After early polls hinted at both signs of tightening and a persistent bounce, the late afternoon polls indicated that Romney was still riding his post-debate wave.
The Fox News survey showed Romney leading by 1 point among likely voters, a 6 point shift from their prior poll and joining Pew as a live interview pollster that calls cell phones showing significant national movement in Romney’s direction. Additionally, state polls from Rasmussen and PPP showed Romney making gains in Nevada, Montana, and Pennsylvania. Notably, all of these surveys were conducted well after the debate, suggesting that Romney’s bounce lasted well into this week. On average, today’s polls showed Romney gaining by 3.6 points compared to a pre-debate counterpart, suggesting that Romney was doing about as well today as he was over the entire post-debate period, when more interviews were conducted immediately after the debate.
There is one poll offering better news for the president: the YouGov/Economist survey showing Obama leading by 3 points, 49-46. Of course, YouGov/Economist is different in another respect; it’s an internet pollster with a track record. More on this later.
If there was any other silver lining for the president, it was the continuing hints of a split between battleground and national surveys. Despite a wave of national polls showing Romney with the lead, there hasn’t been a battleground state poll showing Romney leading in a battleground state since ARG showed Romney ahead in Ohio and Colorado. Since then, multiple polls have shown Obama leading in Nevada and Ohio—two states sufficient to get Obama over the top when combined with Wisconsin, another state where two post-debate polls show Obama in the lead.
To a certain extent, Obama’s persistent advantage in the battleground states isn’t surprising. In pre-debate polls, Obama led by at least 5 points in states worth 281 electoral votes, including Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Nevada. If Romney has gained about 4 points, then Obama would retain a slight lead in these states. But the conclusion that Romney has only gained 4 points is largely based on these state polls, since the national surveys suggest that Romney has gained at least 5 points, which should have been enough to yield a few more polls showing Romney ahead in states like Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada.
Over the day, NBC/WSJ/Marist and CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac will add their findings in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and Colorado to this discussion. In the past, these surveys have shown Obama performing very well, but so had Pew Research and Fox News. There haven’t been very many live-interview, cell phone surveys of the battleground states (especially if you have reservations about ARG), so it will be interesting to see whether they show Obama holding his own in the battleground states, as well.