Things Are Looking Very Good

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Oct 27, 2008 at 13:26

Worried about "the tightening?"

Well, Obama's national lead has been stable at 7% for a month now. The national campaign is not tightening, and we are just seeing statistical noise.

Even if the campaign were tightening, Obama would still have a comfortable national lead. According to polling conducted over the weekend during the tracking poll "tightening," Obama reaches 264 electoral votes in states where he leads by 9.5% or more, passes 277 in Virginia where he leads by 8.0%, and hits 286 in states where he leads by 7.3% or more. So, he is actually doing even better in the Electoral College, where 270 votes are needed to win, than he is doing in national polls where he leads by 7%.

Sound too good to be true? It isn't. I provide complete details in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: Things Are Looking Very Good
Here is the national regression line, from October 1st through today:

While it is certainly true that the tracking polls are a bit closer than they were two or three days ago, when one takes a look at the trends beyond the single day fluctuation, stability is the overriding characteristic. Obama's margin over McCain has not changed by more than 1% during the month. These broader trends are more important than day-to-day trends, because they filter out the inevitable day-to-day fluctuations that occur when using a fluid measurement device (polls) to measure a fluid subject (public opinion). My past warnings on day to day tracking poll trends ring as true now as they did when I first wrote them three weeks ago:

  1. 8.5% is the maximum victory: First, as I warned on Monday, please keep in mind that an 8,5% national victory is the maximum. In the last sixteen national elections (U.S. House and Presidential), the largest victory was Bill Clinton's 8.51% victory in 1996. The simple fact is that no one wins by double digits anymore. This goes for the large Republican victories in 1988 (President--7.72%), 1994 (5.9%), and 2002 (4.6%). It also goes for the large Democratic victories of 1992 (President--5.56%), 1996 (President--8.51%) and 2006 (7.9%). "Landslides" are now 5-8% national victories, not anything larger. Given that a very real percentage of Democrats and Independents won't vote for him because he is black, it was always absurd to think that Obama was going to break this mark. When Obama reached an 8% national lead, the only place for him to go was down.

  2. Polls aren't static:  Second, as I warned yesterday, even if you accept that it is impossible for Obama's lead to continue rising, don't expect it to remain static, either. Polls are using non-static means (statistical ranges with margins of error) to measure a non-static subject matter (public opinion). So, when there is nowhere to go but down, when the polls inevitably start moving again, it isn't a shock to see them move down

The October chart shows that the month-long trend of Obama peaking followed by McCain tightening followed by Obama peaking followed by McCain tightening isn't really a trend at all. It has just been a month of statistical noise of Obama's national lead hovering around 7%. Even though the tracking polls are a bit tighter today than the last few days, I see no reason to believe that this stability has been broken, and that this is anything more than the latest McCain tightening (Saturday and Sunday) following an Obama peak (Tuesday through Friday) following a McCain tightening (the seven days before that) following an Obama peak (the five days before that).

Now, as a final, less than reassuring note, it should said that this might be something different that the latest downward node in a longstanding pattern of stability and statistical noise. The last five presidential campaigns have tightened toward the end, and even the 2006 midterms tightened up a bit toward the end. It is possible that this is happening again, and even I have theorized that this will result in a final polling margin of 4-5% in favor of Obama. However, public opinion in presidential campaigns do not follow historical laws, meaning that just because it happened a certain way in the past is no reason for it to happen exactly the same way again.

Further, even if it did tighten up to 4-5% on the eve of the Election, that still means Obama wins comfortably. The Kerry states plus Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Virginia show now signs of wavering, as Obama leads by more than 7.0% in all of them even according to polling conducted over the weekend. That puts Obama at 286 electoral votes where McCain has to make up at least 8.0%, as that is the amount he currently trails by in Virginia across the seven telephone polls conducted this week. Beyond Virginia, as I wrote in last night;s forecast, Obama leads by 7.3% in Colorado across three polls, and all the other states listed here are even bigger Obama leads.

So, in short, things still look very, very good for Obama right now. Don't let the tightening get to you. We are going to win this thing. All polling evidence points towards an enormous Democratic trifecta, surpassing even the one President Clinton enjoyed during his first two years in office.

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It does appear to be tightening (0.00 / 0)
If I turn up the sensitivity on your pollster graphic.

under "TOOLS"---->"SMOOTHING" (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Chill dude (0.00 / 0)
You're just amplifying the noise that you've just been advised to ignore. If you're nervous, spend that energy volunteering.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
I'm chill (4.00 / 1)
I am confident we will win.  

[ Parent ]
Take out Zogby and IBD (4.00 / 1)
and then see what happens.

[ Parent ]
yes, it is tightening, at least today (0.00 / 0)
Neither nor RCP are good places to look at short terms trends because they include #'s from many different pollsters.  The trendline can be influenced simply by what mix of pollsters is included on any given day.

A better approach is to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the trendlines from individual pollsters.  This are the numbers I look at to see the short term trend: (click on "Presentation Graphics")

I also look at

These sources show me that the national margin has in fact tightened at least today, but that there is little change on the expected EV count, or in the probability of McCain winning the election.

[ Parent ]
Why leave out Gallup +10, or Hotline +8? (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
they suck (0.00 / 0)
Gallup has a pathetic LV model, which they may fix eventually with their new "expanded" model, but until its proven itself, I have no confidence in it.

Hotline has a small sample size and does no weighting, so its short terms movements is more likely to be noise than anything else.

Note that I look at the tracking polls I mentioned only for trendlines.  I don't use them to follow the absolute number (Obama+X or McCain+X), because, for starters, the national margin is irrelevant in the electoral vote count.  Anyone who wants to get into arguments about whether Obama's absolute national margin is really +4, +5 or +6 might as well be howling at the moon for all I care.

[ Parent ]
You are cherry picking (0.00 / 0)
Pure and simple.

All of your criticisms can be applied to the polls you kept in, too.

How are the cherries this time of year?

[ Parent ]
OMG (0.00 / 0)
OMG, I've been branded a "cherry picker" by the all knowing Bowers because I choose to follow the polls which give the most reliable trendlines instead of willy-nilly following any poll or graph regardless of its source, methodology or reputation.

Please address my comment that the trendline, which you cited in your post as authoritive, is in fact unreliable for determining the short term trend because it is influenced by a different mix of pollsters each day.  Until you can intelligently address this point, I will assume you are just being a ass.

[ Parent ]
Wow, speaking of being an ass (0.00 / 0)
You are banned.

[ Parent ]
oh, come on (0.00 / 0)
So what, there are bound to be days where the three polls you like change in the same direction.  Every one of the polls you link to has a day in the last week where Obama was as low or lower and a day where McCain was as high or higher.  So how can you can call this tightening?  

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
I did not say it tightened last week (0.00 / 0)
As you point out, it was flat last week.  Today, the movement in Rasmussen and DailyKos trackers was sufficient for me to conclude that the national numbers tightened today.  But as I pointed out, this did not have any effect on the expected electoral votes or the probability of McCain winning.

The point however is not the conclusion, it is the methodology.  Looking at a different mix of pollsters each day to determine a short term trendline is flawed.  This is what happens if you look at the regression line or the RCP average.

If you want to determine the short term changes, you need to look at the trendline from individual pollsters, and try to synthesize this data.  To put it another way:

FLAWED METHOD: aggregate polls and then draw a trendline

CORRECT METHOD: draw a trendline for each individual pollster and then synthesize a conclusion from the totality of the trendlines

If you are using the correct methodology, but want to conclude the change is not significant, fine with me, but if you are using a flawed methodology, then your answer is flawed no matter what.

[ Parent ]
"We are going to win this thing" (0.00 / 0)
Chris, go outside, turn around three times, and spit and curse!  You're tempting the wrath of the thing...

Why all the focus on realignment? (0.00 / 0)
It seems a bit much is being made around here of what looks to be a major shift of partisan allegiance within the electorate when the ideology of the Democratic party itself has changed so much over the past three decades.  

Certainly large scale shifts in party allegiance are important.  But when the acendant party in question continues to run away from the better principles of the Great Society while overwhelmingly supporting a $700 billion bailout devised for the most part by officials from the most unpopular opposition regime in the recorded history of polling, realignment seems to say very little about the possibilities for reform in American politics.  

Passing The Baton (0.00 / 0)
I now pass to you the title, "Grumpy Old Curmudgeon of the Progressive Movement" from David Sirota to you.

And this isn't meant to be an insult.  It's a time honored position that's needed to keep us wide eyed idealist's feet on the ground and dreams in perspective.

Our Dime Understanding the U.S. Budget

[ Parent ]
The difference between polls and being able to vote (0.00 / 0)
What concerns me is not the polls but Republican voter suppression.

Nervous (4.00 / 1)
After eight years in the wilderness, I just have trouble believing any of this right now. I'll be comfortable when McCain (AND Palin!) concede. Not before then.

Although I think the margin is too big for tricks to change the outcome (0.00 / 0)
it wouldn't be outside the realm of the possible that Sarah Palin stands outside the White House screaming about acorns and walnuts for a month. I'm sure President Obama will provide daily hot chocolates or lattes to keep them warm.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
the fat lady sings (0.00 / 0)
only when all the votes are counted and not until then!

or as I like to say... (0.00 / 0)

**** Vote Before You Gloat **** (TM)

[ Parent ]
I don't buy the impossibility of winning by more than 8.51% (0.00 / 0)
Obama's going to break this trend IMO. I won't be surprised by double figures.

I'm convinced (0.00 / 0)
Chris, I didn't bother to read your post because I KNOW this race is tightening.  The reason I know it is because instead of looking at "polls" this year, I'm going on what I KNOW to be true, which is "myself."  And man, am I ever tightening!  Tight tight tight!

So, Obama's going to lose.  It's clear.  I'm just waiting to tighten to the point that I overtake myself.  It's painful, but I can feel it happening right now.

Republicans can't fix our country; they're too busy saddlebacking.


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