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Mon Sep 24, 2012, 12:40 PM

The Statistical State of the Presidential Race 538

With fewer than 45 days left in the presidential campaign, it’s no longer a cliché to say that every week counts. And there are a few polling-related themes we’ll be watching especially closely this week.

This is probably about the last week, for instance, in which Mitt Romney can reasonably hope that President Obama’s numbers will deteriorate organically because of a convention bounce. That is not to say that Mr. Obama’s standing could not decline later on in the race, for any number of reasons. But if they do, it will probably need to be forced by Mr. Romney’s campaign, or by developments in the news cycle, not the mere loss of post-convention momentum.

We’ll also be looking to see if there is a greater consensus in the polls this week. In general, last week’s numbers started out a bit underwhelming for Mr. Obama — suggesting that the momentum from his convention was eroding — but then picked up strength as the week wore on.

Still, there were splits among the tracking polls and among other national surveys; between state polls that called cellphones and those which did not; and among pollsters who came to a wide variety of conclusions about whose supporters were more enthusiastic and more likely to turn out.

But before we get lost in the weeds, let’s consider a more basic question. What did the polling look like at this stage in past elections, and how did it compare against the actual results?


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Reply The Statistical State of the Presidential Race 538 (Original post)
elleng Sep 2012 OP
liberal N proud Sep 2012 #1
BlueStreak Sep 2012 #2
Drunken Irishman Sep 2012 #3

Response to elleng (Original post)

Mon Sep 24, 2012, 12:48 PM

1. These three charts are interesting...

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Response to liberal N proud (Reply #1)

Mon Sep 24, 2012, 01:06 PM

2. That second chart is most revealing

The three lines that stand out like sore thumbs are 1968, 1980, and 2000.

In 1968, Humphrey polled even lower -- way lower than Nixon, so that number makes sense.

In 1980, Reagan made the deal with the ayatollah, which sunk Carter.

And in 2000, we had the SCOTUS debacle.

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Response to elleng (Original post)

Mon Sep 24, 2012, 03:11 PM

3. The most interesting takeaways...

80% of candidates who had a narrow(ish) lead at this point went on to win the election. The campaigns generally break for the incumbent at this stage ... not the challenger as many would believe.

So, if history tells us anything, it's that Obama is a pretty heavy favorite heading into the final month of the campaign.

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