In the polls

By Jeff Horwitz
Published October 29, 2004 5:43PM (EDT)

In daily tracking polls, TIPP calls the race a tie 45-45, Zogby calls it a tie 47-47, and Rasmussen puts Bush ahead, 49-47. All are among likely voters.

The Wall Street Journal/Zogby battleground poll published today, finds that Bush has made some gains. Of the 16 states surveyed, Bush leads in 9, including Florida, Minnesota, and Michigan. His margins aren't very impressive, though: he has a 2-point advantage or less in each.

Several other polls released today still believe that Michigan is in Kerry's column. Rasmussen's tracking poll gives Kerry a 2 percent lead in the state, Research 2000 a more generous margin of 4. Kerry needs the state; its 17 electoral votes make it only slightly less important than Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, Zogby calls the race an even 46-46, adding himself to the list of pollsters who believe the race is narrowing there in the campaign's final days. According to the poll archive at, however, only one of the last 30 consecutive polls of the state has found the state to be leaning toward Bush, making one suspect that, at best, the Republican ticket is only marginally competitive, and that the apparent closeness of the race should be chalked up to statistical variance.

In Ohio, Zogby says Kerry has taken the lead, 47-44. That's quite an improvement from five days ago -- when another Zogby poll found Bush winning the state 47-42. An 8-point change in under a week seems a little suspect to us, but Ohio polling results have been volatile for a while.

And in Florida, a Zogby poll for the Miami Herald shows Kerry slaughtering Bush 54-42 in metropolitan Miami-Dade County. A victory by that margin in Florida's most populous county would produce a surplus of as many as 100,000 Kerry ballots, which could well amount to a knock-out punch even if Bush did well in the rest of the state.

In the last few days, several respected Dem-friendly blogs (like Donkey Rising) have come up with the same two reasons for why, despite the closeness of the polls, election night might end up looking like a surprise party for Kerry. The rationale is the following: 2004 is expected to be a high turn-out election by nearly all accounts, and Democrats historically win when more people vote. What's more, even in 2000, which was not a high-turnout election, nearly every pollster was unable to successfully gauge Al Gore's support in the days before the election, and shorted him between 2 and 6 points. Both arguments rely on there being a large body of peripheral voters that support a Democratic agenda but slip through pollsters' nets, and both give reason to expect a Democratic blowout.

But while it's almost certain that such a reserve of occasional and un-surveyable voters exist, it's a bit of an assumption that they necessarily will turn out for Kerry. New Jersey's a prime example of why: a state that went for Gore by 15 percent in 2000 is now neck and neck according to a recent Pew survey. That's not because New Jersey has been sold on Bush's "compassion agenda," but because, as a Quinnipiac survey found, a plurality of the New Jersey electorate is literally afraid for its life: terrorism was the number one issue on voters' minds, and that played to Bush's advantage. How many peripheral voters will be driven to the polls by similar fears is an open question.

Finally, The Dole Nutrition Center wants to let you know that there's a strong correlation between voting Republican and being fat. Or at least, many Americans think there is. The Dole Nutrition Center reports that, by a five percent margin (36-31), Americans believe the members of the Republican party outweigh their Democratic counterparts.

Jeff Horwitz

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