Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Six Months Out: Will 2012 Resemble 2004 or 2008?

Bookmark and Share

The electoral vote count for the 30 states surveyed in May 2004 was identical to the general election; in 2008, the Election Day vote generated a swing of 176 votes among the 36 states surveyed that May

mittromney12.jpgWith new public opinion polls released this week showing Barack Obama leading presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in key battleground states like Nevada (+8), North Carolina (+4), Pennsylvania (+8), Virginia (+8), and Wisconsin (+9), skeptics will point out that a lot can change from May until November.

And indeed it may as six months is a long time until Election Day.

The last two election cycles demonstrate alternate glimpses into the degree of fluidity of a presidential election with polling six months out in one cycle being prophetic and polling in another not anticipating the results to come on Election Day.

A Smart Politics study of presidential state polling conducted in May 2004 finds the electoral vote count for the 30 states surveyed that month was identical to the general election, while in 2008 the change from May to November resulted in a swing of 176 votes among the 36 states surveyed.

A total of 30 states were polled in May of 2004 and 36 states in 2008. (Internet polling was excluded). If multiple polls were conducted, an average was taken within each state to determine the spread between the two candidates.

The vast majority of battleground or quasi-battleground states were among the 66 states surveyed in May of these two cycles, with the exception of New Jersey in 2008 and Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin in 2004.

In 2004, the polling leader in 28 of the 30 states surveyed that May won the state in November:

George W. Bush led the polls in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Meanwhile, John Kerry led in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The only two states that saw a change in control from May to Election Day were Iowa and Oregon.

Senator Kerry led by an average of five points across three polls in Iowa, which President Bush ended up winning by one point that November.

Bush, meanwhile, had an average lead of one point across four polls conducted in Oregon in May, which Kerry carried by four points in the general election.

Iowa and Oregon each had seven Electoral College votes, so the Electoral College math for these 30 states in May was the same as on Election Day: 221 for Bush and 200 for Kerry.

(In Minnesota, one Kerry Elector chose to vote John Edwards for President).

Overall, the candidate spread in May of 2004 was within 5 points of the general election outcome in 21 of the 30 states and reached double digits in just one state, Maine (where Kerry's 19-point lead in May dropped to 9 points on Election Day).

In 2008, however, the May to November period was more volatile, due in part to an ever-declining economy under the final months of President George W. Bush's administration and Democrats unifying behind the campaign of Barack Obama who had not yet wrapped up the nomination in May.

In 2008, the polling leader in only 30 of the 36 states surveyed that May won the state in November:

Barack Obama led in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin.

John McCain led in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

By Election Day, however, McCain lost his lead in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The result was an Electoral College vote swing in these 36 states from a McCain advantage of 220 to 209 to an Obama advantage of 297 to 132, or a 176-vote swing over six months.

The Election Day vote was within five points of the May polling in just 17 of the 36 states, with a 10-point swing or greater in 12 states (compared to just one in 2004).

In short, 2004 demonstrates that simply because there are six months remaining in the campaign, the election results can look pretty similar to the snapshot in May. (Perhaps due in part when an election is a referendum on an incumbent).

However, the 2008 contest also confirms the notion that there is plenty of time for candidates not simply to expand their lead in states in which they are already favored but also to flip battleground states.

Will the 2012 matchup between Obama and Romney ultimately resemble 2004 or 2008 or neither?

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Deaths in the Cabinet
Next post: Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia Test Romney and Paul Support

2 Comments


  • Seems that Obama will win the presidential election again!

  • I am hoping that 2012 will be the next example for matchup too and I am really glad to hear that Obama is leading the presumptive Republican Mitt Romney from the released polls!

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Is There a Presidential Drag On Gubernatorial Elections?

    Only five of the 20 presidents to serve since 1900 have seen their party win a majority of gubernatorial elections during their administrations, and only one since JFK.

    Political Crumbs

    Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

    Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


    Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

    Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


    more POLITICAL CRUMBS

    Humphrey School Sites
    CSPG
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Abortion
    Afghanistan
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Education
    Energy
    Environment
    Foreign affairs
    Gender
    Health
    Housing
    Ideology
    Immigration
    Iraq
    Media
    Military
    Partisanship
    Race and ethnicity
    Reapportionment
    Redistricting
    Religion
    Sexuality
    Sports
    Terrorism
    Third parties
    Transportation
    Voting