Who’s Really Leading? A Comprehensive Look

Who’s winning the presidential race right now? Ezra Klein breaks it down by national polls, state polls, models, ground game, enthusiasm, early voting and momentum.

Via Ezra Klein

Where the 2012 presidential election is right now

National polls: Mitt Romney has held a slight but persistent lead in national polling since the first debate. As of 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, he’s ahead by 0.7 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, and by 0.2 percent in the Pollster.com tracker.

State polls: Barack Obama holds a slight but persistent lead in the battleground states. Real Clear Politics puts him up in Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — which is more than enough to win the election. Romney is up in Florida, Colorado and North Carolina. Virginia is tied. The Pollster.com list is exactly the same, save for Obama holding slight leads in Colorado and Virginia. Note that in all the polling averages, Obama’s lead in Ohio is larger than Romney’s lead in Florida.

Models: At this point, I don’t know of any continuously updated model that shows Romney ahead. Nate Silver’s model gives Obama a 71 percent chance of winning. Sam Wang’s meta-analysis predicts 293 electoral votes for Obama. Drew Linzer’s Votamatic predicts 332 electoral votes for Obama.

Ground game: No one pretends that Romney’s ground game is anything close to what the Obama campaign has put together. Conventional wisdom is that a good ground game can get you about 2 percentage points in the polls. If that proves true here,it will be decisive. (For more on this, read Molly Ball’s excellent survey of the two ground games.)

Enthusiasm: The conventional wisdom through much of this election is that Democrats face an enthusiasm gap. But that’s become hard to spot in the polls. The
latest Washington Post/ABC News tracker, for instance, puts Romney up by 1 point
among likely voters, and reports that 95 percent of Obama’s supporters say they’re enthusiastic about voting and 93 percent of Romney voters say the same.

Early voting: Absolutely everything I’ve heard suggests the Obama campaign is meeting and exceeding its early voting targets. You can see some on-the-ground evidence of this from Jon Ralston’s look at early voting in Nevada, which is showing huge numbers for the Democrats, and the Time poll of Ohio, which showed a huge lead for Democrats among early voters. Democrats also appear to lead in early voting in North Carolina. Note that Obama is casting a highly publicized early vote in Chicago today. Aaron Blake’s survey of the early voting — which includes some evidence that Republicans are beginning to tighten the margin — is worth reading.

Momentum: The past week has seen a bit of a media meme that Romney has some hard-to-quantify thing called “momentum,” but it’s difficult to find it in the polls, which have been stable since then. A week ago, Real Clear Politics had Romney up by 1 point in the polls while Pollster.com had Obama up by .1 percent. My view, as explained here, is that the momentum narrative is essentially a conspiracy between the two campaigns, as the Romney campaign sees a margin in making their voters more confident and the Obama campaign sees a margin in making their voters more anxious.

So here’s my question: Am I missing any relevant data here? Obviously, there’s always the possibility of a Black Swan event (an earthquake cracks San Francisco into the Pacific Ocean, Israel launches a bombing raid on Iran, the rapture begins), but leave that aside. Is there something we know now, right this second, that should be figuring into any good snapshot of the race, but that I’ve missed?”

We’ll see if Ezra’s documentation of polls and models holds up. Voting is what counts! I respect data and models but let’s remember:

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
–Nils Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics


“Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”
–George E. P. Box, Professor Emeritus of Statistics at
the University of Wisconsin

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One Response to Who’s Really Leading? A Comprehensive Look

  1. Ann Fisher says:

    Here’s my theory. I’ve noticed a trend by the media to embellish. I see it in news broadcasts about accidents where the reporter plays the same tape of skid marks over and over again, relating their version of the accident. I see it in weather reports in which the “possible rain” becomes a “stay tuned in case it turns into a tornado” just to keep viewers glued to their sets, and I see it in the poll reporting. They may be telling it like it really is but I submit it is another attempt to keep the collective audience’s bloodpressure up and eyes on their broadcast.


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