General Election Poll Parsing #1

The General Election is underway, and it’s time to turn our attention to the final two candidates to remain in the arena.  With five months between now and election day, it would be foolish to think that polls taken today will hold through the summer and into the fall, but it still bears studying them to see what kind of travails lie ahead.

For now the two daily trackers still favor Obama.  Gallup has Obama maintaining a six point, statistically significant lead, meanwhile Rasmussen gives Obama another statistically significant lead, though one that is a slight drop to five points.  Interestingly, when leaners are thrown in, the margin stays the same, but Obama jumps from 46 percent to 49 percent.  Among those who claim they will not change their minds over the course of the summer, Obama holds a slight three point edge.

Rasmussen also gives Obama a significant electoral college lead over McCain.

Now, as I mentioned back in the primaries, the daily trackers are essential not necessarily in assertaining vote percentages but instead in trend analysis.  There’s not much to discuss as of yet, though, because outside of Obama clinching the nomination, the general election is not far enough along to be able to make much out of the ongoing trends.  Prior to the primaries, Obama and McCain remained for the most part even.  Now he enjoys a five to six point lead which is accountable for either a positive media bump from clinching the nomination, or by Democratic voters who were quick to unify for the party.

Likely a combination of both.

Right now, both candidates are enjoying a little over 80% of in party support, so what is important to look for in the daily trackers is how much more of their own party support they can rustle up.  Here I think Obama has the advantage; McCain has had months to consolidate his party while the Democrats beat each other up.  That we’re only a week out and Obama has nearly as much party support as McCain indicates that McCain may be maxed out while Obama should be able to expect that his in party support will continue to rise as embittered Democratic voters are given time to grieve and eventually find themselves in a place where they can support the ticket.

Speaking of unity, Gallup also has a very interesting poll out on support for each candidate based upon gender.  Among women, Obama went from a modest lead against McCain to actually performing better against McCain among women than Senator Clinton did (Obama enjoying a thirteen point lead while Clinton had about twelve).

This shouldn’t be taken to mean that all wounds are healed and Obama is off to the races among women.  While Obama’s thirteen point lead among women just barely ekes out Clinton’s lead in the final week, the overall total vote shares for both Obama and McCain are slightly lower indicating more room potentially for women to support McCain later on.

Also, there is the issue with women over fifty.  Clinton, who led this group against McCain by ten points, has yet to be matched by obama who has only a six point lead.  Though, a bright side for the Obama camp should be that even in this demographic where many expected Obama to have some challenges, that’s only a four point defecit compared to Clinton and should be within the realm of possibility to not only make up but improve upon.

In any case, Obama strongly outperforms McCain among women, and is narrowing the gap among men to within statistical error.  Again, advantage Obama.

But the most interesting poll of the day comes courtesy an NBC/WSJ poll:

Here’s one question from today’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that we’re releasing early: 59% say it’s more important to have a president who will focus on progress and moving America forward, versus 37% who would rather the president protect what has made America great. 

This poll right here spells very good news for Team Obama, but it is not a lock in.  The thing to remember here is that the terms discussed about in this poll are subjective, and susceptible to subjects transferring their own opinions to meet the question.

For instance, for you and me, progress might be defined as, say, getting closer to universal healthcare, or getting closer to a foreign policy that is more intelligent and focused on real diplomacy vice saber rattling and marching to war.

For others, progress may be defined as finally turning the Middle East into a glass parking lot.

Change is not single directional, and both candidates this cycle are going to project themselves as agents of change, and if this poll is correct, whomever is the more successful in this regard will have an edge.

McCain is going to get some of these people, but I think it’s pretty obvious that Obama has a far more easy path ahead of him appealing to the 59% who want progress given the differences ideologically and policy wise between him and Bush and the similiarites between McCain and Bush.

So, again, we got five months of this shindig to go through, and things are likely to change, but these early polls indicate that Obama is really starting out the gate in a very enviable position.  It’s just a matter of if he can capitalize on that.

 

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