When I tell people how well Obama is doing in the polls, here are three of the most common responses I receive:
All of these responses irritate me, both because they are all demonstrably false and because they are often accompanied by excess worrying. In the extended entry, I attempt to wipe away this worrying by actually showing how all three of those myths are false.
- "Yeah, but Kerry was winning at the end of the campaign, too."
- "Yeah, but Kerry was way ahead among early voters, too."
- "Yeah, but Republicans always do better in the final results than in the final polls." (GOTV and / or machine fraud are often cited as reasons for this one.)
|1. Kerry was winning late in the 2004 campaign, too. No he wasn't. I have heard hundreds of people make this claim, but it just isn't true. For perspective on where the 2008 campaign stands relative to the 2004 and 2000 campaigns, Professor Charles Franklin maps the trend lines during all three:
I don't know where this rumor started, but it is both widespread and easily shown to be false. Obama is currently running about 6% ahead, while Kerry was running about 1% behind three days before the election. Obama is 7% ahead of where Kerry was four years ago.
2. Kerry won early voters, too. No, he didn't. Again, I don't know where this rumor got started, but it just isn't true. The final Pew poll in 2004 showed Bush and Kerry running even among early voters. The final CBS poll in 2004 showed Bush ahead among early voters. None of the other final 2004 trial heats seem to have crosstabs for early voters, but there is no evidence that Kerry led among early voters, and most evidence indicates that he was slightly behind. So, Obama is running at least 8-10% ahead of Kerry among early voters. Also, it is important to remember that early voting could be as much of 35% of all voting in 2008, whereas four years ago it only accounted for 22.5%. So, not only is Obama running way ahead of where Kerry was four years ago, but early voting is much more important than it was four years ago.
3. Republicans typically improve from final polls to final results. Again, I have no idea who starts these stupid myths, but this one is completely false. In 2004 and 2006, there were 42 statewide elections that were polled during the final week of the campaign, and where the final outcome of the campaign was 10% or less. In those 42 campaigns, Democrats gained an average of 0.5% from the final polls to the final margin. This study included the 19 states in the 2004 presidential election that were decided by less than 10%. So, on average, Republicans actually do worse from the final polls to the final result.
So, in summary:
I hope this will settle some people down. I know there is a lot of trauma out there, but the simple truth is that 2008 is not showing the same numbers as 2004, like at all.
- Kerry was losing by 1% with three days left, while Obama is winning by 6%
- Bush either narrowly won early voters in 2004, or it was a tie. Obama is winning early voters by 10%.
- On average, Democrats improve from the final polls to the final result, not Republican.