State Polls May Be Late … Or Not

May 20, 2012 5:13 p.m.

There’s little question that Mitt Romney has made up ground in recent weeks in the national head to head poll match ups. The PollTracker Average currently gives Romney a minuscule .1% advantage over President Obama. But that comes after months of the President having a small but consistent lead.

A lot of readers I talk to say, ‘Well, we don’t have national elections. We have an electoral college. And Obama is still way ahead there.’That’s definitely true. But here’s the ‘yes, but’.

We’re about to launch our own electoral college map, powered by PollTracker state averages. And it does show Obama with a big lead over Romney. But here’s the catch. State polls always lag because they’re not taken anywhere near as often as the national numbers.

So if you look at this chart you’ll see that Romney has made progress since early April. And his move has accelerated since the beginning of May.

One reason Obama is doing so well in the electoral college is that he’s got pretty solid leads in a number of what are normally swing states. So for example the PollTracker Average has Obama with a 7.7% margin over Romney in Pennsylvania. But the most recent polls was on May 1st, before Romney’s uptick. And the one before that was in March.

I’m not sure this recent move for Romney is going to affect the electoral college numbers that much. After all, it’s just a few points, even if it holds. And there’s some evidence that President Obama — and maybe the Democrats generally — just have an electoral college advantage in the current political configuration. (Healthy or narrow leads in blue states and blow outs in red states, leading to net wasted votes for the GOP.) My point, though, is simply to remember that the national polls tend to be leading indicators. It takes a while for the state numbers to catch up. So we just don’t know yet.

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