Richard C. Eichenberg
(polls through October 24th)
In an earlier post, we showed that the approximately two point drop in President Obama’s national poll standing from September to October was not due to a disproportionate decline among women. In fact, he dropped by exactly two percentage points among both genders.
The question in this post is whether the same pattern characterizes his standing in eleven key states –what some have called “swing states”.
As we shall see, the answer is mixed: Obama’s standing has on average declined slightly more among women in the key states, but the decline is actually concentrated in just a few states. In other states, his support has held steady among women or even slightly increased. And perhaps most importantly, even after these declines, Obama leads among women and overall in almost every swing state.
The Situation in Five Toss-up States
The five states below are currently listed as “toss ups” on most of the professional polling sites. As the graphic shows, one reason for this is that Obama lost slight leads in all of these states as a result of a decline in his polling numbers in October. On average, Obama lost -1.2 percent in these states and -2.9 percent among women.
(click on image to enlarge)
As the graphic also shows, however, these averages mask considerable variety. In North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire, Obama declined noticeably, while the decline in Colorado and Virginia was less (and may even be indistinguishable from sampling error and other statistical noise).
In summary, the picture provided by these toss-up states is one of diversity. In three important states, Obama seems to have declined more among women than among men. In other states, this was not the case. Why each state takes the pattern that it does will have to be the subject of future research.
The Situation in Six States That Lean Obama
The situation is similarly diverse among states that most professional poll sites consider safe or leaning to Obama as of October 29. In the graphic below, we show the level of support among men and women in these states for September and October. Several patterns are evident. First, in two states –Michigan and Wisconsin– Obama actually increased his lead among women from September to October (or held steady), one reason that he seems to be comfortably ahead in those states.
(click on image to enlarge)
In most of the rest of these states, Obama experienced small declines of 2-3 percent among women, but in some cases these declines were offset by an increase in support among men (PA, NV). Third (and not shown in the graph), Obama is running ahead of his margin of 2008 victory among women in five important states: FL, IA, OH, MI, and VA. Finally, given the rash of speculation in the press about whether Obama has “lost” his advantage among women in the “swing states”, it is useful to point out that this graphic and the one shown above demonstrates that Obama is ahead among women in all of the 11 eleven states that most observers consider crucial to the outcome in the electoral college –sometimes by very large amounts in important states.
There are several caveats to the points made above. First, many of the changes from September to October are small, averaging -3.0% in the first graph and -2.5% in the second (and in both graphs there are outliers that have a large affect on the average). Even with a large number of respondents for a pooled sample of surveys for each state and month, some margin of error remains (on the order of 1-2%; see sample sizes below). For this reason, it is probably useful to focus only on states where the change has been larger than 2% or so: FL, NH, IA, NV, and PA). Second, it is worth noting that in many states, the decline in Obama’s share of the vote occurs from a large cushion in September, and in some cases (PA) it may simply mean that vote shares are returning to their “normal” mean for that state. Finally, the polls reported in this post end on October 24th, two days after the final presidential debate. But many professional polls sites have shown a continuing improvement in Obama’s position after this date, and in particular an improvement in several states covered in this post (CO, VA, and possibly FL and NH in particular). For this reason, our next post will report updated numbers for these four and perhaps two other states (OH and NC).
Number of polls and respondents for October (through Oct 24th)
state #polls #respondents
CO 9 8676
FL 16 13849
IA 7 5750
MI 1 895
NC 6 6395
NH 8 4854
NV 13 10378
OH 20 18058
PA 8 5914
VA 13 11777
WI 8 7099
Total 109 93645