Friday, July 11, 2008

Newsweek poll hits earth

I never for a minute believed last month's Newsweek poll showing Barack Obama leading by 15 points (or the L.A. Times poll showing him up by 12), but Newsweek reports their latest poll -- with Obama leading by a mere 3 points -- as if the previous numbers were real:
A month after emerging victorious from the bruising Democratic nominating contest, some of Barack Obama's glow may be fading. In the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, the llinois senator leads Republican nominee John McCain by just 3 percentage points, 44 percent to 41 percent. The statistical dead heat is a marked change from last month's NEWSWEEK Poll, where Obama led McCain by 15 points, 51 percent to 36 percent.
Obama's rapid drop comes at a strategically challenging moment for the Democratic candidate. [Emphasis added]
Amazing. The "rapid drop" never happened, because Obama's purported 15-point June lead never existed -- at the time, the Gallup daily tracking poll showed his lead in the neighborhood of 2%-3%. But rather than admit their earlier poll was wrong, the writers at Newsweek are forced to pretend that something in the past three weeks has caused a double-digit drop in Obama's advantage.

Ironically, Newsweek reports their new (and undoubtedly more accurate) poll on a day when the latest Gallup daily poll shows Obama up by 6 points, which is about as much as he's ever led McCain. Meanwhile, Rasmussen has Obama by 2 and CNN has him by 5 points.

UPDATE: Ed Morrisey looks at the internals and concludes:
If they weighted the sample to this degree, then Obama’s in much bigger trouble than I first thought.
It's interesting to compare the latest poll sample with the internals for the June Newsweek poll:
Over 60: July -- 43%; June -- 27%
Under 40: July -- 16%; June -- 32%
This is amazing -- the June poll included twice the percentage of under-40 voters as the more recent one.

UPDATE II: James Joyner links, looks at the Real Clear Politics average and says:
McCain’s numbers have been as high as 47 and as low as 40 whereas Obama’s have
fluctuated between 43 and 49. The gap between the two has never exceeded 4
points. So, we’ve got a very close race with very little movement that Obama has
been leading, with brief exceptions, for months.
J0yner also reminds us of the "Wilder Effect," the polling phenomenon which tends to overstate the level of white support for black candidates, but notes that "recent evidence for that phenomenon is scant." I'd add that, at least during the Democratic primaries, I don't recall any indication that polls were overstating Obama's support. In the general election campaign, however, we're dealing with another phenomenon, the tendency of early polls to overstate the support for Democrats, period.

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