Polls Fail to Paint Clear Picture on Presidential Race
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
It's an axiom in American presidential politics. When a candidate secures his or her party's nomination, there's almost always a subsequent spike in the polls. The size of Barack Obama's post-primary bounce became somewhat clear over the weekend in a series of new polls. And we say somewhat clear because the polls are not consistent.
The Newsweek survey shows that Barack Obama holds a double-digit lead over John McCain, while polls conducted by USA Today and Gallup give Obama a narrower margin.
John McIntyre is the managing editor of RealClearPolitics, that's an independent political Web site run out of Chicago, and he joins us now to talk about this collection of new national and state polls. Welcome to the program.
Mr. JOHN McINTYRE (Managing Editor, RealClearPolitics): Great to be here.
NORRIS: What accounts for the range here?
Mr. McINTYRE: Well, all the - I mean, every pollster is different, every survey is different, and that in and of itself can explain why the Newsweek poll shows a 15-point edge for Senator Obama versus the USA Today/Gallup that was taken more or less over the same time period that has his lead at six points.
NORRIS: Is timing key here?
Mr. McINTYRE: Yeah, timing can definitely play a part. The Newsweek survey was done the 18th and the 19th, whereas the Gallup was the 15th through the 19th. So it's possible that there's some later movement towards Senator Obama that Newsweek is picking up that the Gallup survey that was taken a little earlier might not have.
NORRIS: Now, one thing that McCain's people are pointing out is that the Newsweek survey included far more Democrats. They're saying that this was not actually a clear representation or a representation that had clear party parity.
Mr. McINTYRE: Well, I mean, you hear that sometimes when one side or another doesn't like the poll results. And that's not necessarily the best criticism because that's part of what makes up how a poll turns out - are the weightings. So, I mean, that in of itself I don't think is the valid criticism against the Newsweek poll.
I think what's more important is, right now, that's the only poll that shows a double-digit lead, all the other post-nominee or post-June third polls show the range to be about between two and seven points. They've actually been pretty consistent. So in that regard, the Newsweek poll to date is at least a little bit of an outlier.
NORRIS: In this collection of polls, what for you was the most surprising aspect?
Mr. McINTYRE: Well, I think when you look at the national polls, quite frankly, is if you discount the Newsweek poll a little bit, I mean, is that they're pretty uniform. I mean, the ABC/Washington Post poll showed a four-point lead, NBC/Wall Street Journal a six-point lead, USA Today/Gallup a six-point lead. There's almost a high degree of uniformity there in that there's a four, five, six-point lead that is edging higher for Senator Obama. I think that's interesting on the national polls.
In the state polls, you did see some bounce. Quinnipiac released polls in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania where Senator Obama did receive a bounce, anywhere from three to seven points in all those states. So there is evidence that the bounce isn't just nationally, but it is in some of these important battleground states.
NORRIS: You know, when you look at these head-to-head matchups, often the most interesting nuggets are when you drill down a bit and the questions that are deeper down in the poll. And in looking at that, I'm wondering who might turn out to be the swing voters in the general election? Barack Obama has a significant lead among African-Americans; among white men, McCain has a 20-point lead. So who would be the swing voters?
Mr. McINTYRE: Well, the age group 40-59 is probably going to be an important area. Senator McCain is probably poised to do well among older voters. Senator Obama, as everyone sort of knows, is doing unbelievably with young voters and there seems to be a huge and energetic turnout expected there.
But that group, the 40 to 59 demographic: white working-class voters in that area, Hillary Clinton voters, women voters, also, Hispanic voters is another important demographic to keep a watch on. That area could very well be where the election's won or decided.
NORRIS: John McIntyre, thanks so much for talking to us.
Mr. McINTYRE: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: John McIntyre is the managing editor of RealClearPolitics; that's an independent political Web site that's based in Chicago.
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