Monday, October 22, 2012

Uncertainty Clouds Polling, but Obama Remains Electoral College Favorite

The bad news for President Obama: it’s been almost a week since the second presidential debate, in Hempstead, N.Y., one that instant-reaction polls said was a narrow victory for him. But there is little sign that this has translated into a bounce for Mr. Obama in his head-to-head polls against Mitt Romney. Instead, the presidential race may have settled into a period of relative stability.

There is bad news for Mr. Romney as well, however. The “new normal” of the presidential campaign is considerably more favorable for him than the environment before the first debate, in Denver. However, it is one in which he still seems to be trailing, by perhaps 2 percentage points, in the states that are most vital in the Electoral College.
The FiveThirtyEight forecast was essentially unchanged again on Sunday, with Mr. Obama retaining a 67.6 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, little different from his 67.9 percent odds on Friday and Saturday.
These estimates might seem to be incongruous with national polls that show a nearly tied race. But the FiveThirtyEight method is, principally, an Electoral College simulation, and therefore relies more heavily on state-by-state polls. Our estimates of the popular vote in the critical states are highly similar to those of other Web sites that use different methods to calculate them.
This is expressed in the chart below, which compares the current FiveThirtyEight “now-cast” in each battleground state (our snapshot of what would happen in an election held today) against those of three of our competitors, RealClearPolitics, HuffPost Pollster and Talking Points Memo.
 
There are only three states that are “called” differently by the different methods. In Colorado, RealClearPolitics gives a slight edge to Mr. Romney, while the other three sites have Mr. Obama just ahead. However, it would be easy to overestimate the importance of these differences. RealClearPolitics has Mr. Romney only 0.2 percentage points ahead there, while the most favorable result for Mr. Obama, from The Huffington Post, has him up by 1.3 percentage points. POST

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