We’re down to the final week of the election, where we’d normally expect to see pollsters fine-tuning their samples in order to get the most predictive survey results ahead of the election. It’s refreshing, therefore, to see the CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac partnership decide to buck that trend and stick with consistency. Their polls in the most hotly contested swing states of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia all show Barack Obama edging Mitt Romney — as long as voter turnout resembles Obama’s big win in 2008:
President Obama has maintained a five-point lead in the crucial swing state of Ohio, according to a new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll of likely voters. The survey found that Mitt Romney has gained ground in Florida and Virginia, where the race is now effectively tied.
Mr. Obama now leads Romney 50 percent to 45 percent among likely voters in Ohio – exactly where the race stood on Oct. 22. His lead in Florida, however, has shrunk from nine points in September to just one point in the new survey, which shows Mr. Obama with 48 percent support and Romney with 47 percent. The president’s lead in Virginia has shrunk from five points in early October to two points in the new survey, which shows him with a 49 percent to 47 percent advantage.
What do the samples look like? Here’s the breakdown for each state, with 2008 and 2010 exit polling in parentheses (2009 in VA’s case):
- FL: 37/30/29 (37/34/29, 36/36/29)
- OH: 37/29/30 (39/31/30, 36/37/28)
- VA: 35/27/35 (39/33/27, 33/37/30)
In each of these three states, the CBS/NYT/Q-poll shows Republicans at a lower percentage level of turnout than in the 2008 election. If one makes that assumption, it’s not too difficult to be guess that Obama might be ahead. However, that’s exactly the opposite of what all other polls rating enthusiasm are telling us what the electorate will look like on Tuesday. In fact, it’s not even what this poll shows, with Republican enthusiasm +16 over Democrats in Florida, +14 in Ohio, and +7 in Virginia.
Let’s take a look at the two key demographics in this election in each of the three states and compare them to 2008. First, let’s start with independents:
- FL: Romney +5, 2008: Obama +7
- OH: Romney +6, 2008: Obama +8
- VA: Romney +21, 2008: Obama +1
Next, let’s look at the overall gender gap in these polls and compare to 2008:
- FL: Obama +1, 2008: Obama +9
- OH: Obama +11, 2008: Obama +11
- VA: Obama +1, 2008: Obama +11
Only in Ohio has Obama managed to maintain a significant gender gap. In all three states, he’s lost ground by double digits in the gap with independents. In all three states, Republican enthusiasm is significantly higher than Democratic enthusiasm. I’d say that the only possible way Obama could be leading under those circumstances is to seriously undercount Republicans.