I haven’t written anything about the US elections yet this cycle. This is for two reasons, first because there are vast amounts of US polling to get on top of in order to say anything sensible, secondly because there are already some very good US polling sites that I couldn’t hope to better. If you want to read wise and sensible analysis of US polling don’t hang around here, go and read Mark Blumenthal and Simon Jackman.
However, since we are now within a week of the election I thought I may as well put some threads up if only for discussion.
First, all things I complain about in coverage of UK polling are the same in US polling. Most notably warnings about cherry picking, comparing like to like and being aware of methodological differences and house effects from different pollsters. For example, I keep seeing people cherry picking out Rasmussen polls and Gallup polls to claim that Romney is doing better. Rasmussen are one of the most prolific polling outfits in the US, but also tend to produce some of the most Republican results. Gallup use a very tight screen for likely voters that also tends to produce favourable figures for the republicans. Look at most other polls and Obama is doing better.
Secondly, remember that the person who gets the most votes doesn’t necessarily win, it is who wins states with enough electoral votes to win a majority (270) of the electoral college. The average picture across all the national polls in the US has Romney and Obama very much neck and neck. However, polls from the key swing states, which themselves have become very regular as the election approaches, have Obama clearly ahead in terms of electoral votes.
There are various US websites (I’ve already mentioned Pollster.com, though fivethirtyeight tends to be the best known these days) that make projections based on state polling, and these all show Barack Obama with large leads in terms of electoral votes.
This has, in turn, produced some (generally pretty poorly informed) criticism of the projection sites, normally based around what sort of weights they give to different polls, what polls they include and so on. I don’t think these criticisms carry any weight, however even if one is sceptical about the weightings, filters, trends, house effect adjustments or whatever that the various projection sites make, the bottom line is that even if one takes just a crude average of state polls, Obama is still ahead.
As I write, Obama is almost undoubtedly ahead in states worth 243 votes. He needs to pick up another 27 electoral votes to win – looking at the recent polling in states that are in play:
- In Wisconsin (10 votes) Rasmussen has the candidates equal in their last poll, but all three polls done in the last week have Obama significantly ahead
- There have been four Iowa (6 votes) polls in the last week, three have had Obama ahead, the other had Romney one point ahead (but had a very small sample size)
- In Ohio (18 votes), which is very likely to be the deciding state, there have been 11 polls in the last week, ten showed Obama ahead, one had Romney ahead
- In New Hampshire (4 votes) there have been three polls in the last week, all showing Obama ahead.
- In Colorado (9 votes) the four polls in the last week have been evenly split, 2 showing Obama ahead, 2 Romney ahead (though the Obama polls had bigger leads)
- In Virginia (13 votes) there have been 9 polls in the last week, 2 showed Romney ahead, 1 a tie, 6 Obama ahead.
- Florida (28 votes) is really neck-and-neck, the last week had three Romney leads, four Obama leads, two ties
Whatever you think of complicated projections, just on the raw averaged polling numbers Obama would get in excess of 290 electoral votes and win the Presidency. If the polls are correct, then Obama is on the way to winning, with very little time indeed to turn it around.