Then again

Nate Cohn says the latest polling data shows a split in polls, not a split in electoral college vs. popular vote:

But polls over the last week give more credence to the argument that there isn’t a split between the popular vote and the Electoral College, but instead between the national polls and the state polls. Over the last week, we’ve learned more about the state of the race in several under-polled states, like California, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, North Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and New York. While Obama was performing worse than ’08 in most surveys, some showed him performing nearly as well while only a few showed Obama performing eight-plus points worse than he did four years ago–the magic number to give Romney a popular vote victory despite Obama’s resilience in the battlegrounds.

This was even true in Appalachia, where many have speculated that Obama might suffer catastrophic losses. Recent polls show a uniform swing in Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and one poll even shows Obama doing surprisingly well in Oklahoma. If one takes post-debate state polling averages and then categorizes states into demographically similar regions with a historic tendency to move together, one can calculate a national estimate by assuming that each region’s voting preference changes by an amount equal to the movement of the component states with post-debate state polls. This method shows Obama leading by 1.5 to 2 points in the national popular vote, depending on regional choices…

Presuming that those state polls are accurate and Obama doesn’t lose 7 or 8 points in his home state of Illinois, a Romney national popular vote win would require big 9 or 10 point improvements in California and Texas, where large gains are difficult to imagine without declines in Hispanic turnout or support for Obama, and large gains in the highland states of the inland south, where many suspect Obama’s support could collapse to levels unseen since McGovern. The state polls don’t yet support either half of this scenario. If it happens on Election Day, score a win for the national polls.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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