Gallup Daily Tracking Poll
One thing that is pretty clear in the above chart is that the race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama has remained exceptionally close for the first two months of summer. In spite of a barrage of negative ads run by both campaigns, the polls have failed to move much in either direction. There are a few explanations for the lack of movement to date:
- The preference stability of the American electorate. Most voters, even those who claim to be independents, vote according to their partisan leanings. Only a small percentage of voters actually change their minds over the course of a campaign and end up voting for the opposite candidate.
- Americans are not paying much attention to the race yet apart from a cursory glance at who's ahead every now and then. The very small contingent of ideologically driven voters are always paying attention but the mass public doesn't generally do so until well after labor day. So it is not surprising that neither side is making inroads at this point.
- Much of the battle being waged between President Obama and Mitt Romney is taking place in six or seven 'battleground' states. The likely electoral outcome is already known in more than 80% of the states. Mississippi will support Mitt Romney in November, California will support Barack Obama. The election will be settled in just a few states representing about 15% of the population. As a result, most of the nation will see very little of the actual campaign or the ads. Only those who actively seek information outside the 'battleground' will likely be exposed to the campaign.
General Election Polls
The other set of polls we have are from news and polling organizations such as Fox, CBS, and Pew Research. As with the Gallup Daily tracking polls, there is a stability in these polls, although we can see a bit more movement in some than in others. Fox and Pew Research have consistently had President Obama with a larger lead than most of the others. CBS has had the race closer and is the only recent poll that shows Mitt Romney in the lead, albeit by a single point. Most of the polls, except Pew and Fox, are within the margin of error. What may be more important at this time are the state level polls in the 'battleground' states. Nate Silver has an excellent recap of these on his blog.
The next few weeks will likely show more of the same as the start of the London Olympic games overshadows the presidential race until mid-August. Romney will then likely announce his running mate, which will catapult him into the lead through the end of the Republican National Convention on August 30th. The convention 'bounce' will likely dissipate the following week as the Democrats hold their convention in Charlotte, NC through September 6th. President Obama will likely resume leadership in the polls by around 4-5 points. Then the gloves will come off, the whips will be readied, and the horses will head down the backstretch toward the final turn. For political junkies like me, it will be a fun ride!