President Obama wins re-election on Tuesday, the historical memory of
the race might turn on the role played by Hurricane Sandy.
some analysts are describing the storm as an “October surprise” that
allowed Mr. Obama to regain his footing after stumbling badly in the
first presidential debate and struggling to get back on course. Some
Republicans seem prepared to blame a potential defeat for Mitt Romney on
the storm, and the embrace of Mr. Obama by New Jersey Gov. Chris
Christie and other public officials.
The theory has some appeal.
The last three days of polling have brought what is almost certainly Mr.
Obama’s strongest run of polling since the first presidential debate in
Denver. Mr. Obama led in the vast majority of battleground-state polls
over the weekend. And increasingly, it is hard to find leads for Mr. Romney in national surveys — although several of them show a tie.
the hurricane made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, Mr. Obama’s
chances of winning re-election were 73 percent in the FiveThirtyEight
forecast. Since then, his chances have risen to 86 percent, close to his
highs on the year.
But, while the storm and the response to it
may account for some of Mr. Obama’s gains, it assuredly does not reflect
the whole of the story. Read more…
It appears that President Obama is likely to go into Election Day with a very modest lead in the average of national polls.
of this writing, on Sunday evening, Mr. Obama led by an average of 1.3
percentage points across 12 national polls that had been published over
the course of the prior 24 hours. The range was quite tight, running
from a tied race in the polls issued by Rasmussen Reports, CNN and
Politico, to a three-point lead in three other surveys.
happens to be a reasonably friendly group of polls for Mr. Obama, and
it’s more likely than not that at least some national polls published
late Sunday or on Monday will still show Mitt Romney ahead.
there is enough data to conclude that Mr. Obama probably has a slight
edge from national surveys, which until recently had pointed toward a
tie — or perhaps a modest advantage for Mr. Romney in the immediate
aftermath of the Denver debate.
A number of these polls had very
large sample sizes, meaning that the results are less likely than usual
to have resulted from statistical variance.
But the modest gains that Mr. Obama has made in the high-profile national surveys should not be that much of a surprise. Read more…
We continue our Presidential Geography series,
a one-by-one examination of each state’s political landscape and how it
is changing. Here is Virginia, the Old Dominion. FiveThirtyEight spoke
with Daniel Palazzolo, a professor of political science at the University of Richmond, and Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Polling of the presidential race in Virginia has been particularly volatile. Since the beginning of October, polls at various points have shown both a seven-point lead for Mitt Romney and a seven-point lead for President Obama.
political landscape in Virginia has shifted dramatically in recent
years, and the disagreement among the polls is essentially a
disagreement about which Virginia will dominate on Election Day: the
reliably Republican “Old Virginia,” which is more religious, rural,
working-class and white, or the politically competitive “New Virginia,”
which is more secular, urban, diverse and white-collar.
In 2008, New Virginia made its debut
at the presidential level, with Mr. Obama becoming the first Democrat
to carry the state since 1964. He won by six percentage points.
But in the following two years, Old Virginia has roared back. Read more…
Saturday before the election produced a predictably large volume of
polling in battleground states — but also some predictable-seeming
results, with most of the polls coming close to the average of other
Because President Obama leads in the polling average in
most of the swing states, this means that most of the polls there on
Saturday showed him ahead as well. Among the 21 polls in battleground
states on Saturday, 16 had Mr. Obama ahead as compared with just two
leads for Mr. Romney; three other battleground state polls had the race
Some of the consistency in these results may reflect a tendency of polls to converge or “herd” around the polling average
close to Election Day. This may occur because some polling firms alter
their turnout models or other aspects of the polls so as not to produce
outliers — a dubious practice if the goal is to provide an objective
take on the race.
At the same time, Mr. Obama’s state polls continue to show more strength than they did just after the Denver debate. As we wrote on Saturday,
we are at the point where the polls would have to be biased against Mr.
Romney (in a statistical sense) in order for him to win the Electoral
It is worth emphasizing the point once more
that, for all the distractions caused by individual polls, the polling
averages have been very reliable in the era of rich state polling. Read more…