Friday, October 26, 2012

New poll: Romney hits 50%, but who has the momentum and what does it all mean?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

ABC News:

Mitt Romney has seized further advantage on economic issues at the core of the 2012 campaign, taking him to 50 percent support among likely voters vs. 47 percent for Barack Obama – Romney's highest vote-preference result of the contest to date.

The difference between the two candidates is within the margin of sampling error in the latest ABC News/Washington Post daily tracking poll, and their individual support levels have not significantly changed. But the momentum on underlying issues and attributes is Romney's.

This has been, recently, the dominant media narrative, one they are reluctant to let go of: Romney is on the rise, and there's no stopping him, as if he can just keep going up and up. This has been the story ever since the first debate, Romney's one solid outing in the entire campaign, even though Obama won the next two debates, Biden beat Ryan in theirs, and Romney has continue to spew his dishonesty and nonsense out on the campaign trail, very much the candidate he always has been though now with a phony "Moderate Mitt" twist.

(For more on this media-driven development, now fueled by the Romney campaign's inevitability spin, see Alec MacGillis's critique of the "liberal" media's "trajectory" narrative. It very much mirrors my own view of things following the first debate, when I said that the media wanted Romney to win -- not so much because they agree with his politics but because they wanted a new story, and some drama -- and so aggressively gave the debate to Romney on style and hammered the "Romney crushed Obama" meme, willfully ignoring Romney's deluge of dishonesty.)

Now, obviously, there's something to it. Romney has in fact risen in the polls, even if the debate was only part of it (basically, the race was bound to tighten), and at least this one poll now has him up to 50%.

But a poll, a single poll, is just that: a single snapshot of a complex and narrowly volatile situation. The question isn't whether a single poll is an accurate measure of where the electorate stands but how the race is going generally, and the way to do that, as scientifically as possible, is to aggregate polls while accounting for individual polls' biases. The result is still a snapshot, of course, but one that tells a more comprehensive story.

And as Nate Silver writes -- and he knows a thing or two about such things -- Romney's "momentum" appears to have stalled, if not stopped:

Mr. Romney clearly gained ground in the polls in the week or two after the Denver debate, putting himself in a much stronger overall position in the race. However, it seems that he is no longer doing so.

Take Wednesday's national tracking polls, for instance. (There are now eight of them published each day.) Mr. Romney gained ground in just one of the polls, an online poll conducted for Reuters by the polling organization Ipsos. He lost ground in five others, with President Obama improving his standing instead in those surveys. On average, Mr. Obama gained about one point between the eight polls. 

And, indeed, if there is any momentum, it may now be going Obama's way:

The FiveThirtyEight model looks at a broader array of polls — including state polls — in order to gauge the overall trend in the race.

Our "now-cast" also finds a slightly favorable trend for Mr. Obama over the course of the past 10 days or so. Mr. Romney's position peaked in the "now-cast" on Friday, Oct. 12, at which point it estimated a virtual tie in the popular vote (Mr. Obama was the projected "winner" by 0.3 percentage points). As of Wednesday, however, Mr. Obama was 1.4 percentage points ahead in the "now-cast," meaning that he may have regained about 1 percentage point of the 4 points or so that he lost after Denver. Mr. Obama's chances of winning the Electoral College were up in the FiveThirtyEight forecast to 71 percent on Wednesday from 68.1 percent on Tuesday.

I don't pretend to be a polling expert, but I know enough to know that you have to take a step back to see the bigger picture, and that's something many in the media are simply incapable or unwilling to do, preferring to latch on to out-dated narratives (or, rather, to become enamored of their own narratives, as if they've discovered the meaning of the cosmos) and participate in the echo chamber that develops whenever a new narrative takes hold (think of a petulant child, facing a plate of broccoli, sticking his fingers in his ears and yelling in response to his parents telling him to eat up, it's good for you, which of course it is, he just doesn't know it yet, and perhaps never will).

Look, we're still talking about an awfully tight race that could go either way. And of course it's a race for Electoral College votes, not the total national vote, so what we really need to look at, as Silver does, is the state-by-state picture, particularly the key swing states like Ohio.

And there, President Obama has maintained a fairly consistent lead, even if it's down from the pre-first debate highs, with the race certainly not close enough for comfort -- and with anything possible heading into the final ten days.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home