The Plank

Today's Polls: Cognitive Dissonance Edition

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If yesterday was among Barack Obama's best polling days of the year,
today's numbers have moved in the direction of John McCain. In addition
to his drawing into a tie in the Gallup Tracking poll, the big number today is out of Missouri, where SurveyUSA
shows McCain rebounding to a 7-point lead. SurveyUSA had conducted two
Missouri surveys essentially simultaneously last month; they had shown
Obama leading by 1 point and trailing by 2, respectively.I
don't have any cute explanation on hand for you. Obama hadn't seemed to
have gotten much of a bounce in what we call the North Central part of
the country -- essentially, the Midwest west of Lake Michigan -- but he
had gotten quite a bit of one in Near South states like Kentucky and
Arkansas, and Missouri is literally and figuratively half-way between
those two regions. Almost all of the give in his numbers appears to
have occurred in St. Louis, where Obama had been leading 59-31 before
but in the new survey led just 52-45. Did Obama insult Albert Pujols or
something? Critique the city's strange fixation with crab rangoon?Obama also lost some ground in Nebraska, where Rasmussen
has him trailing John McCain by 16 points; Obama had been within 11 a
month ago. Rasmussen has not broken out Nebraska's results by
congressional district, but the state probably has to be within about
10 points overall for either NE-1 or NE-2 to come into play and put two
electoral votes on the table.In California,
however, Rasmussen has Obama opening up a gargantuan 28-point lead,
which is double his margin from a month ago. Rasmussen attributes this
result to McCain's right turn on offshore drilling, which is a
reasonable enough explanation -- but again, the cognitive dissonance
starts to kick in. If Obama gained so much ground in California, why
did he seem to lose ground in Oregon, which is probably even greener?Lastly, in Arizona, we have another weird poll to round out our afternoon. John McCain leads by 10 points in a new Cronkite/Eight surveyl. But the percentage numbers are very weird: McCain 38, Obama 28,
and Undecided 34. That, obviously, is a huge number of undecideds, which is not
something that the Cronkite poll had really shown before. But with a
sample size of just 175 persons, I'm not sure it's worth reading
that much into.Sometimes, it's nice to just press a button,
hope that your simulations are doing something sensible, and wait for
more data. I continue to see this race as pretty flat right now --
Obama having achieved a bump of about four points which is neither
growing nor abating, dramatic individual results to the contrary.

--Nate Silver

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