McCain Booms Among Independents; Captures Some "Change" Voters

We’re still getting a lot of polling data. For aggregation of state and national polls, see RCP or 538. These include yeseterday’s CNN/Time survey of 4 swing states and today’s Quinnipiac poll of 3 swing states. Here are some random thoughts on some of those polls.


First, 538 now has McCain projected to win 52% of the time. Intrade has the odds of McCain winning at 51%.

Second, historically red states that were close in the Mountain West and Plains States are moving from competitive to solid red. See ND (McCain +14), MT (McCain +11), and AK (McCain +31). All of those states were within 5 points in polls in July or August. Note that all are dominated by “small towns.” Hopefully this trend is also true in SD and NE. Most importantly, a similar shift in CO would be fantastic news; however, it is less likely for various reasons, mainly because most people live in a big city or its suburbs.

Third, FL is looking good but OH, PA, and MI are not in the McCain column yet. He leads in OH but within the margin of error, and he is losing in some polls. In PA and MI, Obama leads every poll even after the current McCain bounce. McCain must win one of those 3 to win the election. If he wins 2, the paths to 270 get much bigger. It looks like the swing would flip OH to McCain first, then MI, then PA.

Fourth, McCain’s bounce is almost entirely from a major bump among independent voters. McCain went into the convention with 90+% support from the GOP and a rough tie among independents. He trailed because the number of Democrats is larger than the number of Republicans. In most national polls and now in many of the state polls, McCain’s support among Independents has shot up 10-20 points which translates to a 3-6 point overall shift. The pessimistic view is that such a shift is evidence of a convention bounce that can go away easily. The optimistic view is that anti-Bush independents now recongize that McCain is his own man, and he is that guy they liked in 2000 and over the past 8 years.

Fifth, McCain’s favorability also got much better over the past week or two. He is now more popular than Obama, Palin, and Biden. McCain’s +21 fav/unfav is incredibly high for a politician (as is Obama’s +19). State polls in red states (ex. AK, ND) show a big bump for McCain favorability.

Sixth, a lot of non-issue factors have shifted toward McCain by large margins. If you want to look at one poll for interesting questions, this FOX poll is it. It’s worth it’s own post: questions include “is Obama more a talker or a doer,” “if you were making a tough life decision, which candidate would you want advice from,” etc.

Finally, McCain has bridged an amazing gap about who will bring the right “change” to the country. The FOX poll now has Obama ahead on that measure 46-39. More importantly, among independents, McCain leads on that measure by a 38-36 margin. As Nate Silver notes, the Palin choice has reinforced the McCain as Maverick Reformer message. It’s not so much that Palin represents change (she has good but not outstanding numbers because people don’t know much about her), but rather that McCain’s choice of an outside-of-the-box VP nominee is evidence that he isn’t business as usual. I doubt this shift can withstand the next two months, but if McCain can keep some of the bump in the “change” area, he is in a good position.

Other random notes from the last day or so of polls: WV (McCain +5), VA (McCain +6), and NM (McCain +2). The first is surprisingly low, the second encouragingly high, and the third is much better than in the past.

Some SEN polling findings below:

Aggregation of Senate polls.

First, there is no way Sen. Stevens drops out now. I don’t understand the dynamic that has Palin on the national ticket helping Stevens, but that seems to be what is happening. Stevens is within 2 or 3 points of Begich in the most recent polls. Of course, any other R would be dominating now. But moving from Begich +13 to Begich +2 makes an early retirement even less likely.

Second, NM SEN may be competitive. Polls have narrowed from a Udall 20+ lead to two polls showing Udall +7 and +8. That’s still a ways to go, but it is worth watching now.

Third, NC SEN is looking close enough to pay attention. This adds another possible pickup to the D lineup.

Finally, I am anxiously awaiting new polls in NH, CO, MN, OR, and MS. Some to see if the R has any chance. Others to see if they moved off the competitive list.