The poll to watch right now

posted at 10:15 pm on April 23, 2012 by Karl

To quote CBS News political director John Dickerson, right now there are more polls than in a Warsaw bar. For political news junkies, Nate Silver offers helpful advice on poll-watching. I don’t necessarily agree with every point (his attacks on forecasting models are not only misguided, but downright funny coming from Silver, who built a model that is worse than those he criticizes), but overall I recommend reading the whole thing.

The main point Silver misses — perhaps because poll analysis is his blogging bread and butter — is that head-to-head polls at this point in election cycle explain less than 50% of eventual results.

This early in the cycle, I would prefer to follow Pres. Obama’s job approval number. Sean Trende notes the longstanding correlation between the incumbent’s job approval rating and the vote share ultimately received on Election Day. He also notes the close correlation in the 2012 campaign so far:

Since January of this year, the president’s share of the vote against Romney has been, on average, within .55 points of his job approval in the RCP Average on any given day (the median is .5 points). There has only been one day, back on Jan. 10, where he ran more than two points ahead of his job approval. This tendency translates to individual polls as well. ***

On average, Obama runs .93 percent ahead of his job approval. We also might note that there seems to be some systemic bias in Pew that has the president running unusually well (vis a vis other pollsters) compared to his job approval. If you assume that something in Pew’s methodology renders it an outlier, the president would run .42 percent ahead of his job approval.

Thus, this early in the cycle, rather than fret over each poll that comes in, a good number to consider would be Obama’s average job approval +.5 percent.

However, it’s also possible that number could be a ceiling at any given moment. Harry J. Enten has a very nice piece extending Silver’s final point about the small number of elections usually studied (16) makes the notion of “rules” about elections a risky enterprise. Read the whole thing, because there’s plenty of good stuff there beyond what he says about presidential job approval:

Approval ratings are great at predicting winners, but they are inexact. The perceived ideology of an opponent may not play the biggest role in determining the winner, but it does play some role. Also, these historic approval polls are of adults generally, not actual voters – who tend to be somewhat more Republican.

In this particular cycle, Mitt Romney’s moderate image probably helps him by a percentage point or two (which is why Team Obama is trying to paint him as the most right-wing candidate since Barry Goldwater). And the fact that the electorate trends more GOP than the general population also helps Romney. Sean Trende is correct in claiming Obama can win if he boosts his job approval by a couple of points, which is entirely possible. However, Jay Cost correctly notes Obama has not managed this consistently in over two years.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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Is there a poll on which poll we should be watching..?

d1carter on April 23, 2012 at 10:18 PM

So, what does Barky’s approval number need to fall to before we can start measuring the drapes, no doubt about it?

The Count on April 23, 2012 at 10:21 PM

Just look at Rasmussen.

VorDaj on April 23, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Direction of Country NBC News/WSJ
Right Direction 33,
Wrong Track 59

Wrong Track +26

Can an incumbent win when 59% of voters say the country is on the wrong track?

galtani on April 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM

I’m almost sorry I created the Hot Air “Drinkng Game”…

… “Drink every time there is a new poll!”

Almost…

*clink*

Seven Percent Solution on April 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM

So, what does Barky’s approval number need to fall to before we can start measuring the drapes, no doubt about it?

The Count on April 23, 2012 at 10:21 PM

If I had to guess I’d say about 45 in late September or October. He’s dropped a little below that before, but I’d get we’d be assured of victory if only 45% approve of him.

cpaulus on April 23, 2012 at 10:24 PM

The poll to watch right now……….

……..is the pole that Obama Girl,is ready to spin on!!
(snark)

canopfor on April 23, 2012 at 10:25 PM

there are more polls than in a Warsaw bar

Thank you and goodnight!

Tim_CA on April 23, 2012 at 10:26 PM

POLLS R POO

only numbers that matter are incomes

Median income is down significantly since 2009

Barack is Dunzo

corujodp on April 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM

I’m almost sorry I created the Hot Air “Drinkng Game”…

… “Drink every time there is a new poll!”

Almost…

*clink*

Seven Percent Solution on April 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM

…Oh please no!…you ever heard of alcohol poisoning?

KOOLAID2 on April 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM

I still say Romney is going to have to play identity politics to win…….

…..sorry folks it’s just the lay of the land.

He needs to pick someone that is either black, hispanic or a woman…..or maybe any combination of the three.

PappyD61 on April 23, 2012 at 10:29 PM

Obama will make a concerted effort to raise that approval rating sometime before election with policy decisions having to do with energy and Iran. I suspect he’s been trying to hold Israel off an attack simply for timing purposes. An ensuing jump in gas prices can be laid off on Israel and Scooter takes credit for giving them assistance. If we damage Iran’s potential, he gains kudos for that and also gets back some approval from grateful American Jews. A win-win for him. Plus, Mitt et al will be unable to criticize him.

a capella on April 23, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Nonsense.

The scientific purity of political polls has been eroded to a tail wag the dog exercise… numbers/data/math just happen to be quantitative representatives used – it does not equate a causation, though frivolous correlations.

This is the very same party who believes in a mathmatical junta called “Global Warming” This is the same party who basterdize a basic poll – as in a fair and accurate sample size, also known as “Rule #1 in Polls” Oh – and its the same party who believe in the institutional carnage called “public education math scores.”

So yes, nice numbers, nifty formulas – with zero causation.

Odie1941 on April 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM

So, what does Barky’s approval number need to fall to before we can start measuring the drapes, no doubt about it?

The Count on April 23, 2012 at 10:21 PM

Last time I saw her…wasn’t Mooshelle wearing them? It was either them or the shower curtains…

lovingmyUSA on April 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM

My opinion is to watch professional pollster polls(Rasmussen, Gallup and even PPP) vs Media polls (ABC, NBC, NYT…).

Tater Salad on April 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM

My opinion is to watch professional pollster polls(Rasmussen, Gallup and even PPP) vs Media polls (ABC, NBC, NYT…).

Tater Salad on April 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM

Yep

Mark1971 on April 23, 2012 at 10:43 PM

My opinion is to watch professional pollster polls(Rasmussen, Gallup and even PPP) vs Media polls (ABC, NBC, NYT…).

Tater Salad on April 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM

Doesn’t PPP sample adults until like 2 weeks out and then they switch to likely voters?

The Count on April 23, 2012 at 10:43 PM

I still say Romney is going to have to play identity politics to win…….

…..sorry folks it’s just the lay of the land.

He needs to pick someone that is either black, hispanic or a woman…..or maybe any combination of the three.

PappyD61 on April 23, 2012 at 10:29 PM

This NEVER works for republicans. Remember, C. Rice and C. Powell? Democrats called them house-ni&&gers and worst. If you have good policies and can explain them, they are good for “everybody”. Let them play that game. They have 50 years of experience at it. And we will end up entering that game right about the time the country is totally fed up with it.

Alabama Infidel on April 23, 2012 at 10:45 PM

Watching the presidential approval makes sense at this point in the election year. But the other factor is you need to normalize the results to the same turn out model, i.e. number of dems, GOP and indies. Even more than averaging different polls together, normalizing them to the same turn out model tells you more. A recent Fox and CNN pair of polls were -9 and +6 on approval, way far apart. But if you normalized them to the same turnout model, you can see the race more clearly. If you assume a 2004 or 2010 turn out model (with even numbers of dems and GOP voters), the -9 and +6 becomes -11 and -1 (i.e. Obama is going down). If you assume a 2008 turnout model (with a lot more D than R), you get +5 to -6 (i.e. 50/50 race). Personally, I think a bitter war of attrition like 2004 or 2010 is more likely than another dem wave, but we shall see. Bottom line, don’t just look at the approval numbers, look at the turnout model behind those numbers to really understand where the race is right now.

yetanotherjohn on April 23, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Can an incumbent win when 59% of voters say the country is on the wrong track?

galtani on April 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Absolutely. Remember that a good percentage of that 59% still blame Booosh. Plus, there will be plenty of Dem voter fraud in critical locals. And I think it’s pretty obvious that BO doesn’t exactly want to part with the Air Force 1 pacifier. Ever try to wean a baby off one of those? Yeah, he’s going to really fight to keep that. Promoting BO to stay-at-home Dad status is not going to be a slam dunk.

climbnjump on April 23, 2012 at 10:52 PM

I’m sorry to say that if the polls are close going into the election, I think we lose. Rasmussen is solid, but I can’t help but think about how he had Angle +4 the last week and lost by over 5. Toomey was comfortably ahead and won a very narrow race.

The hard truth is they have more machinery on the ground to GOTV and have voter fraud working in their favor as well – something impossible to measure in polls. Obama, as disastrous as he is, is still the first black president, a good campaigner and pretty adept at lying about his record. He is going to be tough to dislodge.

I am not going to lie: I am hoping for bad economic news this summer so voters are motivated enough to fire him and put us on a path to real economic recovery next year.

The Count on April 23, 2012 at 10:58 PM

To quote CBS News political director John Dickerson, right now there are more polls than in a Warsaw Cartagena bar.

FIFY.

rogaineguy on April 23, 2012 at 11:00 PM

…Oh please no!…you ever heard of alcohol poisoning?

KOOLAID2 on April 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM

Oh quit worrying, if you play 7%’s drinking game you’ll drown long before the alcohol poisoning can get you…

SWalker on April 23, 2012 at 11:02 PM

Enthusiasm is the real key to winning elections. Obama’s will be down from ’08, obviously, and Romney doesn’t generate any enthusiasm to speak of.

No one really wants either of these guys in a position of power, but I think the incumbent still wins. This is just 2004 again, with a less popular incumbent president who completely controls the media.

So I expect Obama to win with something North of 290 Electoral Votes.

Buckshot Bill on April 23, 2012 at 11:02 PM

I am not going to lie: I am hoping for bad economic news this summer so voters are motivated enough to fire him and put us on a path to real economic recovery next year.

The Count on April 23, 2012 at 10:58 PM

I think Obama will announce he is lifting the offshore drilling ban sometime in late Sept/early Oct. That should cause an immediate drop in gas prices, probably more than a $1 per gallon by election day. It may cost him a few treehugger votes (though I doubt it), but it should gain him a few percent nationwide.

Buckshot Bill on April 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM

In this particular cycle, Mitt Romney’s moderate image probably helps him by a percentage point or two (which is why Team Obama is trying to paint him as the most right-wing candidate since Barry Goldwater).

What? A moderate image helps? How can that be? I keep hearing different stuff from talk radio hosts. Who to believe?/

Buy Danish on April 23, 2012 at 11:18 PM

I think Obama will announce he is lifting the offshore drilling ban sometime in late Sept/early Oct. That should cause an immediate drop in gas prices, probably more than a $1 per gallon by election day. It may cost him a few treehugger votes (though I doubt it), but it should gain him a few percent nationwide.

Buckshot Bill on April 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM

Of course, he will once again roadblock it after the election when we will return to “we need gasoline prices like Europe has” mode.

KW64 on April 23, 2012 at 11:34 PM

The Biggest Waste of Electrons I’ve seen in Weeks………

williamg on April 23, 2012 at 11:42 PM

Every American has the right to be righteously angry, they just need to get to see why.

Speakup on April 23, 2012 at 11:54 PM

Polls are meaningless before both conventions. The traditional time most people start paying attention is after Labor Day, and many of the key swing voters won’t start thinking hard until October.

Can an incumbent win when 59% of voters say the country is on the wrong track?

galtani on April 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM

55% said wrong track in 1996 and 2004, incumbents reelected both years.

Adjoran on April 24, 2012 at 12:04 AM

Adjoran on April 24, 2012 at 12:04 AM

We’ll see whether that is the case again, but 59% is a bit more than 55%, and it also may depend on whether that feeling persists through the summer into the fall.

galtani on April 24, 2012 at 12:20 AM

Barring an economic miracle, Romney wins easily. Reagan was 25 points down against Carter at one point. The media went full bore against him and there was NO alternative media back then. If Republicans stick together Obama is gone.

echosyst on April 24, 2012 at 12:36 AM

Conventional Wisdom says any incumbent under 50 percent approval is in Big trouble. Lower than 50 percent means that the majority of the people who know you, dislike you. And as they’ve taken years to come to that conclusion what can possibly happen in a few months to change their mind?

Also, as it take something over 6 months of sustained growth to convince a majority of Americans that the economy has improved, things better start picking up soon or its good-bye Washington DC for this administration. (An interesting aside is that the percentage of people who think the country is in a recession has never dropped below 30 percent since they started asking that question. That is, at any one time, a third of all Americans thinks it tough out there, no matter what figures show up on the front page. With that much of a headwind, it will take some awfully good numbers soon to get Obama out of the fix he’s in right now.)

Fred 2 on April 24, 2012 at 1:01 AM

If Republicans stick together Obama is gone.

BINGO!

Mojave Mark on April 24, 2012 at 2:45 AM

Poll watching.

I don’t think it means what you think it means, or what you think it should mean. It should mean this:

2008 Election: Stolen???

Rixon on April 24, 2012 at 3:53 AM

Indeed Obama has not been able to maintain good approval ratings. Every time he climbs towards a decent approval rating among the reputable polls he always seems to drop back down again by at least a point or two.

Additionally, the RCP average for his approval rating needs to be taken with a modest grain of salt. It’s not too far off, but a few of their numbers come from polls that have historically made unrealistic assumptions that favor Obama.

If you stick to the polls that have historically been in the ballpark as far as election day results are concerned, Obama’s approvals are even worse.

WolvenOne on April 24, 2012 at 4:04 AM

While we’re reading crystal balls…

Stock Market Predicts Defeat For President Obama

It’s happened 13 times since 1936. Call it the IBD January Incumbent Barometer.

An incumbent president faces a challenger … and 13 out of 13 times the stock market picks the winner in January.

Say again?

Here’s how it works: When the stock market scores a big gain in January — about 6% or more — the challenger beats the incumbent president every time, or as we shall see, almost every time. When the stock market goes up or down modestly in January — 4% or less in either direction — the incumbent wins almost every time.

This January the Nasdaq rose 8%, signaling a loss for President Obama, according to the IBD JIB.

You can write this off as wishful thinking by Obama’s critics, fearful thinking by his supporters, a silly ham-on-wry exercise, or just a coincidence emerging from data mining.

But just as the January barometer for stocks supposedly signals the market’s direction for the year, this political January barometer does the same for incumbent presidents with one catch.

The January barometer for stocks has sometimes been wrong. The last time the JIB missed was 1932. Since then, the JIB has been on a roll. Consider the record:

Nasdaq up 5.8% in January 1992, and challenger Clinton wins in November.

Nasdaq up 7% in January 1980, and challenger Reagan wins.

S&P 500 up 11.8% in January 1976, and challenger Carter wins.

In all three cases, the electorate was pining for a change, whether the aftermath of Watergate, the dismal economy of the late 1970s or President George H.W. Bush’s failure to keep his “read my lips, no new taxes” promise.

Indeed, the stock market typically looks ahead and reacts before headlines become reality. So there may be more at work than an uncanny streak.

The JIB has been just as good with incumbent victories. In January 2004, the Nasdaq rose 3.1% and Bush won in November. (See table for the complete tally.)

The more modest moves in January signaled an incumbent victory. The big up moves in January signaled a challenger victory.

The exception was 1932. The Dow fell 1.7%, a modest move which should’ve been good for incumbent Herbert Hoover, according to the JIB. But FDR, the challenger, won.

If Obama is re-elected, he will be the first to beat the JIB since that Great Depression election. But if the JIB performs in its usual near-perfect fashion, look for a Republican victory in November.

Rational Thought on April 24, 2012 at 7:01 AM

Europe is falling to pieces and we’re not far behind. It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see where we’re headed with a big taxing, big spending, big gov lib in charge. Our economy, and especially real employment is in the hopper. That isn’t going to magically turn around over the next 6 months.

Mitt wins with over 5% popular vote margin. Count on it.

MJBrutus on April 24, 2012 at 7:14 AM

All it will take is 3 consecutive months of any kind of positive economic news and Obama’s rating will zoom up.

albill on April 24, 2012 at 7:52 AM

Polls are like scientific studies on silly things, like butter, margarine, coffee, etc. (that everyone uses-hence a guaranteed continuation of grant money), Wait and they all contradict themselves.
I have little faith in number games – so easy to manipulate. Think of the world-wide AGW scam as pure politics. Why should we not expect the polls to be driven by the same powerful folks?

Any means to an end, means just that.

Don L on April 24, 2012 at 8:08 AM

Color me optimistic.

- There is no way that Obama as the tarnished guy with an actual record picks up anything like his 08 level of support.

- The “recovery” which should have been in full swing, is anemic to nonexistant for the average person.

- Gas prices are going up. As trivial as it sounds, stuff like this makes the typical low-information voter who will swing this thing upset.

- A well-known, constantly visible incumbent whom we have all been told is the Second Coming is within the MOE against a Repuclican challenger who has just finished a bruising primary battle. IF Obama can’t hit 50% consistently at this point, he’s in trouble.

- The econonmy will be everyone’s number one concern, and Romney has the reputation of aeconomic fix-it guy.

- The Romney campaign has shown itself to be agile, disciplined, and willing to throw an elbowe when needed, in contrast to McCain 08.

- Obama, when things are not going well for him, gets personal and nasty. His likeability numbers are unlikely to survive the kind of trench-war campaign he will need to run, with no record to speak of that he can trumpet.

FuzzyLogic on April 24, 2012 at 8:37 AM

You cannot underestimate just how important the likability factor is. GW Bush had borderline approval ratings in 08 (47-50 percent), but he destroyed Kerry in likability and that carried him across the finish line.

People just do not like Romney. They may think he wouldn’t be a bad President but there is just something about him that is a turn-off.

OTOH, people just love Obama to death, no matter how poor a job he’s done.

gumbyandpokey on April 24, 2012 at 9:21 AM

I have worked in many elections up here in Canada. One thing I know is nobody ever wins an election but someone loses. Incumbents have to be aware that disatisfied voters ill be far more motivated to vote that satisfied ones. If we reflect on the 2008 result I would submit that Obama did not win so much as Bush lost even though he was not running. THe vote for Obama was a repudiation of the 8 years of Bush rther than a mandate for Obama’s left wing agenda. This election will be a referendum on that agenda as implemented over the past 4 years. Obama will lose because there are more people dissatisfied than satified with the direction of the US. This is the message that needs to be reinforced and those disatisfied have to concentrate on getting out the vote.

Brian Mallard on April 24, 2012 at 10:00 AM

I think Obama will announce he is lifting the offshore drilling ban sometime in late Sept/early Oct. That should cause an immediate drop in gas prices, probably more than a $1 per gallon by election day. It may cost him a few treehugger votes (though I doubt it), but it should gain him a few percent nationwide.

Buckshot Bill on April 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM

Announcing new drilling would be a good ploy, but September would be much too late. When Bush 43 did it in July 2008, gasoline prices started dropping, but had only come down about 30-40 cents by September.

Besides, if Obama re-opened drilling that late, the Romney campaign could denounce it as a political ploy, especially after Obama has repeatedly said that we could not drill our way to lower energy prices. Romney could also accuse Obama of needlessly saddling Americans with high gasoline prices for two years by closing the Gulf in 2010, and refusing to build the Keystone XL pipeline. How could voters trust Obama to avoid shutting down drilling in the Gulf as soon as he was re-elected, given his record and the $$$ thrown down the toilet with Solyndra et al?

If Obama wanted to bring down energy prices for political reasons, he needs to do it NOW, not later. This is why it is important to force votes on the Keystone XL pipeline in Congress now, and, if they pass, force Obama to either sign or veto them. If Obama signs the bill and gasoline prices come down, Romney can then argue that increasing supply DOES bring down prices, and additional drilling will bring them down further, and that Romney will open up additional drilling. If Obama vetoes a Keystone XL pipeline bill, Romney can blame Obama ALONE for high gasoline prices, which will stay high as long as Obama is in office.

Steve Z on April 24, 2012 at 10:16 AM

Less than 6 months until Obowma is sent packing and he can begin to schedule his first annual blame Booooosh tour on a college campus near you.

Will this tool EVER accept fault for his failed policies? Never thought I’d see anyone perform worse than Carter…I was wrong.

dthorny on April 24, 2012 at 10:32 AM

The Romney campaign has shown itself to be agile, disciplined, and willing to throw an elbowe when needed, in contrast to McCain 08.- Obama, when things are not going well for him, gets personal and nasty. His likeability numbers are unlikely to survive the kind of trench-war campaign he will need to run, with no record to speak of that he can trumpet.

FuzzyLogic on April 24, 2012 at 8:37 AM

Remember the “speedbump” commercials and the visual signs reflecting the Obowma economy Romney ran on Obowma’s verbal gaffes? The Romney campaign has a fantastic message group for their commercials that hit Obowma hard. I hope they continue to pound away using Obowma’s own words against him.

dthorny on April 24, 2012 at 10:37 AM

The latest flood of polls and their analysis looks like nonsensical parlor games. Phrenology, or ouija.

Greek Fire on April 24, 2012 at 11:23 AM

I still say Romney is going to have to play identity politics to win…….

…..sorry folks it’s just the lay of the land.

He needs to pick someone that is either black, hispanic or a woman…..or maybe any combination of the three.

PappyD61 on April 23, 2012 at 10:29 PM

How about a Black, Hispanic, transgender, gay woman….?

StompUDead on April 24, 2012 at 12:50 PM