Update: SUSA’s poll also tested North Carolina’s gubernatorial match-up and finds Pat McCrory leading by 8%, which is out of line with every single poll we have seen of this race. This suggests that (1) there might be a problem with the sample/partisan breakdown or (2) that the past 10 days have so improved the GOP brand that they are posting gains up and down the ballot. But this much of a shift is not being picked up by any other polls, so the fact that McCrory is so far ahead makes me doubt that option 2 could manifest itself this clearly already. All of this only ups the stakes for polls to come in the coming days (and PPP has gone in the field in North Carolina to test SUSA’s survey).
Original post: This morning, Gallup released a breakdown of its tracking results by partisan affiliation, revealing that McCain’s boost had been powered by a massive surge among independents. McCain’s 15% lead was much higher than any margin either candidate had enjoyed since the beginning of Gallup’s trackings. Other national polls - CBS and ABC - showed McCain gaining an advantage among independents.
Now, a North Carolina poll is finding two significant shifts that are boosting McCain. First the Republican is surging among independents; second, the partisan breakdown has dramatically shifted to go back to what it was in 2004. Other polls have also found an increase in the proportion of self-identified Republicans. If this does not fade in upcoming polls, it would make a huge difference in our assumptions about the election.
However, and before Democrats panic, these are the kinds of changes that are directly related to the GOP convention, and thus the kinds of changes that might fade once the bounce phase is over. The GOP hopes that the Palin boost will keep partisan identification and independent allegiances where it is now; Democrats hope that Obama hammering McCain with “more of the same” ads and focusing on the economy will tamper GOP enthusiasm and shift numbers back. We will know more about this in the coming week.
In any case, these changes allow McCain to capture his first double-digit lead in NC since January - and a big one at that, twenty percent. Keep in mind that the poll was taken Saturday to Monday, in the immediate post-convention aftermath, so we will certainly have to wait for a poll to be taken at another time before drawing conclusions. But another poll from a red state - Montana - also finds McCain surging ahead for the first time of the campaign, suggesting that the convention and the Palin pick might have allowed him to boost his position in red state by solidifying and exciting his base.
Indeed, it is noteworthy that the numbers in battleground states are staying much more stable than in red states right now. If that means that most of McCain’s bounce is concentrated on places he should have won but was underperforming, that could be fine for Democrats: while they ought to feel frustrated if they lose their opening in MT and NC, those states are nowhere as important as CO, FL, OH, VA, and NV.
All of this is to say that there is much for McCain supporters to be excited about over the past two days, but Obama backers should certainly not panic until there are signs that McCain’s bounce is here to stay. I repeat: McCain should be very happy with his bounce but we should wait a few more days and a few more polls before writing states off and drawing big conclusions. After all, remember that there almost no state polls taken in the immediate aftermath of the Denver convention. Here’s today’s full rundown:
- In the day’s most important national poll, NBC News/WSJ finds McCain closing the gap with Obama but not as much as other surveys have found. The survey was taken Saturday through Monday and has Obama up (well within the margin of error) 46% to 45%. In August, the margin was 3%.
- Both candidates get about 90% of their base. Republicans are three times more enthusiastic than they were in July. Obama’s lead among women is down to 4%, but one strange statistic: McCain leads among women 18-49! 52% of respondents say Obama would bring real change, versus 35% for McCain. That is an improvement over the 21% he got in June, but it shows the challenge of McCain’s suddenly running on a platform of change.
- Today’s tracking polls: Rasmussen is back to its Sunday result (a tie), Gallup does not move since yesterday (49% to 44% for McCain) and Diego Hotline has McCain leading by 1%.
- ARG’s national poll has Obama at 47% and McCain at 46%. The poll was taken Saturday through Monday and shows a 5% gain for McCain. Almost all the change comes from registered Democrats, where Obama is back under 80%.
- In what is the day’s biggest shocker, SUSA finds McCain jumping to a huge lead in North Carolina, 58% to 38%. This is primarily due to Obama’s collapse among independents - he now trails by 25% among those voters - as well as a shift in partisan identification. It was 46% Democratic, 33% Republican last month; now, it’s 41% Rep, 40% Dem - the same as 2004. If that shift is confirmed in the coming weeks, it would be a dramatic change whose impact cannot be overstated.
- Another important poll comes from Montana, where Rasmussen finds McCain surging to his first double-digit lead, 53% to 42%. The state was tied last month. This poll was taken on Monday night.
- In Florida (polling history), PPP finds a slight improvement for McCain, whose lead is now outside of the MoE, 50% to 45% (McCain led by 3% last month). The big shift has occurred among white voters, as undecideds are breaking McCain’s way and as he is now leading 61% to 34% among that group. The sample is more Republican than last month’s (+2 instead of -3) and in line with the 2004 exit poll.
- In Michigan (polling history), Strategic Vision finds a 1% race, 45% to 44%. It’s SV’s first poll from the state.
- In Wisconsin (polling history), Strategic Vision shows Obama’s lead tightening to 46% to 43%. Last month, Obama led by 5%. This is Obama’s smallest lead in the state since he got the nomination.
- In New Jersey, Farleigh Dickinson finds Obama leading 47% to 41% - a bounce for McCain from the 49% to 33% margin in June.
- No surprises in SUSA’s Oklahoma poll, as McCain crushes Obama 65% to 32%.
- No surprises either in Maryland, where Obama leads 52% to 38% in a Gonzales Research poll.
- Finally, a new IBD/TIPP national poll finds Obama leading 45% to 40%. I am putting this one last because this survey was taken from last Tuesday through Saturday - so it is older than much of hte polls we have been seeing.
Just like yesterday, most polls from key battleground states show little movement, though McCain is posting small gains in a number of them - Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Montana North Carolina polls are of course the exception, and if McCain can keep up his gains in them it would be a huge relief for Republicans. Apart from that, the list of battlegrounds is looking to be the same as ever, and we will be keeping an eye on Wisconsin, where Strategic Vision typically posts narrower numbers than other polling outlets.