Newsweek No Longer An Outlier?

Validating Newsweek?” Oliver Willis’ post title asks, followed by a quick reference to a new LA Times poll that shows Obama surging to a twelve point lead over John McCain.  With Bob Barr and Ralph Nader thrown on the ballot, that lead jumps up to the lead that Newsweek gave Obama last week at fifteen points.  Is Oliver right?  Has Newsweek’s poll been vindicated?

In a race that has already shown Obama consistently over McCain, but by only a varying degree of single digit leads, Newsweek dropped a bomb when it put Obama up by a strong double digit margin.  Indeed, that margin was so out of whack with other polling data elsewhere I didn’t bother reporting upon it as it appeared to be a blatant outlier.

But with the LA Times coming back with a strong double digit lead for Obama as well, that makes it a little more difficult to discredit the Newsweek data as merely statistical noise.

Now, the one thing that is easily done here is explaining the three point bump that occurs from the entrance of Nader and Barr into the arena.  You have to take a look at the two politicians separately.

Regarding Nader, he’s going to get votes, sure, and those votes will likely come from those people who will always vote for Nader every single time he throws his hat into the ring.  But the more maleable support that Nader once enjoyed is likely gone for quite some time.  The fact of the matter is, too many people who voted for Nader in 2000 learned their lesson–protest voting can lead to disaster.

So, while Nader is likely to be little more than a blip on the radar in the fall, Bob Barr finds himself entering the arena under completely different circumstances.  In general he stands as an alternative to McCain, specifically for anti-war Republicans, and small l libertarians who have been more or less loyal to the Republican party.  In fact, general lack of enthusiasm and displeasure on the right side of the aisle directed towards McCain points to the probability of a high likelihood of protest voters assuming the right protest candidate comes about.

Can Bob Barr be that candidate?  Not to a catastrophic degree, no.  From what I understand, he’s not that dynamic of a politician, and one wonders how the Ron Paul rEVOLution will change the dynamics in respect to the Barr campaign and its impact.  So I can say with 99.999% assurance that Barr will not pick up a single electoral vote, however, there’s some potential for him to shift percentages in some states that McCain should be able to depend upon (while I know no one takes it seriously, Barr’s presence in the presidential race compared with a recent Georgia poll that puts Obama and McCain in a dead heat should make just about everyone in the McCain camp at least a little nervous).

So the short version of the three point bump when indy candidates are included is based largely upon the potential for protest votes, and the tainted history that the Nader vote brings up.

But what about these numbers?  15%?  12%?  Really, is Obama doing that well?

It’s hard to say.  There’s definitely a groundwork there.  He’s only a few weeks out of a highly publicized primary, and has been saturated in the media.  Also, there’s the eighteen state media buy for an ad bio that he put forth that might be helping to redefine him in a more favorable light.  Further, there’s the enthusiasm gap to keep in mind that should continue to push the numbers in his favor so long as it holds.

But as of right now the two polls don’t line up well with everything else we have seen.  The Gallup Daily only puts Obama up by three points, while Rasmussen is a little more generous giving Obama six points (up 2).  For aggregated data, Pollster puts Obama up by five and a half points, and Real Clear Politics gives Obama seven and a half.

Looking at the numbers without looking at the trends, it appears as though Newsweek and LAT are just a bit outside in their polling.  And, for all intents and purposes, until we see further data, that’s how they should be treated; as tentative outliers.

But once we look at the trends, there is reason to believe that as opposed to being outliers or statistical noise, the Newsweek and LA Times polls are early indicators for something big.

You can check out RCP’s interractive graphic on their polling page (linked above), but here’s what Pollster’s graphic shows (which looks curiously like RCP’s):



What we see in both trends is that Obama is currently on the move while McCain’s numbers are traveling in the wrong direction.  Now, while I maintain that for now the LA Times and Newsweek numbers should be treated as outliers, it is also important to know that aggregated trends, and daily trackers, can be slow.  Aggregated trends because they pool data from a bunch of sources, and tend to weight that data in a conservative manner, and trackers because they pool data from several days.

Indeed, Rasmussen, too, shows Obama steadily increasing his lead over McCain, which leaves the Gallup Daily tracker appearing more like a trend outlier.

So I would want to wait, and see at least on more polling point over ten for Obama on the national scale before I say that Obama truly is doing that well against McCain, but if the polling trends are accurate, it shouldn’t take too much longer for that polling point to come about.

More at Memerorandum: The Moderate Voice, Top of the Ticket, Salon, Reason Magazine, Think Progress, The Corner,, Slog, The Swamp, Hot Air, Mercury Rising, Donklephant, Daily Kos, Marc Ambinder, Patterico’s Pontifications, American Street, RADAMISTO, Wonkette, Commentary, MyDD, Spin Cycle, The Talent Show, TPM Election Central, Boston Globe, Martini Revolution, Real Clear Politics and Eschaton

One Response to “Newsweek No Longer An Outlier?”

  1. Eric Dondero says:

    What matters more is the combined total of “Right-wing” candidates John McCain and Bob Barr. Obama may indeed win. But if the Right can keep him below the plurality of the 50% mark, with a 46% showing by McCain and a 4 to 5% showing by Barr, that sets the stage for a serious opposition by the Right (libertarians and conservatives), for the next 4 years. Assuming of course, conservatives and libertarians get smart post-election and unite their efforts.

    Clinton was a great uniter of libertarians and conservatives. In Obama we’re likely to see the same.

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