All of the speculation about polls this week will center around two: Are we seeing any meaningful trends in the margins by which Barack Obama leads John McCain and which poll is coming closest to measuring the level of Obama's lead?The question of accuracy of the size of Obama's margin is difficult for us resolve with certainty, but since pollsters generally keep their methodology consistent from poll to poll, our ability to check for trends is very strong. Trends are what I concentrate on in these morning summaries, and for the last two weeks we have seen little evidence of an erosion in Barack Obama's lead. If anything Obama's position today -- in both the national and state level surveys -- is slightly better today than it was in early October.
While the polls we logged yesterday and over the weekend are relatively few in number (as compared to the coming flood for the rest of this week), today's summary is no exception. The changes indicate mostly random fluctuation in the battleground states, although we do see changes in status in two states -- Georgia and Arizona -- that few would have considered "battlegrounds" in any sense until very recently.
Here is a list of new polls logged yesterday (see yesterday's update for the Saturday releases):
Two new surveys showing a deadlocked race in Missouri by Mason-Dixon and Research2000 confirm that state's status as a toss-up of toss-ups.
A new Mason-Dixon survey in Georgia, showing McCain leading by just six percentage points (49% to 43%), helped nudge Georgia into our toss-up category, at least for the moment. Two recent surveys (Insider Advantage and Democracy Corps) have shown a margin of less than two points; four more last week including the latest from Mason-Dixon show McCain leading by 5 or 6 percentage points. The combination helps narrow McCain's lead on our trend estimate to 3.8 percentage points (49.1% to 45.3%), just enough (given the smaller than average sample sizes in Georgia) to shift the state to toss-up status, at least for the moment.
In Arizona, we saw two new surveys over the weekend, one sponsored by a Democratic aligned interest group and a second conducted by non-partisan research and public relations firms. Both included Ralph Nader and Bob Barr as choices and both yielded a combined 4-5% for these third party candidates. Perhaps as a result, John McCain's margins on these two polls were surprisingly narrow (2 and 4 points).
Since these are the only two new polls in Arizona in October, and since the "nose" of our trendlines tend to be more sensitive when recent polls are sparse, they help shift Arizona from "strong" to "lean" Republican.
Once again, the net impact on the battleground states with new polls shows the sort of random pattern consistent with no trend in either direction. With yesterday's new polls, the trend estimates shift slightly in Obama's direction in four states and in McCain's direction in three. And as noted in last night's update on the daily national trackers, their changes yesterday were also small and mostly random.