Presidential nominees typically get a bounce out of successful conventions, and Sen. Barack Obama's performance was a hit by any metric. (More on that later.) After a busy weekend, however, national polling shows that Obama got no bounce at all. Gallup:
Obama did not gain any additional support in the poll since his generally well-reviewed acceptance speech on Thursday night.
None. Zip. Zero. Remember, the Democratic National Convention broke several records for overall viewers. Day Two drew five times the ratings of the same day in 2004. Day Four, Obama's address, shattered convention records, topping ratings for "American Idol," the most-watched night of the Olympics and the Oscars. (The Oscars!) The speech thrilled delegates and was heralded across the spectrum -- including this striking praise from conservative Pat Buchanan. If the story ended there, Obama would have surely netted some increase in the polls.
Before the Mile High Speech sunk in at all, however, the McCain campaign dropped its bombshell news about Gov. Sarah Palin. People were shocked, riveted, excited and disconcerted. They were not thinking about Obama anymore. CNN's new poll, like Gallup, shows no bounce for Obama. CNN Polling Director Keating Holland explains that there were two bounces -- or maybe none:
The convention, and particularly Obama's speech, seems to be well-received. And the selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP running mate also seems to be well-received. So why is the race still a virtual tie? Probably because the two events created equal and opposite bounces assuming that either one created a bounce at all.
Now, maybe you'd like a slightly more definitive analysis from the person in charge of the poll, but Holland is candidly noting that tracking polls are inexact and the non-bounce is hard to read. If by "opposite bounces," however, he means that an equal number of supporters of each candidate switched places, that's the less likely explanation. More likely, the undecideds and soft conservatives -- who might have been temporarily swayed by Obama's big night -- stopped in their tracks with the Palin news. That's discouraging, naturally, for all those people who reflexively assume that Palin is hurting McCain. Take The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, who emphasizes that undecided voters claim they dislike the pick:
[A]mong the critical undecideds, the Palin pick made only 6 percent more likely to vote for McCain; and it made 31 percent less likely to vote for him. 49 percent said it would have no impact, and 15 percent remained unsure.
So they say. But survey interviews are a "performance of an ideal self," as the writer Alexander Provin explains so perfectly in a review of pollster John Zogby's new book. People may not want to admit -- to themselves, let alone pollsters -- that the running mate affects their vote, or that the simple addition of a woman to the GOP ticket is making them give McCain a second look. Most say the pick is irrelevant (49 percent) or bad (31 percent). Meanwhile, in the aggregate, the same voters appear to be sticking by McCain, defying the usual trends, after Obama's tremendously successful convention.
UPDATE REPLY TO READERS: Several readers note that Obama did slightly improve his numbers over the course of the convention. That's true, but as the above links show, there was no post-convention bounce in national polls from Gallup or CNN. In other words, after Obama gave that amazing address, his support did not budge. That's the point I'm emphasizing -- not that the entire convention had no impact, or that the speech did nothing. (Maybe Obama will rise further as the Palin furor dies down.)
Also, kmac23va posts a great point -- "national polls mean zero in presidential politics," as Obama's aides say. That is certainly true, since an aggregate national poll focuses on a metric that is entirely different from how our elections are actually decided, through the electoral college. For that reason, I do try to avoid covering the national polls much -- and instead criticize their foibles -- but they can give a snapshot of the national mood at key points, like after a convention or major debate.
Anyway, thanks to all for reading and rebutting....
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