush carried by 9 points in the 2000 election. Another very recent newspaper poll in Colorado shows the same thing.
My advice is watch the rest of the ARG state polls as they are released….I predict that they will continue to show a very competitive battlefield in the 2004 presidential election.
ARG releases the rest of their state polls on September 22. Stay tuned.