Friday, July 25, 2008

Is Obama Getting a Bounce from His Trip Abroad? A Different Approach

This may be less an approach than an observation, but I've spent a fair amount of time looking at the Rasmussen polls recently; especially the distinction between the "leaners" and "without leaners" data. And while polls thus far have indicated that the trip has yet to yield any noticeable bounce for the Illinois senator, there is some evidence, coincidental though it may be, that there is something positive to take away from the trip. Let me show you what I'm talking about. First, let's look at the table from the other day's post examining the Rasmussen reporting switch, but let's organize the states chronologically (based on when they were conducted) instead of alphabetically (And I'll add in the new polls from New Hampshire, New Mexico and Pennsylvania as well.):

Rasmussen Polls Since w/Leaners Distinction was Added (7/9/08)*
Statew/o Leaners
Undecideds Drop
New Jersey
North Dakota
South Dakota
Minnesota (7/10)
North Carolina
Polls below this point were conducted after Obama left to go abroad (7/19/08).
Minnesota (7/22)
New Hampshire
New Mexico
Avg. Change+0.96-5.5
*The "with leaners" distinction was added to reports that were released beginning on 7/9/08. The date on which these polls were conducted (The ones that these releases were based on) stretches back to 7/7/08.
**Rasmussen has only conducted one poll in these states. Therefore, the difference was taken from between the with and without leaner numbers within the same poll in these cases.
***Previous poll had been taken after "with leaners" change had been made.

Above that yellow line, Louisiana is the only state where the "with leaners" distinction favored Obama. But since Obama started his trip overseas, and incidentally this is where the coincidence potentially comes in, four of the seven polls to be released show Obama with the edge when leaners are included. Does this mean that leaners are starting to break for Obama? And, further, does the trip have anything to do with it?

Are leaners breaking toward Obama?
It certainly looks that way. Are these simply Obama states in the first place, though? With the exception of Florida, all seven states are states that are Obama states in FHQ's most recent look at the electoral college (Well, Ohio changes sides depending on whether you use Rasmussen's leaners or without leaners data.). But that wasn't the case in the polls taken before Obama left. Of the 12 states where there was a difference between the with leaners and without leaners numbers, six were Obama states and all six saw drops in the margin when leaners were added. The other eight states, where there was no difference in the margins once leaners were added, were equal parts McCain and Obama states and all broke in McCain's direction. It seems then, that it isn't just a matter of the states polled since Obama left being Obama states.

Fine, just more than half of the seven states where polls have been conducted since Obama left have leaners favoring him now (Well, that does quintuple the number of states that were in that category in the first place.). That is a switch, but does that mean that the trip is what triggered the change? Maybe, maybe not. Rasmussen's own daily tracking poll does have Obama bouncing. And the "with leaners" numbers at least appear to show Obama gaining among that group in states where respondents have been surveyed since Obama left at the outset of last weekend. Coincidence it may be, but it is an interesting way of going about assessing whether Obama has gained anything out of this trip. If this is evidence--and even I'm skeptical of that--of Obama getting a boost from this overseas tour, then it is among the group in the middle that is likely to decide this election.

Recent Posts:
Is Florida a Swing State?

The Deal with Those Rasmussen "Leaners"

The Electoral College Map (7/23/08)


Unknown said...

Interesting and provocative analysis, but I see the numbers differently--it's not Obama gaining leaners, so much as McCain losing his.

To see this look at the Rasmussen national trackin poll. Since July 6, here's the number of leaners going to Obama each day, in chronological order:

3 3 3 3 4 4 3 3 3 3 2 3 3 3 4 3 2 3 3

Do you see a pattern there? I don't.

But what about the number of leaners going to McCain?

3 3 3 4 3 3 3 4 5 4 4 4 5 4 4 4 3 4 3

There's a hint of something toward the end...McCain loses leaners.

No comparable sign of a loss of solid McCain in the tracking poll, but a couple of point increase in Obama solid in the last few days. Also, with the exception of one day, every result since July 4 shows the same number of true undecideds/other (7 or 8%).

So, put it all together: the tracking poll shows McCain losing leaners, and Obama gaining solid, but no significant change in the other categories. Presumably that means Obama leaners are switching to Obama solid, but being replenished by either McCain leaners or undecideds (who in turn are replenished by McCain leaners).

Is that consistent with the recent state polls? To see, look at the number of McCain leaners in those polls:

New Mexico: 2
Pennsylvania: 3
New Hampshire: 4
Minnesota: 2
Florida: 2
Ohio: 6
Colorado: 5

Before the trip:

Maine: 5
Georgia: 5
Arkansas: 5
Alaska: 4
Virginia: 4
Nevada: 5
Oregon: 3
North Carolina: 3
Kansas: 6
Minnesota: 2, 3
Michigan: 3
Iowa: 3
Washington: 4
South Dakota: 3
Louisiana: 2
Wisconsin: 3
North Dakota: 4
Illinois: 4
New Jersey: 5
Missouri: 3

Since the trip started, three states show only 2% leaning toward McCain. Before the trip, that only happened in Louisiana and once in Minnesota. Considering the number of states in each group, this looks to me like it might be more than coincidence.

If so, it's very bad news for the McCain campaign. If Obama were gaining leaners, that would be OK--a typical bounce. The news goes away and the leaners go back to undecided. But if McCain is losing leaners, it's a sign they really are considering Obama. They were not just saying their undecided but leaning McCain to be polite, they are truly undecided.

McCain can't succeed playing tug of war with Obama over McCain's own weak supporters. Even if McCain wins that battle, he loses the war, because his core + leaners doesn't quite beat Obama's core + leaners. This is a terrible trend for the McCain campaign and an almost unbelievably good one for Obama. We'll see if it is confirmed over the next few weeks.

Anonymous said...

Nice addition, Scott. And thanks for the plug over at 538 yesterday.

If leaners (McCain leaners) are considering Obama then that group of voters may be entering the "comfort zone" Charlie Cook was talking about the other day over at the National Journal.

Hat tip to Rob via Paul Gurian on that link. Interesting.