Presidential Polling In One Crucial Swing State Is All Over The Place

mitt romney barack obama

The last two mornings, two universities’ polling centres have come out with two very different poll results in Florida, a crucial swing state in the 2012 Election. 

Yesterday, it was Quinnipiac. Today, Marist. And you’ll notice immediately that there are some pretty distinct fluctuations between them. 

Most striking is the top line: Quinnipiac shocked everyone because it had Romney with a 6-point lead in Florida. Today, Marist has Obama up 4 points among registered voters, which is also a bit higher than the close calls we’ve seen thus far in Florida. Anyway, on the surface, it’s a confusing 10-point difference between two polls taken about the exact same time.

Delving deeper, we find that the Quinnipiac poll is less representative of the overall Florida electorate. Quinnipiac’s unweighted results came from 640 people that identified as Republicans, compared with 493 Democrats. 

Steve Schale, a Democratic political strategist in Florida, noticed a problem with this right away.

40 per cent of registered voters in Florida are Democrats, compared with 36 per cent who are Republicans. The rest are not affiliated or registered with third parties. The weighted total of the Quinnipiac poll stands at 37 per cent Republican, 29 per cent Democrat and 29 per cent Independent.

Also important: the Quinnipiac poll came in at 80.5 per cent white, about 8 per cent Hispanic voters and 7 per cent African-American voters. Schale explains why this is not truly representative:

In terms of what the electorate will look like on election day in 2012, by my estimate is it will be roughly 42% Democratic, 40% Republican and 18% minor/NPA — and using 2008 as a bit of a guide, roughly 70% white, 13% African American (or Caribbean American) and 12-13% Hispanic.

The Q poll, which gave Mitt Romney a 6 point lead, weighed out at 37% Republican, 29% Democratic and 29% Independent. It also landed at over 80% white, 8% Hispanic and 7% African America and Caribbean American. There is no scenario where the Florida votes will look like this on Election Day 2012. 

Onto the Marist poll. The makeup here is about 45 per cent Democrat, 37 Republican and 21 per cent Independent. Moreover, it consists of 66 per cent white voters, 13 per cent African-American voters and 18 per cent Hispanic voters. 

In short, it’s not perfect, but it’s much more representative of the voters that will actually go to the Florida polls in November. 

The bottom line is that Florida will be close. The RCP average of polls over the last month gives Romney a 0.5-point lead in the state.

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