Monday, October 25, 2004

State vs. national polls 

A rather surprising trend has emerged in the polls over the last several days: Bush's numbers are significantly worse in the swing states than they are nationally. In the RCP averages Bush is polling worse than his national numbers in 12 swing states, and better in only four.

Below national average:

Maine: 42.0
Michigan: 44.7
New Hampshire: 44.8
Oregon: 44.9
Pennsylvania: 45.5
Minnesota: 46.7
Ohio: 47.4
Florida: 47.5
Wisconsin: 47.6
Iowa: 48.0
New Mexico: 48.0
Arkansas: 48.3

National average: 48.9

Above national average:

West Virginia: 49.0
Nevada: 49.2
Colorado: 49.2
Missouri: 50.0

Even in red-leaning states like WV, NV and CO, Bush's state average is only barely above his national average. The only possible explanation for the discrepancy between the state and national figures, other than polling error, is that Bush is doing significantly better in safe red states (e.g. Texas) than Kerry is in safe blue states (e.g. California). And the internals in the latest Gallup poll confirm this:

Red states: Bush 57, Kerry 40
Blue states: Kerry 53, Bush 44

In a way, this trend makes sense. Kerry has been going after swing voters, while Bush is trying to energize his base. Karl Rove is still obsessed with the 4 million evangelicals who stayed home in 2000. The latest round of polls suggests that Rove's strategy of playing to the base hasn't worked. On the other hand, such a strategy revolves around increasing turnout among certain voter groups, and turnout is the factor that polls are most likely to get wrong.

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