Final Politico/GWU Battleground poll shows Romney up 15 with independents

Going into the final stretch of Election Day, we’ll see at least a couple of pollsters giving us their final look at the electorate.  Politico leads with its Battleground poll result showing a dead heat at 47% nationally,  with Barack Obama up six over Mitt Romney in their swing-state subgroups, 49/43.  That may be the last piece of good news for Obama in this poll, however:

The final POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of 1,000 likely voters — conducted Sunday and Monday — shows Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama each claiming 47 percent nationally.

Our previous poll, conducted Monday through Thursday of last week, found the race tied at 48 percent. Although Romney and Obama have each led at times, the two candidates have stayed within the margin of error since the spring.

Independents break for Romney by 15 points, 47 percent to 32 percent.

Across the 10 states identified by POLITICO as competitive, Obama leads 49 percent to 43 percent.

That’s at least three national polls in the final week that have showed Romney up by double digits among independents.  Most of them show Obama in the 30s, a very bad place for an incumbent President to be in the final day before the election.  Obama won the 2008 election by seven points while winning this demographic by eight.  So how can he be tied with Romney — and how can Obama be six points ahead in theswing states while tied nationally?

The first hint comes in the 2008 presidential vote question.  The split in the vote in this sample is 50/40 Obama, which understates John McCain’s vote by six full points.  Interestingly, independents in this group give Obama a ten-point lead in 2008, too, slightly higher than in the actual election — which negates the idea that these independents are proto-Republicans (only 36% say they voted for McCain).  It’s a D+3 sample, but only after allocating leaners, 43/40/17.  Based on the 2008 election recap, the leaners look as though they may have been a little more Democratic four years ago.

Let’s take a look at some of the other internals.  The 15-point deficit among independents doesn’t look like a fluke; Obama’s job approval among them is 41/51.  The overall poll also shows the gender gap neutralized, with Romney leading men by 16 points (55/39) and Obama winning women by 15 (55/40).  Sixty percent of the sample are married voters, and Romney has a 17-point lead, 56/39, among them.

As far as the split between supposedly ‘competitive’ states, as Politico calls them, and the national numbers, that seems inexplicable.  This swing-state analysis derives from subgroups of the overall poll, though, so the MoE is wider and the confidence level lower.  Mitt Romney actually has a lead among the 40 supposedly non-competitive states, 49/46, that’s narrower than Obama’s six point lead among the ten competitive states.  It’s curious, but that’s all.

If I’m a Republican presidential candidate with a 15-point lead among independents and a neutralized gender gap, I’m pretty confident of the outcome.  We’ll certainly see soon enough, but here’s one last piece of data:

The potentially more important number is a combination nationally of those who have already voted and those who call themselves “extremely likely” to vote. Romney leads this group by 3 percent, 51 percent to 48 percent.

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