Blogging from Seattle

I’m away from my usual San Francisco home base this weekend, but being in a different city, in a different state, reminded me that there’s something I’ve been meaning to post about.
National presidential poll numbers. We’ve all seen them. They are bandied about in the media during each and every news cycle. The numbers seem to drive the conversation, which may leave some observers asking “But… why?”
President Obama’s numbers have gone up and down over the past few months, with Gallup’s current numbers (as of 6/9/12) pinning approval of the job Obama is doing as President at 47%, while 45% disapprove. Looking ahead to November, Gallup currently has the race 46-45 Obama over Romney. Those numbers indicate an incredible close election, essentially a toss-up. Who could win is anyone’s guess, really, going by these numbers. However, we don’t hold national elections.
As 2000’s election taught everyone, what really matters is the Electoral College vote count. Basically, this means that candidates are more concerned with winning certain states than just winning overall votes.
According to the political news and poll aggregator site Real Clear Politics, there are thirteen states that are considered to be “battleground states”, meaning that those states could conceivably go to either party, helping to sway the outcome in the Electoral College vote count. Out of those thirteen, RCP has President Barack Obama currently ahead in the polls in Colorado and Ohio by 1.8%, Iowa by 2.6%, Virginia by 3%, Wisconsin by 4.8%, Michigan and Nevada by 6%, New Hampshire by 6.4%, and Pennsylvania by 8.5%. RCP has Mitt Romney ahead in the remaining four states, up 0.2% in Florida, 2.5% in North Carolina, 3% in Missouri, and 6% in Arizona.
It is still quite early days as far as this campaign goes, but those numbers are much more reflective of the on-the-ground political reality than national poll numbers are. If you are only looking at the national polls, as reported by, say Gallup, then you would reasonably expect a tight race,a possible Romney, or the President’s reelection secured by one percent of voters. If you are looking at the Electoral College politics, though, and the RCP averages as they are today hold true in November, President Obama would win a 303-235 victory over Romney in the Electoral College count.
Same polls, same politics, but a very different outcome. This is not to say that President Obama has this election in the bag, but rather that numbers do not always tell the whole story. National polls show an aspect of the political landscape, not a hard-and-fast certainty.


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  1. #1 by Patricia McKowen on June 26, 2012 - 10:31 pm

    Exceptionally well-written.

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