Friday, September 28, 2012

Obama leads Romney 49-43% in #Virginia, but trails 48-43% if turnout looks like 2009 Governor's race

Public Policy Polling released new swing-state poll numbers for the states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and New Mexico, ALL paid for by the NRDC Action Fund, an environmental group. This may be why the polls don't seem to be getting a lot of attention in spite of showing awful numbers for Mitt Romney. The polls were also taken about a week ago, which makes them a bit more dated than some of the numbers that have come out this week. But either way, lets take a look at the Virginia poll done by PPP on behalf of the NRDC.

Taken Sept. 17-19, 2012 (so it's 9 days old as of today), PPP finds Obama leading Romney by his highest margin since their July poll, 49-43%. Those numbers are roughly similar to Obama's 6.3 pt win over John McCain in Virginia four years ago. But a glance at the crosstabs shows the opportunity for Romney to grow: Obama is carrying 90% of his own party, while attracting 6% from Republicans. Romney is not consolidating his base to the extent Obama has in Virginia, thus he only attracts 85% from Republicans, but gets 12% of Democrats. 

But here's the kicker: Romney leads Obama among self-identified "Independents" in Virginia by a whopping 19 points, 50-31%. Needless to say, if Romney is carrying Independents by 20 points, but still trailing by 6 points overall, you've got a pretty Democratic sample. And of course, by historical standards, they do. Virginia likely voters apparently told PPP that they are 40% Democrat, 32% Republican, and 28% Independent, or D+8. If PPP's findings are correct, then 2012 looks to be another record-breaking Democratic turnout yeear in Virginia, and even MORE so than four years ago. In 2008, Virginia likely voters self-identified like this: 39D/33R/27I, or D+6. So under such a turnout scenario, Obama would still be leading Romney by about 5 or 6 points.

But what happens if turnout in Virginia is more favorable to Republicans than Democrats? In fact, the only post-2008 state-wide exit poll we have of Virginia is from the 2009 Governor's race between Bob McDonnell (R) and Creigh Deeds (D). There were no statewide races in Virginia in 2010, thus no exit poll to re-weight to. But that Virginia Governor's race from 2009 DID have an exit poll, and it indicated that the electorate had turned much more red from 2008: 33D/37R/30I, or R+4, to be exact. So what happens to the PPP findings when re-weighted against a VA 2009 electorate?

Well what do ya know? Obama's 49-43% lead in a more-Dem-than-2008-style electorate becomes a Romney lead of 48-43% in a 2009 style electorate. So using PPPs findings, we see that there is a pretty wide range of results we could expect in Virginia this November. In a Dem-style electorate of 2008 or better, Obama should carry VA fairly handily. But if the electorate looks more like the most recent VA electorate of 2009, Romney would win handily.

So why not average the two turnout models? The party ID for Virginia then becomes D+1, rather than D+8, D+6, or R+4.

While I realize my hunch that November turnout will be somehwere between 2010 and 2008 turnout flies in the face of recent poll findings, if my hunch is correct,  then Romney has a tiny lead of 46-45%. Amazing what fiddling with party ID can do.

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