Taken as a whole, the Monday polls present something of a "mixed bag", though the press has apparently settled on an "OMG, the race is tightening!" narrative.
This is one of those times when the press appears to be right, but is totally wrong, all at the same time. Poll watchers used to seeing Obama staked to a 4-6 point lead would probably be a touch surprised to see Obama now looking at a 2-4 point advantage.
However, a key component of understanding poll trends is getting a good look at who is doing the polling. And the bottom line on that: only one pollster (CNN/ORC) saw Mitt Romney move closer to President Obama by more than a single point.
More on that after the jump. But, first, on to the numbers:
NATIONAL (ABC News/Washington Post): Obama 49, Romney 47 (LV); Obama 49, Romney 44 (RV)DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (American Research Group): Obama 49, Romney 46
NATIONAL (CNN/Opinion Research): Obama 50, Romney 47 (LV); Obama 50, Romney 46 (RV)
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama 49, Romney 45
NATIONAL (GWU Battleground/Politico): Obama 49, Romney 47
NATIONAL (Ipsos/Reuters Tracking): Obama 46, Romney 41 (LV); Obama 45, Romney 40 (RV)
NATIONAL (Merriman River Group): Obama 46, Romney 43, Others 3
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama 50, Romney 47
NATIONAL (UPI/CVoter Tracking): Obama 49, Romney 46
NATIONAL (Zogby for the Washington Times): Obama 50, Romney 41
COLORADO (We Ask America--R): Obama 49, Romney 46, Others 1
FLORIDA (Gravis--R): Obama 49, Romney 48
IOWA (Selzer for the Des Moines Register): Obama 49, Romney 45
IOWA (We Ask America--R): Obama 48, Romney 44, Others 2
MAINE (Critical Insights): Obama 52, Romney 36, Others 3
MARYLAND (Baltimore Sun/OpinionWorks): Obama 57, Romney 34
MASSACHUSETTS (MassINC for WBUR): Obama 60, Romney 32
MASSACHUSETTS (Univ. of NH for the Boston Globe): Obama 57, Romney 30, Others 2
MICHIGAN (EPIC/MRA): Obama 47, Romney 37,
MICHIGAN (We Ask America--R): Obama 52, Romney 40, Others 1
NEW HAMPSHIRE (Univ. of New Hampshire): Obama 52, Romney 37
NEW MEXICO (We Ask America--R): Obama 51, Romney 41, Others 4
NORTH CAROLINA (American Research Group): Romney 50, Obama 46, Others 1
OHIO (Columbus Dispatch Poll): Obama 51, Romney 42, Other 3
OHIO (PPP): Obama 49, Romney 45
WASHINGTON (Rasmussen): Obama 52, Romney 41, Other 3
FL-SEN (Gravis--R): Sen. Bill Nelson (D) 43, Connie Mack IV (R) 43A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...
HI-SEN (Merriman River Group for Civil Beat): Mazie Hirono (D) 55, Linda Lingle (R) 39
ME-SEN (Critical Insights): Angus King (I) 50, Charlie Summers (R) 28, Cynthia Dill (D) 12
MA-SEN (MassINC for WBUR): Elizabeth Warren (D) 49, Sen. Scott Brown (D) 45
MA-SEN (Univ. of NH for the Boston Globe): Elizabeth Warren (D) 43, Sen. Scott Brown (R) 38
MO-SEN (Kiley and Company for the McCaskill campaign): Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) 50, Todd Akin (R) 41
NM-SEN (Rasmussen): Martin Heinrich (D) 52, Heather Wilson (R) 39, Others 2
NM-SEN (We Ask America--R): Martin Heinrich (D) 52, Heather Wilson (R) 41
OH-SEN (Columbus Dispatch): Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) 49, Josh Mandel (R) 39
NC-GOV (PPP): Pat McCrory (R) 47, Walter Dalton (D) 37, Barbara Howe (L) 5
AZ-02 (Grove Insight for the DCCC): Rep. Ron Barber (D) 54, Martha McSally (R) 40
FL-18 (Garin-Hart-Yang for the House Majority PAC--D): Patrick Murphy (D) 52, Rep. Allen West (R) 43
FL-18 (Kimball Political Consulting--R): Patrick Murphy (D) 49, Rep. Allen West (R) 45
FL-26 (McLaughlin and Associates for undisclosed GOP client): Joe Garcia (D) 43, Rep. David Rivera (R) 33, Jose Peixoto (I) 5
GA-12 (McLaughlin and Associates for the Anderson campaign): Lee Anderson (R) 44, Rep. John Barrow (D) 43
IL-10 (McLaughlin and Associates for the Dold campaign): Rep. Bob Dold (R) 44, Brad Schneider (D) 37
IL-13 (Victoria Research for the Gill campaign): David Gill (D) 40, Rodney Davis (R) 39, John Hartman (I) 8
ME-01 (Critical Insights): Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) 60, Jon Courtney (R) 29
ME-02 (Critical Insights): Rep. Mike Michaud (D) 54, Kevin Raye (R) 39
MA-06 (Univ. of New Hampshire for the Boston Globe): Richard Tisei (R) 37, Rep. John Tierney (D) 31
NJ-02 (Stockton Polling Institute): Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R) 55, Cassandra Shober (D) 35
NC-08 (NRCC IVR Poll): Richard Hudson (R) 50, Rep. Larry Kissell (D) 41
RI-01 (Fleming and Associates for WPRI-TV): Rep. David Ciliclline (D) 44, Brendan Doherty (R) 38, David Vogel (I) 6
TX-23 (OnMessage for the Canseco campaign): Rep. Quico Canseco (R) 47, Pete Gallego (D) 37
WI-07 (FM3 for the Kreitlow campaign): Rep. Sean Duffy (R) 44, Pat Kreitlow (D) 41
Fact: Leaving aside that rather silly-looking Washington Times/Zogby poll (and...yes...I checked. This was one of their phone polls, not the interactive garbage), the average lead for Barack Obama in Monday's nine national polls was Obama +3.1 percent.
This is what has led no shortage of journos to declare today that the race for the White House is tightening between President Obama and Mitt Romney. But this is based more on what the "sense" of where the race was a week ago (when Obama led in a number of national polls by 4-7 points) rather than anything concrete.
To wit, let's look at today's polls, and how much they've change since the previous incarnation:
10/1/2012 National polling, compared to previous polls (poll release date in parentheses)So, for those scoring at home (and pulling out Merriman River, which is making their first foray of the cycle into WH polling), Obama's current lead with these eight polls sits at 3.1 percent. BUT...and this is important...his previous lead with these same pollsters was: 2.9 percent.
ABC/Washington Post: From Obama +1 to Obama +2 (9/11/12)
American Research Group: From Obama +2 to Obama +3 (9/21/12)
CNN/Opinion Research: From Obama +6 to Obama +3 (9/10/12)
Gallup Tracking: From Obama +2 to Obama +4 (9/24/12)+
GWU/Battleground/Politico: From Obama +3 to Obama +2 (9/24/12)
Ipsos/Reuters Tracking: From Obama +6 to Obama +5 (9/26/12)+
Merriman River Group: Does Not Apply (First Poll of Cycle)
Rasmussen Tracking: From Obama +0 to Obama +3 (9/28/12)+
UPI/CVoter Tracking: From Obama +3 to Obama +3 (9/23/12)+
(+)--Tracking polls compared to most recent tracking poll with a totally unique sample, which means Rasmussen dates back three days, Ipsos-Reuters five days, and UPI/CVoter and Gallup seven days.
In other words, these polls are essentially unchanged. CNN got a lot of attention because of the fairly strong movement, but Rasmussen has moved the same margin, in Obama's favor, since last week. Of the eight pollsters, four have moved incrementally in Obama's direction, three have moved incrementally in Romney's direction, and one didn't move, at all. That would seem to strongly undermine the media-fed notion of a "tightening race".
What would make the notion of a "closer" race credible? Well, for one thing, movement of more than a single point or two points would be helpful. Movement across the board, from a critical mass of pollsters, would also help.
Fox News, Bloomberg/Selzer, PPP, and YouGov all had Obama leads of 5-6 points last week. If they all dropped to two points this week, maybe you would be onto something. Until then, all this talk of a "tightening presidential election" in advance of the debates appear to be largely hype.
In other polling news...
- A recurrent theme today was "et tu, Republican pollsters?" Two particular GOP pols crying in their beer tonight, courtesy of GOP-affiliated firms, are New Mexico Senate candidate Heather Wilson and Florida freshman Rep. Allen West. Wilson had to watch today as a pair of GOP pollsters (the House of Ras and We Ask America) both put her down double digits to Democrat Martin Heinrich. That was especially damaging, seeing as she was getting a little mileage out of her own internal poll last week showing that she was down to a disadvantage of just a single point. West, meanwhile, got hosed by Massachusetts-based Kimball Consulting. They have routinely shown GOP Sen. Scott Brown doing better than most, but they turned around and put West four points behind Democrat Patrick Murphy. This gave the Democrats the opening to turn the knife, as they released their own polling today showing Murphy up 9 points. Had Kimball not dropped their poll, the Democratic poll might not have looked as credible, since no poll to date had given Murphy a lead of more than a single point.
- Now that Republican gaffe machine Todd Akin cannot be replaced on the ballot, you have to love the fact that the campaign of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill decided to lower the boom with a new poll out of the Show-Me State. Her poll shows that she holds a pretty solid 50-41 lead over Akin. But what is even more awesome: it shows that she had a six-point lead in an early September survey. One that...ahem...was never released. Well played, team McCaskill. Well played!
- Slight dust alert: two of the polls today (the McLaughlin polls in GA-12 and IL-10) are roughly a month old. They just came to our attention over the weekend. Both of those numbers, oddly enough, are not bad for the Democrats in question. Perhaps I am projecting here, but I think the general consensus of most House-watchers was that veteran Democratic Rep. John Barrow was a goner, courtesy of redistricting. So, a one-point poll might actually be better for the Democrat than the betting line. Also, the seven-point lead for Bob Dold (!) might seem impressive for a swing-y district, but it is actually a few points closer than a previous Republican poll in the district, which had Dold leading by ten points (42-32).