Polling Noise: Where Are We At?

With under three weeks until the 2012 election, the landscape of the race for President has, counter to cable news opinion, changed little from August. President Obama continues to hold narrow leads in the national polls (most of the time), and narrow leads in enough battleground states to be the favorite. Events like conventions and debates move the needle, but the majority of the effect of these events is temporary.

Coming into the election, most competent observers gave the Democratic incumbent a baseline of 16 states and the District of Columbia worth 201 electoral votes. The same observers credited the Republican challenger with 23 states worth 191 electoral votes. That leaves 11 precious “battleground states”; you know if you live in one based on the volume of political ads (pity the poor souls in Ohio, who haven’t had the pleasure of a beer commercial in three months).

So what do the polls say about the state of the race for the White House? For reference, the RM uses the polling aggregate on pollster.com, which includes all of the top polls in a regression (it measures trend, rather than just a single point average.) Undecided percentages are a range of the most common results, and recent polling results are labeled “consistent” if greater than 2/3 of the polls show the same leader.

  • Colorado (9 votes)- Pres. Obama over Mr. Romney by 1 point, with 3%-6% of the electorate undecided and mixed recent polling. This race is a toss-up.
  • Florida (29 votes)- Mr. Romney over Pres. Obama by 1 point, with 2%-4% of the electorate undecided and consistent recent polls. This race is leaning towards Mr. Romney.
  • Iowa (6 votes)- Pres. Obama over Mr. Romney by 3.5 points, with 2%-4% of the electorate undecided and consistent recent polls. This race is leaning towards Pres. Obama.
  • Michigan (16 votes)- Pres. Obama over Mr. Romney by 7 points, with 3%-7% of the electorate undecided and consistent recent polls. This race is leaning towards Pres. Obama.
  • Nevada (6 votes)- Pres Obama over Mr. Romney by 3 points, with 1%-3% of the electorate undecided and consistent recent polls. This race is leaning towards Pres. Obama.
  • New Hampshire (4 votes)- Pres. Obama over Mr. Romney by 2 points, with 1%-4% of the electorate undecided and mixed recent polls. This race is a toss-up.
  • North Carolina (15 votes)- Mr. Romney over Pres. Obama by 3 points, with 1%-4% of the electorate undecided and consistent recent polls. This race is leaning towards Mr. Romney.
  • Ohio (18 votes)- Pres. Obama over Mr. Romney by 3 points, with 2%-4% of the electorate undecided and consistent recent polls. This race is leaning towards Pres. Obama.
  • Pennsylvania (20 votes)- Pres. Obama over Mr. Romney by 5.5 points, with 1%-4% of the electorate undecided and consistent recent polls. This race is leaning towards Pres. Obama.
  • Virginia (13 votes)- Mr. Romney over Pres. Obama by 0.1 (one tenth of one point), with 3%-4% of the electorate undecided and mixed recent polls. This race is a toss-up.
  • Wisconsin (10 votes)- Pres. Obama over Mr. Romney by 2.5 points, with 2%-4% of the electorate undecided and consistent recent polls. This race is leaning towards Pres. Obama.

The combination of current polling and baseline assumptions gives us a picture of the race in total:

President Obama- 277 electoral votes

Mr. Romney- 235 electoral votes

Up For Grabs- 26 electoral votes

Mr. Romney has not contested Pennsylvania, and faces an uphill climb in Michigan. He did poorly there in that state during the primary, garnering only 41% of the vote in a state where his father was a popular governor, and famously (and publicly) took a position against the successful auto bailout. Mr. Romney has never jumped to the front in Ohio, where the electorate has been voting for weeks. An Obama win is probably (certainty is not a good quality in punditry) already in the bag in the Buckeye State.

With 270 electoral votes needed for the White House, that means that Mr. Romney needs all of the toss-up states and one of the following two scenarios:

  1. Romney catches up in Wisconsin and defeats the President 271-267.
  2. Romney catches up in both Nevada and Iowa, and defeats the President 273-265.

With three weeks left, anything can happen, so the message is simple.

Vote!

 

The Rational Middle is listening…