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.

282 Responses to “US Presidential election”

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  1. The (psychologically important) YouGov Labour lead is back in double figures over the fortnight… ave 10.4%.

    Frequency: 7%(1), 8%(1), 10%(2), 11%(4), 12%(1), 13%(1).

  2. NIESR forecasting 0.1 shrinking for the economy for this year, followed by 1.1% growth for 2013 and 1.7% for 2014.

    -0.1% for the year would mean a modest -0.2% shrinkage for Q4 – but given the Olympic sales bounce, the underlying figure might be closer to flat.

    1.1% growth for next year would require more than 0.3% Q/Q growth for each Q next year [1] – which is entirely plausible given the 0.3% underlying growth for Q3 this year.
    Fingers crossed that they’re right.

    We’ll know in about 6 months time – if Q1 2013 shrinks after Q4 2012 does, that 1.1% growth will start to slip away.
    I’m going to be ignorantly optimistic because we can’t, as a nation, afford another proper recession (as opposed to the ‘technical’ one we’ve just had) so wait and see.

    [1] This seems contradictory, but you have to remember that yearly growth is the sum of 4 Quarters – so shrinkage in Q4 means that Q1 2012 will probably be small compared to 6 months earlier, etc

  3. MITM,

    ‘ I think the perception is that most of the networks lean to the left, only Fox is on the right.’

    That is the ‘perception’ of right-wingers, not most people.

    It is also propaganda assiduously promoted and repeated in an attempt to shift the entire media spectrum even further to the right. See what is happening now at the BBC, with it ‘reacting’ to these claims by taking them seriously. They should reflect on the fact that a majority of the populaton are not right-wingers and right-wingers have no right to demand equality when they are a minority.

    US media is corporate. If corporations are now ‘left-wing’ we may as well give up trying to understand politics and media.

  4. Romney/UK

    The UK press would tear him apart: it would be a non-starter in my opinion.


    Yes no UK politician would ever get away with saying ‘20% across the board tax cuts and I will figure out later how I’ll pay for them’

    Also economist can help me here but USA is Keynsian economically they do not believe in cutting spending in a recession they believe in stimulus and putting more cash into the economy. Yes?

  6. Re UK polls, I said I thought the gloom would descend on the Govt with the darkening days.

    I expect their numbers to ne worse over the weekend and then the by-elections through to xmas.

    Beyond that they will need an awful lot of good news to bounce back. Far better to be fairly unknown/unpopular like EM than to have lost your popularity like DC. Its the humptydumpty system – although I agree that using horses to try to put him together again was a daft idea

  7. Malcolm Redfellow – no, your not really missing anything. One thing to bear in mind though is that US polls normally quote their sample size in terms of registered or, more often by this stage of the cycle, likely voters (e.g. sample of 500 LV).

    In comparison, GB pollsters normally quote the entire sample size, even if voting intention figures are only based on likely voters. For example, an MORI poll quotes a sample size of 1000 people, but voting intention figures may only be based on 600 or so people who are certain to vote.

    Hence the actual samples sizes GB and US pollsters talk to may not be that different.

  8. On the US election, there is a case to be made for Obama sweeping ALL the swing states, and that seems to be where the polls are heading.

    If he takes Florida, can you really see North Carolina and Virginia going for Romney? Were they storm hit at all?

  9. paulcroft

    The problem with the Humpty Repair project wasn’t the King’s Horses, it was the King’s Men.

    If they had had fair elections and fair and open competition and left policy to the Civil Service, ol’ Humpty could have been back balancing on that wall for generations.

  10. “They should reflect on the fact that a majority of the populaton are not right-wingers and right-wingers have no right to demand equality when they are a minority.”

    Does your ethos apply to women, ethnic minorities and lgbt groups?

    Don’t look now, but that kind of thinking would be classed as ‘right wing’ by left wingers.


    One state where the urban vote actually reports in FIRST is Pennsylvania. I was over there in ’88 and it was absolute agony watching the returns come in on television: a sizeable Dukakis margin in the accummulated popular vote gradually shrank down to DUKE 51%: BUSH 49%, then to 50%:50% and finally ended on DUKE 49%: BUSH 51%. The early returns from Phili and Pittsburgh weren’t quite enough to withstand the solid Bush margins in the rural “T” area situated inbetween the two big cities.

  12. Statgeek,

    ‘Does your ethos apply to women, ethnic minorities and lgbt groups?

    Don’t look now, but that kind of thinking would be classed as ‘right wing’ by left wingers.’

    Women are not a minority as far as I know, nor are the others you mention conducting a campaign suggesting that corporate media is ‘left-wing’ when it isn’t.

    As for my ethos, I was unaware I was exposing it for public debate. I made a point in response to someone else I disagreed with.

  13. Statgeek

    Fox news is the only station I know that monitors and critizises the output by the other news stations, pressurising them to run with the Fox news agenda.

  14. Mikems I suggest you actually watch American Networks before passing a comment. It’s not like the UK where networks have to try and appear non bias. In the US Fox is openly supporting Romney and have endorsed him, NBC, ABC are openly supporting Obama and have endorsed him, it’s not a matter for debate.

    The same is for the papers, in the UK it’s very clear that the press is dominated by the right, the majority of the big papers all support Conservatives, Telegraph, The Sun, The Times, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, Financial times, The Economist, The Spectator.

    The only main papers on the left are Daily Mirror The Guardian, New Statesman, The Independent (Wikipedia says Independent Urges anti-Conservative tactical voting, doesn’t seem very independent) and something called The Morning Star which I’ve never heard of but seems to be communist.

    Whereas in the US it’s the reverse, very few papers lean to the right, the only big one I can think of is The Wall Street Journal. Main ones like New York Times are firmly supporting Obama now. There was an interesting change in the Des Moines Register though who had supported Democrats since the 70’s but have now switched to Romney though.

  15. @ Tinged Fringe

    “Heart in the right place –
    Con – 20 (-3)
    Lab – 31 (nc)
    Lib – 16 (-1)

    Succeeded in moving on –
    Con – 16 (-1)
    Lab – 22 (-1)
    Lib – 7 (+1)”

    These numbers seem pretty low for each party. It suggests that none of them are viewed retty favorably.

    “Of course, Romney is fairly unknown here while Obama is well known,etc, etc – so perhaps Conservatives would vote Romney if he were running here (given the Romneyshambles, I doubt it, but who knows).”

    Ever seen the musical or movie the Producers? I feel like the reaction that Tories have to Republicans are much like the reactions at audiences pre-intermission have to Springtime for Hitler. (Technically this is not an invocation of god’s law but a movie reference instead).

  16. ““Of course, Romney is fairly unknown here while Obama is well known,etc, etc – so perhaps Conservatives would vote Romney if he were running here (given the Romneyshambles, I doubt it, but who knows).””

    I know it’s not a scientific poll but the BBC have this thing where they go to party conferences and ask them to put balls into one of 2 boxes to vote on whathever the question that is.

    The question at the Conservative party conference was do you support Romney or do you support Obama. Obama won pretty handily.

    Also Amber showed an article the other day saying that on Europe as a whole, Obama would get 90%, to achieve 90% he’d need to have a large support amongst European(including UK) Conservatives.

  17. Socal:

    We’re an increasingly cynical nation in my view and, in general, there is no adulation for prominent political figures like there would be in the State.

    I also think that in your ststem, once elected, the President embodies the Nation. Over here, once elected, its all downhill for the Prime Minister.

    I think it got worse under Tony Blair because there was such initial enthusiasm and support, followed by enormous disillusion: same with Brown in a way.

    Generally we seem disinterested, trust no-one and are too lazy/apathetic to try to get involved and change things ourselves. Tis all a bit sad.

  18. @ MikeMS

    “That is the ‘perception’ of right-wingers, not most people.”

    Thank you.

    As far as I’m concerned, most major news media organizations are right wing. Although in the case of CNN, it’s not neccessarily right wing or left wing….it’s just incompetent (with the exception of Soledad O’Brien).


    “Fox news is the only station I know that monitors and critizises the output by the other news stations, pressurising them to run with the Fox news agenda.”

    FOX News is not news. It’s a mouthpeice for the Romney campaign and the Republican Party. See, I wish you guys had MSNBC because MSNBC has a leftwing bias but they admit it and they’re open about it. It improves their reporting. But also, while they’ve got their biases, they don’t act as mouthpeices for campaigns. The most fun thing about that network that I enjoy is when they have an anchor desk where they all start arguing with each other. They’re not automotons following some party line, they’re actually independent thinkers. This is a good thing.

  19. I feel a little sorry for Romney, as the last few days of campaigning have been put on hold. So I think the video link here is a little harsh, as the events had already been planned.


  20. No thank you Socali, in Britain we like the tv stations to be neutral so no Fox News and No MSNBC. I don’t think CNN or ABC would stand much chance over here in the UK either.

    The one we do get, the BBC use when reporting on soley American affairs such as the conventions, the BBC will show C-Span.

  21. I agree R Huckle, I think Romney got it spot on with his handling of Sandy. By helping out the left accuse him of political opportunism, but if he was to do nothing, they’d hammer him as uncaring like George Bush.

    If he had said he was only giving resources to N.Carolina, Virginia and Florida, then there would be a valid reason to call it political, but he was fundraising for relief for New Jersey, hardly a right leaning, or even swing state.

    George Bush was a disaster when it came to Katrina, he was shown to be uncaring, I think it’s good that Romney has learnt from this mistake. Like I said, I support Obama’s policies more and hope Obama wins but I really don’t think Romney is a bad individual.

  22. I have spent a few hours watching the NBC coverage of the 1968 election results and was struck by how better these programmes were done back in the 60s and 70s – just like our own election programmes from 64 to 79 say..There was far more focus then on detailed results from individual states /constituencies – sadly both countries have moved to much more of a chat show format..
    The 1968 broadcast showed how much the electoral geography has shifted in the US. In what was a very tight election Nixon narrowly carried New Jersey ,Illinois , California , Oregon and Wisconsin.Back then the New England states of Vermont and New Hampshire were strongly Republican and and the Democrat win in Maine seemed to owe a great deal to Ed Muskie being Hubert Humphrey’s running mate..On the other hand, Humphrey easily carried West Virginia and very narrowly won Texas – despite the fact that by that time the South had already been lost to the Republicans and George Wallace.
    I know it is a fair time ago now, but are there any obvious explanations – beyond the demographics perhaps – for these huge shifts in part preference in what is a little more than a generation?

  23. two bits of news.

    Greek courts took little time acquitting the Greek editor who printed the names of those Greeks on lagarde’s list of Swiss bank account holders who are allegedly tax dodgers.

    Meanwhile in the UK no such publication has taken place or will take place because HMRC has done a deal with the evaders re tax owed.

    “Hundreds of tax evaders on the ‘Lagarde list’ will escape prosecution and keep their identities secret under immunity deals offered by HM Revenue & Customs, The Times has reported.”

    Immunity deals. So. I suspect this will stink on whichever side of the political fence you live.

  24. If you want a real contrast of how states have changed then compare 1916 to 2004. They are almost a mirror image.

    In 1916, Woodrow Wilson Democrat won by sweeping every state in the south, and most of the western states. Whereas Charles Hughes Republican, won nearly every state in New England except New Hampshire, and even won most North East and Mid West states, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Illinois, and he also won Oregon.

  25. Unemployment data shows unemployment went up in the US to 7.9% but 171,000 more people are in work.

    This is such a stupid system of counting unemployment, that those who have given up and are in poverty don’t count as unemployed etc.

    Surely to anyone with common sense it is dumb to have the unemployment rate go up, even though 171,000 more people are in work, it makes an otherwise great figure look bad.

  26. Socal

    I have Fox News in my bookmarks (under Foreign News).

    I have thought of putting the link under Politics (like UKPR) but they do have reasonable independent coverage of things that have no political slant – like disasters and crime, some scandal too. I also keep LA Times and NY Times there, for balance, although their political coverage cannot be equated with a pure political advert which is Fox. Our Daily Mail is the nearest to Fox. We don’t have a Fox-ish TV News although it is interesting that comment columns to articles on Sky News are almost all very right wing, practically BNP-ish. I have pondered this but cannot work it out why it should be so

    Why are you not out delivering leaflets? :-)

  27. Variation between 7.8% and 7.9% unemployed seems to me pretty meaningless.

  28. Surely the job figures were Romney’s last chance? Provided we don’t have a complete breakdown of law and order after the storm that must be just about it.

    Can Romney chuck the towel in now and save everybody a lot of trouble?

  29. DenisMcShane found guilty of submitting false invoices for expenses.

    Whip withdrawn by Labour Party-12 months suspension from HoC to be voted on..

    By election in Rotherham?

  30. Unsuprisingly Rasmussen now has the national race tied this is from Romney +6 a week ago.

    This is how some US polling agencies (Ramussen) manage to get elections right – they are way out during the campaign then align themselves with the main polls in the final days. So next election Republicans can again point to Rasmussen’s track record of success.

    I can bet the when Gallup is back their +5R will have drastically reduced.

  31. ““These are very serious findings concerning Denis MacShane and we accept his statement this morning that his career as a Labour MP is effectively over.”

    Labour Party

  32. McShane more dodgy dealings.

    I can’t see Lab failing to hold Rotherham though.

  33. Colin

    Oh, the irony in a tweet from MacShane this morning –

    “Imagine the fun William Hague would have if an EU Commissioner spent £10,000 stuffing a snake”

  34. 171,000 new jobs in the US, and Obama has now taken the lead in the RCP national average, so truly I think the game is up for Romney.

    However I don’t buy all this about polls shifting right at the end to match the result. I think the RCP average has been spot on, Romney won the debate season and so received a major boost, but as that started to wear off, Hurricane Sandy hit giving Obama a smaller but still significant boost. So I think the polls have been fairly accurate, but am now certain of an Obama win, (placed £60 on it, at 1/3)

  35. OLDNAT

    Yes-though at this particular time , I think a ten grand snake stuffing is almost in the same category as a shop full of computers ( allegedly).

    The most interesting thing I have heard today on this topic is a friend of his blaming it all on the BNP.

  36. NICKP

    @”Variation between 7.8% and 7.9% unemployed seems to me pretty meaningless”

    The variation between these figures & the one when he came to office is more meaningful.-it is exactly zero…………..after spending how many gazillion dollars?

  37. MiM

    I take your point but I am suspicious as this is what happened in the 2008 presidential election – where Rasmussen had McCain winning until very late in the campaign. And Rasmussen are the only pollster that are polling Obama behind in a lot of the swing states.

    I too have a bet on Obama better odds as I bet when Romney was stil surging but only a tenner :-)

  38. Interesting to see the Jimmy Savile story on the front page of the International Herald Tribune today. It’s not doing the BBC any good at all.

  39. Rumours that Newsnight might be good tonight unless a “senior politician” gets his injunctions in sharpish.

  40. Numerous by-elections in Labour constituencies…And only Corby in Tory constituencies…What`s going on?

  41. NickP/Norbold – patience chaps, let’s leave the speculation until Newsnight airs (and when it does, please don’t write anything libellous here!)

  42. Can of worms officially opened and contents all over the kitchen floor?

    Told you it wouldn’t be all about Savile and the BBC.

  43. Sorry, AW.

    I think we’ll see an injunction anyway, or rather, we WON’T see anything.

  44. BBC tv have just run a report from US east coast , interviewing people with no power , no home, no food -and no help from FEMA. They were in a working class neighbourhood & very cross.

    A guy from Staten Island pointed to the contrast between NY trying to get the Marathon up & ready, while he was helping pull bodies from wrecked houses.

    I must say, looking at the devastation along that coast, you wonder how long it will take for those communities to recover. This isn’t brick houses being cleaned up after a flood-it seems to be mile after mile of timber houses which have been demolished-or shifted inland.

    Do these people have insurance?

    The same tv report included vox pops from Cleveland Ohio, where the lack of jobs & income is a problem. The opinions were not complementary -to either candidate.

    I think there is something quite unseemly about the resumed campaign in which mega bucks are being spent, whilst so many are without houses, food, power-and the dead are still being recovered.

  45. NickP – you may be right! I’ve spoken to some people in the lobby and they don’t know if Newsnight will go with it or not yet, so we shall see. The obvious political implications aside, the pressure on Newsnight to make the right call here are towering – they can hardly be seen to duck reporting a second case of a high-profile paedophile after the Savile affair… but on the other hand, its such a massive allegation to make against someone that they’ll rightly be sued to high heaven if they report it and it is baseless.

    Can’t imagine the Newsnight editor is happy making that decision (assuming he is, and it hasn’t gone up to the Head of News, Director General, etc).

  46. AW

    It may be a clue to the real reason nobody outed Savile…the same reason Maxwell escaped justice and phone hacking went undealt with…you need to be very brave to take on real power and money, especially when it is litigious.

  47. AW
    @”Can’t imagine the Newsnight editor is happy making that decision ”

    Considering his predecessor is still suspended & under investigation for not running an expose of a paedophile , I think you could be right.

    Wonder if the DG is a little more interested in tonight’s alleged programme than he was in that one?

  48. The problem is, for a “legal team”, the safest thing is not to broadcast.


    I suppose the previous editor if he had taken legal advice could have said, “the lawyers told me to pull it.” If he had asked. Of course the difference was that Savile was dead, so the risk of being sued is much lower.

    There must be question marks over our “free press” quite apart from the BBC if they haven’t touched any of this stuff either.

  49. The story of Newsnight is on every news website…May be difficult to pull out now…Anyway,the cat is out of the bag

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