Looking at polling trends for 2008 and 2004

One of the things I’m interested in, since I actually got this project off this early, is past polling trends in elections. In this post I want to look at 2008, just because it was the last Presidential election, but I also want to look at 2004, since a lot of people seem to feel that 2012 is similar to it in that a weak incumbent has the advantage over an even weaker challenger.

RCP has the collecting polling averages for both 2008 and 2004.

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Polls Galore Today

Eight new polls were released yesterday and today that I was able to enter into the database. PPP released a poll showing Obama way up in New Mexico. Rasmussen released a poll giving Romney a very slight lead in Virginia. Rocky Mountain Poll released a poll in Arizona actually showing Obama ahead there. PurplePoll released their swing state poll which included polls for Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida as well. In addition, PPP released a poll for Texas yesterday which showed a moderate Romney lead there.

In New Mexico, the situation didn’t change very much, with Obama still leading the state by 14.5%. The Arizona poll allowed Obama to close in, but not overtake, Romney there, narrowing the margin down to 0.4%, which is now the closest margin of any state in the database at the moment. In Ohio, Obama keeps his razor thin “weak Obama” margin there.

In Florida, the first Romney lead since January reduces, but doesn’t eliminate Obama’s lead and keeps it in the Too Close to Call category. In Colorado, the poll showing a tie race there is enough to push that state into the Too Close to Call category. In Virginia, the combination of the two polls keeps the margin there pretty close to what it was before: an Obama lead of just under 1%. Meanwhile, in Texas, this is the first poll done there in 2012, so that state opens out in the “weak Romney” category.

As a result of all of this, Obama loses Colorado out of his column, but he still maintains at least a 5% lead in enough states to give him 275 Electoral Votes – enough to win re-election if it were held today. No states actually flip in the lean category, so the count including all leaners, regardless of the size of the lead, remains Obama 341, Romney 197.

[Update] Arizona, New Hampshire Polls Shift States

A new poll from Merrill/Morrison Institute has pushed Arizona into the “too close to call” category from “Lean Romney,” thanks to it having Romney only ahead by 2 points, 42-40.

Now, I think any poll that has 18% undecided is somewhat suspect. My guess is that they didn’t push leaners, which is usually what will get you a higher and probably more accurate poll result.

At any rate, the new Electoral Vote count as of now is Obama 280, Romney 170, Too Close to Call 88.

As a side note, I’ve also fixed a couple bugs, namely the fact that the “Recent Polls” sidebar item was actually displaying the average result for each state instead of the actual numbers from the poll. I’ve fixed that and it should be working now.


A Granite State/UNH poll was also released today, giving Obama a 9 point lead in the state, and pushing the state into the “weak Obama” column. That push’s the new electoral couint to Obama 284, Romney 170, Too Close to Call 84.

Weak? Strong? Too Close to Call? What?

As you can see on the map, and you may see elsewhere on the site, I have three categories that I put states in based on the current polling average: “strong,” “weak,” and “too close to call.” (I suppose “toss up” would be better, but I used TCtC in 2008 and I’m gonna use it again. So sue me.)

What states go into which classification is pretty easy. States where the lead is 10% or greater for a candidate is considered “strong.” A state where a lead is 5% or above but lower than 10% is considered “weak.” A state where no candidate has a lead of at least 5% is considered “too close to call.”

I don’t have any formal way of showing whether a “weak” state is actually a lead of 5% or a lead of 9.9%, though you can look at the overview page and see where states compare to each other.

First Polls Entered

I’ve entered the first polls of the year into the database and the current map is the result of those polls. I only entered polls conducted in 2012, so anything done before that is not reflected (and really wouldn’t have any weight in the algorithm anyway in most cases).

There are a few states with no polls conducted in 2012, and these states I am just using the 2008 election results as a stand in until a poll is conducted in that state. Those states are: Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. As you can see, pretty much all of these states should be pretty handily on one side or another, so I didn’t really have a problem using 2008 as a stand in for them for now.

In any case, the next things on my to-do list for the site are to make the individual state pages which will hopefully show the most recent polls, etc. for those states. I’ll also do an “about” page which generally explains how I do things here. Eventually I’ll probably get around to actually doing a design that isn’t just the default WordPress look but I think getting the site functional comes first before that.