The 2012 Election

Polling and Analyses

Frederick Weil, LSU

Guide to this page

This year, I'm putting most of the election articles on a Facebook page: Polit Soc.

This will be easier for me than editing the html on this page, and it will let you click through to links that may otherwise be restricted. You can subscribe to it, or "friend" it, and then you'll see new stories on your own Facebook newsfeed.

The present page will have mostly links to information sources (polling sites, news analysis sites, methods sites) and some links from past elections that are still informative.

Students in my "Political Sociology" class: As you read this material, watch for 4 important factors:

  1. Which candidate do the different social groups support (gender, religion, race, region, party loyalists, etc., etc.)? Plus how big is each group?
  2. What percentage of each group actually votes: what's their turnout? How good is each campaign's "ground game" of getting out the vote?
  3. How do the different issues play? Which issue helps which candidate, which social groups respond to which issues, and how do the campaigns maneuver to bring "their" issues to the forefront?
  4. Are the polls giving us accurate readings of voter preferences and turnout? There are various factors that may distort their accuracy.





Final 2012 Exit Polls and Election Maps



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The Big New York Times Exit Poll Chart for 2012



Post-Election Analyses

Highlights from the Facebook page: Polit Soc.
(If some of them don't open from these links,
try the links on the Facebook page.)

  • NY Times, November 19. Post-election analysis from Tom Edsall.
  • NY Times, November 17. Big Data in Obama's win, part 2. Beware the Big Data Campaign. The new winning formula: very expensive voter research.
  • Time, November 17. Big Data in Obama's win, part 1. Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win. In late spring, the backroom number crunchers who powered Barack Obama's campaign to victory noticed that George Clooney had an almost gravitational tug on West Coast females ages 40 to 49.
  • November 16. AAPOR's statement on 2012 Presidential polling. (AAPOR is the association of pollsters.)
  • November 16. Another interesting idea. Is the Democrats Tech Advantage Durable?. I just wrapped up the deepest story of my career. It's about the tech team that the Obama campaign brought in-house. 40 engineers descended on Chicago and tried to build the best tech
  • Gallup, November 16. Romney was counting on voters thinking the economy was terrible. Gallup says voters perceived improvement - maybe enough to undercut Romney's argument. Improving National Outlook Key to Obama Victory in 2012. Although national satisfaction, economic confidence, and presidential job approval are all below average, all have improved considerably in recent months, helping President Obama narrowly win re-election.
  • Gallup, November 16. Gallup on the gender gap. Gender Gap in 2012 Vote Is Largest in Gallup's History. Barack Obama won the women's vote by 12 percentage points while Mitt Romney prevailed among men by eight points. That 20-point gender gap is the largest Gallup has measured since it began tracking presidential vote by subgroup in 1952.
  • NY Times, November 13. More on microtargeting. We've seen some info on the ground game; this time, more about the air game. Obama System, 'the Optimizer,' Targeted TV Viewers for Support. The Obama campaign found supporters by culling never-before-used data about viewing habits and combining it with more personal information.
  • NY Times, November 12. Uh oh ... beware social scientists bearing gifts (says me, a social scientist!). 'Dream Team' of Behavioral Scientists Advised Obama Campaign. The Obama campaign tapped a team of social scientists who offered advice on how to counter rumors, portray rivals effectively and get out the vote.
  • NY Times, November 12. Very interesting analysis by Thomas Edsall, former Washington Post reporter, now Columbia professor. The Culture War and the Jobs Crisis. Does the Obama coalition have the capacity to re-engineer capitalism to produce sustained economic growth while working toward social justice?
  • Fox, November 11. Fox is presenting the fullest Exit Poll results I've found on the web. Kudos to them!
    • Here they are on CNN. I find them a little harder to read, but you might like them better. Taste varies!
  • huffingtonpost,November 11. Two articles on limitations in the Exit Polls, including two important factoids: (a) up to 30% of voters vote before election day & can't be reached coming out of the polling station; (b) they're so expensive now that they're only polling in 31 of the 50 states.
  • November 11. Interesting blog by my old colleague, Jeff Weintraub, who asks how the GOP kept its majority in the House, even though it lost the popular vote for the House. His answer: gerrymandering. Jeff Weintraub: How did the Republicans keep their majority in the House of Representatives?
  • businessinsider, November 11. More on the recriminations in the GOP. This time, it's the cultural conservatives blaming the GOP Establishment, esp Karl Rove. There Is A Brutal Civil War In The GOP, And It Looks Like Karl Rove Will Be The First Casualty
  • NY Times, November 11. Two very interesting analyses by Republican columnists. Brooks says the GOP has to appeal to ethnics with a work ethic, who see government as their friend. Douthat says something very similar.
    • The Party of Work. Republicans might rebuild by first listening to those who have come to this land with the very hopes conservatives should want to affirm.
    • Douthat's column: The G.O.P.'s Demographic Excuse. To make gains, the party will have to shift on economics, not just on immigration reform.
  • November 8. The Wall Street Journal summary of the campaign, focusing on (if you can believe it of the WSJ!) money. How Race Slipped Away From Romney. Mitt Romney is one of the wealthiest men ever to run for president. And yet the lack of money earlier this year stalled his campaign, and he never really recovered.
  • NY Times, November 8. Very interesting post-election analysis by Nate Silver, about the structural electoral advantage the Democrats have at present. As Nation and Parties Change, Republicans Are at an Electoral College Disadvantage. Even if Mitt Romney had won the popular vote by two percentage points, President Obama would still have won the Electoral College.
  • Washington Post, November 7. EJ's take on the election. Obama's victory should settle a bitter argument. Faced with a stark choice in political philosophies, voters chose to side with President Obama.
  • NY Times, November 7. The NYT's longish run-down of the campaign. Pretty good, tho a little disjointed. Obama Campaign Clawed Back After a Dismal Debate. The first presidential debate was a low point for Mr. Obama, a moment when defeat seemed highly possible.
  • NY Times, November 7. From the article: "The Republicans' Southern strategy, of appealing mostly to white voters, appears to have run into a demographic wall." Obama's Victory Presents G.O.P. With Demographic Test. The demographic changes in the American electorate have left many Republicans, who have not won as many electoral votes as President Obama did on Tuesday in 24 years, concerned about their future.
  • NY Times, November 7. The Latino vote. Many argue it swung the election. With Record Turnout, Latinos Solidly Back Obama and Wield Influence. Latino voters tipped the balance in at least three swing states, securing their position as an organized force in American politics.
  • NY Times, November 7. The GOP will be working - struggling - to find a way forward for some time now. Republicans Grapple for Answers After Loss. After Mitt Romney's defeat, there was no shortage of theories as to what could have been done better.
  • NY Times, November 7. Geek power ... Data Devotees Emerge Victorious in Election. As some pundits were left eating crow, people who use mathematical models to make projections came out ahead.


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Pre-Election Articles

Highlights from the Facebook page: Polit Soc.
(If some of them don't open from these links,
try the links on the Facebook page.)

  • NY Times, November 5. The bottom line forecast from the FiveThirtyEight folks:
    Auto Bailout (2009) --> Ohio for Obama --> Obama re-elected. In Ohio, Polls Show Benefit of Auto Rescue to Obama. If the polls are correct, and President Obama wins a narrow Electoral College victory on Tuesday, the pivotal moment of the 2012 presidential race may have actually occurred in 2009.
  • Gallup, November 5. U.S. Voter Turnout Will Likely Fall Short of 2004, 2008. Gallup turnout indicators taken before superstorm Sandy suggest voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election will fall short of what it was in 2004 and 2008, but should be higher than in other recent election years.
  • USA Today, November 5. Swing States poll: All tied up as Obama closes Romney's October lead. Voters are as enthusiastic as 2008 and firmly in one camp or the other. As with the national race, it's a tossup.
  • NY Times, November 4. Very cool interactive graphic, for when you're feeling especially politically geeky! 512 Paths to the White House. Explore the routes through the electoral battleground and plot victory for either side.
  • Washington Post, November 4. My college roommate, EJ Dionne's final shot before the election. The Gilded Age vs. the 21st century. The GOP is trying to undo achievements of a century.
  • Pew, November 4. Pew's final pre-election poll shows a slight Obama lead. Obama Gains Edge in Campaign's Final Days. Overview Barack Obama has edged ahead of Mitt Romney in the final days of the presidential campaign. In the Pew Research Center's election weekend survey,
  • NY Times, November 4. Nate Silver is seeing the polls clarifying ... for now! State and National Polls Come Into Better Alignment. President Obama now probably has a slight edge in national surveys, which should not be that much of a surprise. We've seen the race shifting toward him over the past two to three weeks in polls of swing states, where the overwhelming majority of recent polls have shown him in the lead.
  • NY Times, November 4. Another in the state profiles from FiveThirtyEight: Virginia. In Virginia, It's Tradition Versus Change. Disagreement among polls in the state is essentially disagreement about which Virginia will predominate on Election Day: "traditional" Virginia, which is more religious, rural, working-class and white; or "new" Virginia, which is more secular, urban, diverse and white-collar.
  • NY Times, November 4. Some Nate Silver columns over the past couple days.The Simple Case for Saying Obama Is the Favorite. The FiveThirtyEight model represents a complicated analysis of the polls, but simplicity is on its side in finding that President Obama is the Electoral College favorite.
  • NY Times, November 4. Some more Nate Silver columns over the past couple days. For Romney to Win, State Polls Must Be Statistically Biased. There were 22 polls of swing states published on Friday. President Obama led in 19 of them, two showed a tie and just one, a Mason-Dixon poll of Florida, showed Mitt Romney ahead.
  • realclearpolitics, November 1. Other chatter on AAPORNET (the pollsters' listserv) is about the divergence of national & state polls, which may point to a divergence in popular & electoral votes after the election. One possible factor is that Romney is piling up big leads in his "safe" states like Texas or Georgia, which won't help him (beyond a simple majority in those states) in electoral votes. Pushback on this thesis; claims that Romney really is leading.What's Behind the State-National Poll Divergence?
  • NY Times, November 1. An update on the crucial question of the electoral vote. Oct. 31: Obama's Electoral College 'Firewall' Holding in Polls. President Obama continues to hold the lead in the vast majority of polls in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and Iowa, the states that represent his path of least resistance toward winning the Electoral College. This was particularly apparent on Wednesday.
  • NY Times, November 1. The campaign is back after the storm. After Storm Pause, the Presidential Campaigns Are Back in Full Swing. President Obama is holding events in three states and released an ad featuring Colin L. Powell, and Mitt Romney will be in Virginia rallying support.
  • NY Times, November 1. Politics of the storm - very interesting set of calculations. Obama Tours Storm-Ravaged New Jersey With Gov. Chris Christie. President Obama's tour of New Jersey with Gov. Chris Christie confronted Mitt Romney with a vexing challenge just as he returned to the campaign trail in Florida.
  • NY Times, October 31. Latest swing state polls, with the Ohio working class highlighted. Poll Shows Ohio Working Class May Be Key to Obama Re-election. With the 18 electoral votes of Ohio seen by both sides as critical, President Obama's ability to prevent erosion among working-class voters may be his best path to winning a second term.
  • Gallup, October 31. Gallup says most voters think Obama is going to win. Historically, Gallup says, this prediction is usually correct. Americans Still Give Obama Better Odds to Win Election. A majority of Americans still view President Barack Obama as the favorite to win re-election in the 2012 presidential race. Previous predictions of the outcomes of presidential elections have generally been correct.
  • Gallup, October 31. Gallup is predicting lower voter turnout this time. U.S. Voter Turnout Will Likely Fall Short of 2004, 2008. Gallup turnout indicators taken before superstorm Sandy suggest voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election will fall short of what it was in 2004 and 2008, but should be higher than in other recent election years.
  • Washington Post, October 28. This is one of those Washington Post articles for political junkies: an extended analysis of the Ohio race by the great reporter, Dan Balz. Ohio, the Bull's-eye State: Obama, Romney aim full arsenals at vital electoral prize. Obama and Romney are aiming their full arsenals at what may be the race's most vital electoral prize.
  • NY Times, October 28. Swing state roundup. In Final Days of Presidential Election, Fighting County by County. The fight for the White House is being waged on intensely local terrain, in places whose voting histories and demographics have been studied in minute detail by both sides.
  • Wall Street Journal, October 28. Karl Rove's analysis of the closing days of the campaign. Rove got GW Bush elected twice; here he describes how Romney can/will win. Rove: Strategies for the Stretch Run to Nov. 6. In The Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove writes that over the last 40 national surveys, Mr. Romney is at or above 50% in 11, with Mr. Obama at or above 50% in one.
  • NY Times, October 28. Why Nate Silver is confident of his predictions. (Hint: he's always confident!). Oct. 26: State Poll Averages Usually Call Election Right. There are no precedents in the FiveThirtyEight database for a candidate losing with a two- or three-point lead in a state - President Obama's lead in Ohio - when the polling volume was as rich as it is there.
  • NY Times, October 28. Analysis of a swing state: Virginia - Coal country vs. the DC suburbs. Romney Seeks Virginia Coal Country Edge. The anger of southwest Virginia coal miners at the Obama administration provides an opening for Mitt Romney's campaign.
  • NY Times, October 28. Nice piece that argues there's an economic recovery coming, whoever gets elected. And whoever gets elected will get credit for it. Who Gets Credit for the Recovery?
    A bullish economy is likely to strengthen whoever is elected.
  • NY Times, October 28. This is totally wild. Okay, I'm a graphics freak. The great Amanda Cox has done it again. Interactively follow how the states have voted for President over the years. Over the Decades, How States Have Shifted. A look at how the states stack up in the current FiveThirtyEight forecast and how they have shifted over past elections.
  • NY Times, October 26. Today's campaign operation. For Obama Aides, Endgame Takes Grunt Work and Math. The wave of passion that coursed through President Obama's headquarters in 2008 has been replaced with a methodical approach to manufacturing the winning coalition — a more arduous task with no guarantee of success.
  • Gallup, October 26. Plus ça change ... "2012 U.S. Electorate Looks Like 2008 as well as 2004. Composition of electorate by race, age, gender essentially the same. Thus, key elements of President Obama's electoral coalition, such as racial minorities, women, young adults, and postgraduates will likely turn out at rates similar to those in 2008.". 2012 U.S. Electorate Looks Like 2008. Gallup's estimates of the demographic composition of the 2012 electorate are similar to its 2008 estimates, with many changes likely reflecting changes in the larger adult population rather than differential turnout by group this year.
  • October 24. Who knew? Turns out that the Green Party candidate for President is my old grade-school, high-school, & college buddy, Jill Stein. I haven't seen her for 30 years, but she was always a sweetheart ... not that I'm going to vote for her ... :). Jill Stein for President. We need a new politics for the other 99% of America that doesn't collect a CEO's salary or write big checks for politicians. America deserves a Green New Deal that provides a secure future for we the people and the planet we depend on.
  • Gallup, October 23. Very interesting piece about the gender gap: it's men, not women, causing it! Missed opportunity in analyzing it, tho. They asked men what men's issues are (the men couldn't answer that) rather than looking for what campaign issues especially appeal to men, but not women (people don't always know something like this). Gender Gap in Election Fueled More by Men Than Women. Men's voting preferences have changed significantly more than women's when comparing the 2012 election is compared withto 2008. Barack Obama's support is down 9seven percentage points among men compared to with 4 three points among women.
  • NY Times, October 23. Nate Silver's current analysis of the race, again showing the importance of Ohio. Ohio Has 50-50 Chance of Deciding Election. This year, all the clichés about Ohio are true. In our most recent simulations, Ohio has provided the decisive vote in the Electoral College about 50 percent of the time.
  • PBS, October 21. Follow-up on the econometric election predictions on PBS. Obama or Romney? How Accurate Are Economic Models?. Last week, Paul Solman examined how polls and election markets parse data to determine who will win an election, in this case, the 2012 presidential race between President Barack Obama and former Mass. governor Mitt Romney.
  • NY Times, October 19. Analysts have been asking if Gallup is out of step with other polls. Gallup has Romney up by 7 points, while the others show a much closer race, often within the margin of error. Nate Silver comments:. Gallup vs. the World. The Gallup national tracking poll now shows a very strong lead for Mitt Romney. However, its results are deeply inconsistent with the results that other polling firms are showing in the presidential race, and the Gallup poll has a history of performing very poorly when that is the case.
  • NY Times, October 19. As the election gets nearer, and as the number of undecided voters shrinks, turnout becomes more important. Obama Pushes a Get Out the Vote Operation. For the president and his campaign, the challenge is to overcome a decline in voter enthusiasm from 2008.
  • NY Times, October 19. Swing voters in swing states. In 3 Crucial States, Both Campaigns Press for Latino Voters. In Colorado, Florida and Nevada, ads and volunteers are being dispatched to make cases for President Obama and Mitt Romney.
  • NY Times, October 17. An article about the youth vote. Scant Gains for Romney in a Poll of Young Voters. Despite Republican efforts, President Obama has maintained a strong advantage over Mitt Romney among the crucial constituency of the young.
  • NY Times, October 17. Obama and Romney Focus on Efforts to Woo Women. President Obama asserted that Mitt Romney would oppose equal pay for women and block access to contraceptives, but Mr. Romney said he would do better by struggling families — especially women.
  • NY Times, October 16. Pretty scary. Campaigns Mine Personal Lives to Get Out Vote. The Obama and Romney campaigns are using the personal information of voters to, in effect, train people to go to the polls through subtle cues, rewards and threats.
  • NY Times, October 16. Important article, but posted prior to the debate. My gut tells me he didn't accomplish this particular mission. Debate Could Provide Romney Chance to Close Gender Gap. For Mitt Romney, the challenge remains: to use the debate tonight in New York to try and further erode the president's usual advantage among women.
  • October 12. Why Ohio is so important. Suppose every swing state but Ohio went for Romney (according to current polling), Ohio still swings the election. Look at the two scenarios, as shown in Dr. Sam Wang's Princeton Election Consortium, with his maps weighted by population size:

    Obama winning Ohio: Wins Electoral Vote with 277


    Romney winning Ohio: Wins Electoral Vote with 279

    Wang writes, "The Electoral College contains a structural advantage that favors Obama at the moment. ...The most plausible paths for Romney at the moment are OH or hitting the double: a NV-WI combination. All three of those states have totally post-debate polls, and they are all blue. It would take a pretty hard push to drive the Meta-Margin to the red side. Possible, but something big (in addition to current trends) would have to happen. Watch the major candidates' travel schedules."
  • Gallup, October 12, Americans' Views of Obama More Polarized as Election Nears. Ninety percent of Democrats, 8% of Republicans approve of him. Thus far in October, an average of 90% of Democrats, and 8% of Republicans, approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president. That 82-percentage-point gap in approval ratings by party is on pace to be the largest Gallup has measured for a recent incumbent president in the final month before Americans vote on his re-election. George W. Bush had an 80-point party gap in approval, while the October gaps for other presidents were less than 70 points.
  • NY Times, October 11. Romney's post-debate bounce, as reflected in Nate Silver's NY Times election forecasts. He still has Obama winning, but the margin is much reduced & on track to reversal if there's no change in trend.

  • NY Times, October 11, Very nice series on Presidential geography in Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight.

    • NY Times, October 11, Today's story: Solid South Reversed, but Still Divided by Race. One recurring theme in the states we have profiled so far has been the exodus of Southern whites from the Democratic Party, yielding a striking transformation. The Solid South — so named for the regional hegemony of Democrats — has been reversed, and states that were once Democratic from top to bottom are becoming (or already are) equally Republican. The evolution has progressed particularly far in the Deep South, but Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas are all at different stages.
  • NY Times, October 5, When Job-Creation Engines Stop at Just One. Sobering article about the slow job creation in this slow recovery. Historically, small business has been a job-creating sector, but that may be changing. Productivity is up, corporate profits are up, but not job growth. Article suggests why. Constrained by scarcer financing but aided by better technology, new businesses have fewer employees than they did a decade ago, posing a worrying trend for employment. Charts in the article.
  • NY Times, September 26, In Romney-Obama 'Redistribution' Debate, a Gray Area. Inequality, taxes, & redistribution. We know where the parties stand, right? Except when we don't! Very interesting article

  • NY Times, September 26, Polls Show Obama Is Widening His Lead in Ohio and Florida. More swing-state polling trending toward Obama. See the charts.
  • Gallup, September 26. Three pieces on trust in government, an area I've done research on:
  • NY Times, September 24, Seeking Allies, Teachers' Unions Court G.O.P., Too. ...And the unions are telling the Democrats, don't take us for granted.
  • NY Times, September 24, Booming: More and More, in Obama's Corner. Generally, older voters vote GOP. Republicans' recent statements & positions are opening room for Democrats to challenge them
  • NY Times, September 24, The Statistical State of the Presidential Race. Really nice summary & analysis of the state of the race right now from Nate Silver. How predictive are late September polls to the actual outcome of a presidential race? A close look at poll numbers going back to 1936 reveals some strong themes
  • NY Times, September 23, An Evangelical Is Back From Exile, Lifting Romney. As the election comes closer, we'll start seeing more articles about the "ground game," the get-out-the-vote efforts. Christian conservatives are important to the GOP's efforts, but they have a harder time than usual this time, because of Evangelicals' skepticism about Romney's Mormon faith.

  • NY Times, September 22, To Stay Relevant in a Career, Workers Train Nonstop. More on evolving labor force dynamics. The need to constantly adapt is the new reality for anyone whose job is touched by computing — not just to change careers, but simply to stay competitive on one's chosen path
  • Gallup, September 20, Democratic Enthusiasm Swells in the Swing States, Nationally. A significant development favoring Obama: voter enthusiasm in swing states, which is an important predictor of turnout, which in turn, is an important predictor of election results.
  • NY Times, 9/14/12. Obama Erases Romney's Edge on Economy, Poll Finds. President Obama has taken away Mitt Romney's longstanding advantage as the candidate voters say is most likely to restore the economy and create jobs, according to the latest poll by The New York Times and CBS News, which found a modest sense of optimism among Americans that White House policies are working.

  • NY Times, 9/9/12, Modeling the election, only on the economy, Weak Economy Is a Relative Term This Election Year, A Yale professor's economic data model is seeing a too-close-to-call presidential election.
  • NY Times, September 5, Did Barack Obama Save Ohio? Really interestng article (but very long) on the economy in Ohio, the crucial swing state. Reading this will give you a lot of insight into the election. Why the battle to take credit for Ohio's ever-so-slightly-above-average economy could swing the presidential election.
  • NY Times, September 3, A New Guide to the Democratic Herd, A look at the major blocs of the Democratic Party going into the 2012 election.
  • Pew, September 1, Important new study about the "hollowing out" of the middle class. The Lost Decade of the Middle Class
    • NY Times, September 1, "The disappearance of midwage, midskill jobs is part of a longer-term trend that some refer to as a hollowing out of the work force." here
  • Gallup, August 31, Traditionally, unions & churches were the mainstays anchoring people to party support. The long-term weakening of unions has had an impact on party loyalty & policy positions. In U.S., Labor Union Approval Steady at 52%. Fifty-two percent of Americans approve of labor unions, unchanged from 2010-2011 and just above the 48% low. Americans say unions will be weaker rather than stronger in the future, and prefer they be less rather than more influential.
  • NY Times, August 30, New Wave of Deft Robots Is Changing Global Industry. A new wave of robots is replacing workers in both manufacturing and distribution. One of the parodoxes facing the American economy, whichever candidate wins the presidency: The decline of industry cost America many jobs, but the revival of industrial production could cost even more jobs. Reason: robotics.
  • Gallup, August 28, The gender gap persists. Obama Remains Women's Presidential Pick; Romney, Men's. Male voters continue to prefer Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by an eight-point margin, while female voters prefer Obama over Romney by an identical eight points. The nature of the gender gap varies significantly by demographic group.
  • NY Times, August 26, The Sun Belt, Eclipsed. The Sun Belt remains a force, but the Republican National Convention is a sign that the Republicans' grip on it is loosening. Is the Solid South beginning to come into play?
  • NY Times, August 26, A New Guide to the Republican Herd. Very nice analysis of the major subgroups of Republican voters. Plus, cute elephant animations! A look at the major blocs of the Republican Party going into the 2012 election.
    • Their previous analysis, from 2005. A Guide to the 2005 Republican Herd. An attempt to portray various philosophical and political factions under the Republicans' big tent..
  • NY Times, August 16, Few Voters Truly Up for Grabs, Research Suggests. If there are really only 3-5 percent undecided swing voters, as this article claims, then the election is likely to be about mobilization & turnout, not persuasion. The selection of Ryan makes more sense from that perspective. Nationally, the share of voters who could decide the election is probably between just 3 percent and 5 percent, polling experts say.
  • NY Times, August 11, Polls See Sharp Divide in 3 Swing States. Mitt Romney has held his advantage among the white working-class while President Obama has maintained the support of women, the Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls found. ...A very interesting notion: the political competition between 2 of the biggest voting blocs - totally asymmetrical - which could decide swing states & the election: the white working class vs. single women!
  • NY Times, August 11, In Weak Economy, an Opening to Court Votes of Single Women. In an election focused on the economy, the votes from the legions of unmarried women who helped lift President Obama to victory in 2008 are now up for grabs. Something political analysts noticed several elections ago - the gender gap is not uniform: single women tend Democratic, married women tend Republican.
  • NY Times, June 12, Latino Growth Not Fully Felt at Voting Booth. Latinos are not voting in numbers that fully reflect their potential strength, leaving Hispanic leaders frustrated and Democrats worried as they increase efforts to rally Latino support. More on the Latino vote. Part of the issue is that, while the number of Latino *citizens* is increasing, voting turnout remains very low.
  • Pew, June 6, Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years. As Americans head to the polls this November, their values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years. The new study from Pew on political polarization is getting lots of press, & it should. Political polarization is at an all-time measured high.
  • Pew, February 3, Trends in Party Identification of Religious Groups. Since 2008, the share of voters identifying with or leaning toward the GOP has either grown or held steady among major religious groups. This includes both religious groups that are part of the GOP's traditional constituency as well as some groups that have tended to be more aligned with the Democra...
  • NY Times, January 14, Obama and Romney Face a Tough Fight for Key Group. In an election climate largely defined by the anxieties of the middle class, working people are now more likely than not to face a choice in November between two candidates who sometimes seem to have trouble relating to them.
  • NY Times, 12/25/11, The Anti-Entitlement Strategy. Mitt Romney is pushing hard against "government dependency," "passivity" and "sloth." Will his argument set the terms for the 2012 campaign? ...This internal conflict on the part of voters – opposed to welfare but supportive of programs for the poor — demonstrates how important it is for each side to frame the debate in terms favorable to its own cause — just what Romney is trying to do with his use of the catch phrase "entitlement society." ...Romney's adoption of an anti-entitlement strategy comes at a time when he appears to be looking up from the primaries toward Election Day, which suggests that his hard-line stance will be central to his campaign against Obama and not just a temporary maneuver. We are headed toward an ideological confrontation over the next 11 months of an intensity rarely seen in American political history.
  • NY Times, 11/21/11, The White Party. Republicans triumphed in the mid-term election with help from a surge of white voters. Will doubling down on the same strategy work in 2012?
  • Gallup, 1/16/12, Obama Faces Challenging Re-Election Climate. The U.S. political and economic environment at the start of 2012 is troublesome for an incumbent president seeking re-election. However, Gallup trends suggest it is still too soon to be confident about President Barack Obama's chances.
  • NY Times, 1/15/12, Evangelical Christians' Unease With Romney Is Theological. Basic differences about Scripture, the afterlife and the nature of God leads many, though not all, Christians to conclude that Mormons cannot be considered Christian.
  • NY Times, 1/13/12, Obama and Romney Face a Tough Fight for Key Group. In an election climate largely defined by the anxieties of the middle class, working people are now more likely than not to face a choice in November between two candidates who sometimes seem to have trouble relating to them.
  • NY Times, 11/03/11. What Are the Chances for Republicans? Nate Silver models the likelihood of each candidate winning the popular vote.
  • NY Times, 11/06/11. Is Obama Toast? Handicapping the 2012 Election. The killer calculus of the president's re-election chances.
  • NY Times, 11/18/11. Which Economic Indicators Best Predict Presidential Elections? Hint: it's not the unemployment rate.
  • NY Times, 9/30/11. Obama Sees a Path to '12 Victory Beyond the Rust Belt. With his support among blue-collar white voters far weaker than among white-collar independents, President Obama is pinning his hopes on changing demographics in formerly Republican states.
  • NY Times, 11/27/11. The Future of the Obama Coalition. If the Democrats concede a majority of the white working class vote, what have they got left?



General Sources of Polling & Analysis

  • Election maps


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Basic Press Sites

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Other Sites that Synthesize available polling
... and some of them try to predict the Electoral College Vote outcome

  • - President, Senate, House Updated Daily
  • PredictWise - aggregates, analyzes, and creates predictions, by David M. Rothschild of Microsoft and Andrew S. Leonard.


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Problems & Debates about Polling Accuracy

  • NY Times, August 5, Political Pollsters Struggle to Get the Right Cell Number. Analysts are tweaking methods to better include the views of voters who only have cellphones: some hang up on those who also have landlines, others turn to the Internet. For all you polling geeks (like me) ...
  • Gallup, October 4, 2010, Understanding Gallup's Likely Voter Models. Since 1950, Gallup has used likely voter models to identify Americans who are most likely to vote in a coming election. These models involve asking poll respondents a series of questions about their interest in the coming election, their past voting behavior, and their current intention to vote in the election.
  • Pollster/Mark Blumenthal, 10-5-10, 'Likely' Voters: How Pollsters Define And Choose Them. We have seen the "likely voter" polling problem rear its head several times in recent weeks, but few examples have been as vivid as three national surveys released in the last 24 hours.
  • FiveThirtyEight - Nate Silver started his meta-analysis site in 2008. The New York Times now presents it.
    • October 14, 2010, Bypassed Cellphones: Biased Polls? On Wednesday, Pew Research issued a study suggesting that the failure to include cellphones in a survey sample — and most pollsters don’t include them — may bias the results against Democrats. Pew has addressed this subject a number of times before, and in their view, the problem seems to be worsening. Indeed, this is about what you might expect, since the fraction of voters who rely on cellphones is steadily increasing: about 25 percent of the adult population now has no landline phone installed at all. Clearly, this is a major problem in survey research — and one that, sooner or later, every polling firm is going to have to wrestle with. What isn’t as clear is how much of a problem it is right now. I have written about this in the past, and I encourage you to review those articles. But let me try and come at it from a couple of fresh directions.
    • October 4, 2010, The Uncanny Accuracy of Polling Averages*, Part IV: Are the Polls Getting Worse? There is another type of argument, however, that is potentially more troubling. It could be that, irrespective of the character of this political cycle, polling itself is in decline. This is a widely held view among political elites and many polling professionals — and quite a few of the readers of this blog, I might add.
    • October 3, 2010, The Uncanny Accuracy of Polling Averages*, Part III: This Time, It’s Different? In Part III, we take up one type of critique that I encounter frequently — that 2010 is an unusual political cycle, and that its idiosyncrasies may render the polling less accurate. While this is not an unreasonable hypothesis, we found it does not have any grounding in the evidence: the polls have done no worse in “unusual” political cycles like 1992, nor in “wave” years like 1994 and 2006, than in routine-seeming ones like 1996 and 1998.
    • September 30, 2010, The Uncanny Accuracy of Polling Averages*, Part II: What the Numbers Say. In Part II, I demonstrated, by contrast, that a simple average of polls has performed very well over the past six election cycles in determining the winner of the contest. For example, Senate and gubernatorial candidates who have trailed by 6 to 9 points in the polling average with a month to go until the election have won their races only about 10 percent of the time in recent years.
    • September 29, 2010, The Uncanny Accuracy of Polling Averages*, Part I: Why You Can’t Trust Your Gut. In Part I, I explored why our intuition may mislead us when it comes to forecasting the outcomes of elections — for a variety of reasons, we may tend to assume that there is more uncertainty in the forecast than there really is.

  • ABC/Gary Langer, The Numbers, A Run at the Latest Data from ABC's Poobah of Polling, Gary Langer

    • ABC/Gary Langer, August 30, 2010, This I Believe. It’s quickly mushroomed into the summer’s hottest data point: A boatload of Americans believe Barack Obama’s a Muslim. Except that, maybe, they don’t. Consider this instead: They’re just willing to say it. This not-so-subtle difference is useful in understanding public opinion and its measurement. Yet the punditry and pronouncements that have followed the Obama/Muslim numbers mainly have missed the point, falling instead into the trap of literalism. They say, so they believe. Not necessarily so. People in fact may voice an attitude not as an affirmed belief – a statement of perceived factual reality – but rather as what my colleagues and I have taken to calling “expressed belief” – a statement intended to send a message, not claim a known fact.

  • See the big section in our 2008 election page, here,

    • Some methodological statements from Gallup (their methods are typical of industry standards)

    • Debate on factors that may distort polling's accuracy

    • The "Bradley Effect" - do survey respondents lie about race?

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The "Ground Game:" Turning out the Vote
Plus: Defense against Voter Fraud & Vote Suppression

  • NYT, August 25, 2010, Shaping Tea Party Passion Into Campaign Force, By KATE ZERNIKE. On a Saturday in August when most of the political class has escaped this city’s swelter, 50 Tea Party leaders have flown in from across the country to jam into a conference room in an office building on Pennsylvania Avenue, apparently unconcerned that the fancy address does not guarantee air-conditioning on weekends. They have come to learn how to take over the country, voter by voter. ...This is a three-day “boot camp” at FreedomWorks, the Washington advocacy group that has done more than any other organization to build the Tea Party movement. ...The goal is to turn local Tea Party groups into a standing get-out-the-vote operation in Congressional districts across the country.
  • WP 8/23/10. Primary turnout shows big GOP enthusiasm edge. By Aaron Blake.Three-quarters of the way through the 2010 primary season, the so-called "enthusiasm gap" appears to be playing out across the country with turnout in GOP contests exceeding previous highs and beating Democratic turnout by unprecedented margins in many targeted states.
Background on Karl Rove's successful "Ground Game"
that worked for George W. Bush ... until it didn't

    The Hamburger/Wallsten Explanation
    of the Rove/Bush Strategy

    • "One Party Country: The Republican Plan For Dominance in the 21st Century" at Amazon
    • A September 28, 2006 article in Harpers (here) tries to answer these questions:
      1. The G.O.P. still raises more money than the Democrats, but the Democrats are hardly short of cash. How significant is the G.O.P. advantage in terms of sheer dollars? Are they simply raising more money, or are they also doing a better job of spending it?
      2. How successful has the G.O.P. been in eating away at Democratic support among core constituencies like African Americans and Hispanics?
      3. You say that Republicans have surpassed the Democrats in mobilizing their voters on election day, in part by using databases such as Voter Vault, which allows party activists to track voters by personal hobbies, professional interests, and even by their favorite brand of soda. How does that bank of personal data translate into an advantage on election day? Are Democrats responding with similar programs of their own?
      4. Whatever structural advantages the Republicans have, hasn't the G.O.P. also sought to gain an electoral advantage by suppressing Democratic turnout? How significant are those efforts on the part of the G.O.P., and are we likely to see new and improved methods down the road?
      5. Republicans would no doubt argue that their policies and ideology are simply more popular with the public than Democratic policies. Do ideas still play a role in electoral success or is it all about money and organization?
    • Diane Rehm show, 27 July 2006, here
    • Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 24, 2006, here
    • BuzzFlash, 08/28/2006, here
  • NYT, November 15, 2005. By Jim Rutenberg, Voter Profiles for Bloomberg Went Beyond Ethnic Labels. Throughout this year's mayoral campaign, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's spending records included something called "voter list development." It looked ominous to Democrats - especially as Mr. Bloomberg poured millions into it. Lists like this usually include voters' personal data - the magazines they buy, the cars they drive, their political affiliations. But as the cost of compiling Mr. Bloomberg's list inched up toward $10 million, not even aides to President Bush, who perfected this sort of voter identification last year, could figure out where the money was going.
  • Los Angeles Times July 24, 2005. By Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, Parties Are Tracking Your Habits. Though both Democrats and Republicans collect personal information, the GOP's mastery of data is changing the very nature of campaigning. COLUMBUS, Ohio — At first glance, Felicia Hill seems to fit the profile of a loyal Democrat: She is African American, married to a General Motors union worker and voted for Dukakis, Clinton and Gore in past presidential elections. But in the weeks before election day 2004, the suburban mother of two was deluged with telephone calls, invitations and specially targeted mailings urging her to support President Bush. The intense Republican courtship of Hill, 39, was no coincidence. A deeper look at her lifestyle and politics reveals a voter who might be persuaded to switch sides. Among the clues: she is a church member uneasy about abortion; she lives in a growing suburb and she sent her children to a private school. ...For the first time, she sees the GOP as a place where black women can be comfortable. "I saw people I could relate to," she said, describing conversations she had with Republican professional women during telephone outreach calls and at party events. ...Hill and millions of other would-be Bush backers in closely contested states were identified by a GOP database that culled information ranging from the political basics, like party registration, to the personal, such as the cars they drive, the drinks they buy, even the features they order on their phone lines. The "micro-targeting" effort was so effective that the party credited it with helping to secure Bush's reelection.
  • NYT, December 6, 2004. By Katharine Q. Seelye, How to Sell a Candidate to a Porsche-Driving, Leno-Loving Nascar Fan. After the 2000 presidential campaign, strategists for President Bush came to a startling realization: Democrats watch more television than Republicans. So by buying millions of dollars' worth of television advertising time, Republicans were spending their money on audiences that tended to vote Democratic. What to do? With the luxury of four years until the next election, the Bush team examined voters' television-viewing habits and cross-referenced them with surveys of voters' political and lifestyle preferences. This led to an unusual step for a presidential campaign: it cut the proportion of money that it put into broadcast television and diverted more to niche cable channels and radio, where it could more precisely reach its target audience.
  • NYT, November 19, 2004. By Adam Nagourney, Bush Campaign Manager Views the Electoral Divide. After two years of polling, market testing and up-close demographic scrutiny of American voters, the manager of President Bush's re-election campaign, Ken Mehlman, offered another way Thursday to view the divide between the American electorate. "If you drive a Volvo and you do yoga, you are pretty much a Democrat," Mr. Mehlman told an assembly of the nation's Republican governors here. "If you drive a Lincoln or a BMW and you own a gun, you're voting for George Bush." ...Rather than dispatching troops to knock on doors in neighborhoods known to be heavily Republican, Mr. Mehlman said, the Bush campaign studied consumer habits in trying to predict whom people would vote for in a presidential election. "We did what Visa did," Mr. Mehlman said. "We acquired a lot of consumer data. What magazine do you subscribe to? Do you own a gun? How often do the folks go to church? Where do you send your kids to school? Are you married? "Based on that, we were able to develop an exact kind of consumer model that corporate America does every day to predict how people vote - not based on where they live but how they live," he said. "That was critically important to our success."
  • Washington Post, November 7, 2004. By Dan Balz and Mike Allen, Four More Years Attributed to Rove's Strategy. Despite Moments of Doubt, Adviser's Planning Paid Off. Admired, disparaged, respected and feared, [Karl] Rove joins an elite cadre of political strategists who can claim two presidential victories. Bush's adviser can now look toward the goal he has pursued since he was an obscure direct-mail specialist in Texas: the creation of a durable Republican majority in Washington and across the country.
  • Washington Post, November 4, 2004. By John F. Harris, Victory Bears Out Emphasis on Values. GOP Tactics Aimed At Cultural Divide. ...The results appeared to validate several of the pet theories of [GOP campaign director Karl] Rove, including his belief that politics is as much science as art. Presidential stops in swing states, and the route of campaign bus trips, rarely included the largest cities. That was because Rove chose them scientifically, using three criteria that he explained to reporters in the waning days of the campaign. Rove said his targets were areas where Bush had underperformed in 2000, whether Republican or Democratic, and where the campaign's target for votes was higher than the number that showed up. Second were fast-growing exurban areas or Republican places where there were a large number of people who ought to register to vote and do not -- what Rove calls "a large gap between participation and potential." Third, he said, he paid attention to areas "that have a significant number of swing voters, and swing wildly from election to election."
  • NYT, November 4, 2004. By Elisabeth Bumiller, Turnout Effort and Kerry, Too, Were G.O.P.'s Keys to Victory. In the closing hours of President Bush's campaign for re-election, Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, was obsessed with turning out Republican votes. Late on Monday night, Mr. Rove stood in the cold at a rally in Albuquerque and pulled scraps of paper from his pocket covered with numbers that reassured him that his ground army was in full assault.
  • NYT, July 18, 2004. By Jim Rutenberg, Campaigns Use TV Preferences to Find Voters. When deciding where to run his television advertisements, President Bush is much more partial than Senator John Kerry to crime shows like "Cops," "Law & Order" and "JAG." Mr. Kerry leans more to lighter fare, like "Judge Judy," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Late Show with David Letterman." Those choices do not reflect either man's taste in television, but critical differences in the advertising strategies of their campaigns, which are spending more money for commercials than any other campaigns in presidential history. Crime shows appeal to the Bush campaign because of its interest in reaching out to Republican men who are attracted to such programming. By contrast, the Kerry campaign is more interested in concentrating on single women, who tend to be drawn to shows with softer themes.
  • NYT, April 7, 2004. By Joyce Purnick, Data Churners Try to Pinpoint Voters' Politics. There's this great story making the Washington political rounds about the Conservative Party in Britain. It is that fund-raisers in London found a strong correlation between Conservative Party donors and people who buy garden bulbs by mail. Far-fetched? Maybe not, because people who plant spring bulbs tend to be more suburban and rural than urban, more wealthy than poor and, with time to garden, older. Hence, a likely Conservative, right?
  • NYT, April 6, 2004. By Joyce Purnick, Foraging For Votes: One-Doorbell-One-Vote Tactic Re-emerges in Bush-Kerry Race. They call it the ground war. And as anticipated, it is back after a long hiatus, subtly changing politics as we know it. Or trying to. After decades of playing poor relation to television advertising, grass-roots politics has become a campaign star this year, as many political pros predicted it would be in the aftermath of the Bush-Gore face-off of 2000. And today it ranges from old-fashioned shoe leather to Web technology that can make a precinct captain of anyone with a computer.
  • Washington Post, November 10, 2002. In GOP Win, a Lesson in Money, Muscle, Planning. [Karl] Rove, [Rep. Tom] DeLay and others concluded that Republicans had lost the turnout battle in recent elections by focusing too much on paid advertising and too little on the ground war that Democratic allies such as the AFL-CIO do so well: getting potential voters to the polls. Beginning in early 2001, the party registered thousands of new Republican voters, particularly in fast-growing states. It invested heavily in a program, dubbed the "72-hour project," that would later help spur record turnout in key regions. The Republican National Committee spent millions of dollars honing a system to identify voters, down to specific households, and contact them repeatedly with phone calls, mail and visits from party activists.


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Analyses of Turnout

  • United States Elections Project - Michael P. McDonald at George Mason University: includes information and analysis of turnout.
    • Voter turnout rates presented here show that the much-lamented decline in voter participation is an artifact of poor measurement. Previously, turnout rates were calculated by dividing the number of votes by what is called the "voting-age population" which consists of everyone age 18 and older residing in the United States (the yellow line to the right). This includes persons ineligible to vote, mainly non-citizens and ineligible felons, and excludes overseas eligible voters. When turnout rates are calculated for those eligible to vote, a new picture of turnout emerges, which exhibits no decline since 1972 (the green line to the right).

  • NYT, 11/6/08 (scan from print edition), turnout chart from Michael P. McDonald at George Mason University

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The Big New York Times Exit Poll Chart for 2010

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2008 Exit Polls


The Big New York Times Exit Poll Chart for 2008

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