Sunday night, Gallup released their final national poll, based on an unusually large sample (over 2,000 adults), plus six polls in key battleground states (OH, FL, PA, IA, WI and MN). The results indicate that Kerry is finishing strongly and should be in a good position to pull off a victory on Tuesday.
In the national poll, Kerry is ahead by a point among RVs in a 2-way race (48-47) and by 2 points in a 3-way race (48-46). In 2000, it’s worth recalling, Gallup’s RV result was a better predictor of the final outcome than their LV result, as it has been in three of the last four presidential elections.
After allocating undecideds, Gallup’s LV result is a dead heat, 49-49. That’s a considerable improvement from their last poll, where Bush was running a 5 point lead, 51-46, among LVs. And keep in mind that in 2000 Gallup’s final LV result gave Bush a 2 point lead, while Gore went on to win the popular vote by half a point. In that context, a dead heat final estimate from Gallup makes Kerry look pretty good heading into election day.
Alan Abramowitz below has discussed the significance of Kerry’s solid lead among independents in the national poll (8 points among RVs; no LV breakdown available). The poll also shows Bush’s approval rating at just 43 percent in the battleground states and Kerry beating Bush by 10 points in those states (52-42).
Speaking of the battleground states, it struck me as quite significant that Gallup’s state polls showed Kerry with solid leads in both Ohio and Florida among both LVs and RVs, since those were the two states in the “big three” (OH, FL, PA) that seemed most competitive and were red states in 2000. And, while Gallup’s PA poll did show Bush with a lead among LVs, it also showed him trailing among RVs in a state where polls have very consistently shown Bush behind. The most reasonable assumption, it seems to me, is that Kerry is still the odds-on winner in that state.
The other results–a strong Bush lead among LVs in WI (but a small lead among RVs), a big lead for Kerry among both LVs and RVs in MN and close to a dead heat in IA–don’t change my impression that this is a good set of polls for the Kerry campaign. But I was surprised about how CNN and other media outlets played these polls, implying that they were too much of a mixed bag to be good news for either candidate. Ohio and Florida to Kerry? Ho-hum. Just another symptom of a dead-locked race, etc.
Reader Lawrence Becker shared my surprise and contributed this entry in what could be a new game: “How can CNN…….”
Again, I am amazed. But this time, it is the interpretation of the Gallup poll that amazes me, not the poll itself. As you know, Gallup just released a set of battleground state polls that (if accurate) are remarkably positive news for John Kerry and pretty devastating news for George Bush. And yet, CNN’s interpretation of these polls is, “President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry were almost evenly split among likely voters in six major
battleground states the weekend before the election.” Well, that’s
techinically true. Among likely voters, Bush is ahead in 3 of these states and Kerry is ahead in 3. But CNN, perhaps knowing Gallup’s “likely voter” model is very suspect goes on to say, “the figures were mostly the same among registered voters, except in Pennsylvania, where Kerry had a 2-point lead.” Well that’s a pretty big “exception,” wouldn’t you say?
Let’s take a look at how “split” the race really is in these states among BOTH likely voters AND registered voters.
(LV) Bush 46, Kerry 49
(RV) Bush 45, Kerry 49
(LV) Bush 48, Kerry 46
(RV) Bush 47, Kerry 46
(LV) Bush 44, Kerry 52
(RV) Bush 43, Kerry 51
(LV) Bush 46, Kerry 50
(RV) Bush 44, Kerry 51
(LV) Bush 50, Kerry 46
(RV) Bush 47, Kerry 49
(LV) Bush 52, Kerry 44
(RV) Bush 49, Kerry 46
In these six states, 95 electoral votes (as well as the presidency itself) are up for grabs. I distribute the all the other states to Kerry and Bush exactly as they voted in 2000 with one exception. I give New Hampshire to Kerry based on countless polls that show Kerry with a lead there. That leaves Bush with 227 electoral votes and Kerry with 216. If we just take Gallup’s likely voter results (a very risky proposition, indeed), we find that Kerry would win 57 of these 95 electoral votes (Florida, Minnesota, and Ohio). Kerry would end up with 273 electoral votes and the presidency. And that assumes Kerry really would lose Pennsylvania, a possibility I find very
hard to believe since Kerry has led EVERY ONE of the last 20 polls reported by NowChannel.com. But okay, we’ll settle for 273 electoral votes if we have to. It isn’t horseshoes and it isn’t hand grenades, right? So Kerry wins even with Gallup’s likely voter data -data we already know to be biased against the Democrats.
Now if we just take Gallup’s registered voter results, we find that Kerry would win 78 of 95 electoral votes (including the entire trifecta commonly known as “FLOHPA”). That would put Kerry at 294 electoral votes giving him some room for error in New Hampshire, New Mexico, etc. But wait, the news gets worse for Bush and better for Kerry. Bush is not at at 50% or above in any of these six states among registered voters. By now, we all know that Bush is highly unlikely to improve at all on his showing in poll numbers on the eve of Election Day. Gallup seems to acknowledge this fact by pointing out in their interpretation that while their national poll shows Bush at 49 and Kerry at 47 among likely voters nationwide, “Using voting behavior data from previous elections, the Gallup organization attempted to estimate how the undecideds would vote Tuesday. The result was a tie of 49 percent each for Bush and Kerry …”
Can Bush win if these registered voter numbers are accurate? Simply put …no. Can he even win among Gallup’s biased formulation of likely voters? Probably not. Are these poll numbers accurate? Who knows? But I ask the key question of our new game. How can CNN … read these numbers and come up with the headline, “Poll: Bush, Kerry split six key states?“? To use a favorite term of the President’s, that seems like a bit of an “exaggeration.”