Public Policy Polling Analysis: An Early Look at the 2012 Electoral Map

PPP’s first in depth look at the 2012 electoral math finds that a very thin line separates an Obama Electoral College landslide from a narrow loss:

Mitt Romney's victory in Iowa last night may not have been very impressive, but it still increases the chances he will emerge as the Republican nominee in the end and that makes it worth taking a first look at the 2012 electoral map.

Over the course of 2011 PPP did at least 2 polls in 15 major swing states.  Here's how the Obama/Romney numbers averaged out, from the places where Obama's strongest to where he's weakest:

State

Our Poll Average

# of Polls

New Mexico

Obama +13

3

Wisconsin

Obama +8

4

Iowa

Obama +7

5

Michigan

Obama +6

2

Virginia

Obama +5

3

Colorado

Obama +5

3

Ohio

Obama +3

4

North Carolina

Obama +2

12

Florida

Obama +2

4

Pennsylvania

Obama +1

4

Nevada

Tie

4

New Hampshire

Romney +1

2

Missouri

Romney +2

3

Arizona

Romney +6

3

Montana

Romney +9

2

Note: I'm excluding 2 polls from these averages: a Virginia poll right after the killing of Osama bin Laden and an Ohio poll conducted of likely voters for the November referendum election. The referendum drew out a likely voter pool that's probably different from who will come out this November and polls taken right after the bin Laden killing are not a realistic gauge of where Obama stands right now.

If you go strictly by the averages Obama's in pretty good shape for reelection. Ceding Indiana (which we can't poll) to Romney, Obama gets 337 electoral votes to 195 for Romney with the 6 for Nevada on the table.

Here's the thing though: our polls and probably everyone's polls are actually worse for Obama than they look right now.  That's because a disproportionate number of the undecideds in Obama/Romney polling are Republicans. Romney's not their first choice for the nomination so they're being stubborn and saying they're undecided for the general, even though it's pretty much a certainty that they'll end up voting for the GOP nominee in the end. 

We saw this situation in reverse in 2008, where strong partisans of Obama and Clinton refused to say in early polls that they'd vote for the party nominee if their favored candidate didn't get it. Of course pretty much all of those folks ended up voting for Obama in the end.

Right now when you look at the undecideds in Obama/Romney nationally only 18% of them approve of Obama while 63% disapprove. Let's assume that for those remaining undecideds their vote ends up being a referendum on their feelings about the President. 8% of voters were undecided on our last national poll- if they went for Romney by 45 points that would mean a gain of 3.6% in his current poll standing. That sounds about right to me- if the election was today and people really had to go ahead and choose between Obama and Romney I think Romney would do 3-4 points better than he is in current horse race polls.

So let's say Romney does 4 points better than his current poll standing- that would add Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina to his electoral vote column based on our 2011 polls in those states. That would put him ahead of Obama 283-255 in the electoral college.

The fact that you can take the same set of polls and use them to put Obama at either 337 or 255 electoral votes speaks to how up in the air this year's Presidential race is. But Obama should find this heartening- he has 255 electoral votes locked up in states where we found him with at least a 5 point average poll lead in 2011.  If he can win just one out of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina that puts him over 270.

It's funny that for all the talk of the changing electoral map that Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are still the key states.  But Obama's continued strength in Virginia and Colorado now makes it so that he only needs to win one out of that trio of states to get to 270 electoral votes, where John Kerry and Al Gore both lost because of their inability to carry two of them.

Clearly there is a very wide range of possibilities for what will happen this fall but Obama's pretty well positioned to get to 270.

Here's one other interesting chart: how Obama's current polling standing compares to how he did in 2008, listed in order from where he's fallen the most to where he's fallen the least:

State

2008 Result

PPP Poll Average

Shift for Obama

Nevada

Obama +12

Tie

-12

New Hampshire

Obama +10

Obama -1

-11

Michigan

Obama +16

Obama +6

-10

Pennsylvania

Obama +10

Obama +1

-9

Montana

Obama -2

Obama -9

-7

Wisconsin

Obama +14

Obama +8

-6

Colorado

Obama +9

Obama +5

-4

Iowa

Obama +10

Obama +7

-3

Missouri

Tie

Obama -2

-2

New Mexico

Obama +15

Obama +13

-2

Florida

Obama +3

Obama +2

-1

Ohio

Obama +4

Obama +3

-1

Virginia

Obama +6

Obama +5

-1

Arizona

Obama -8

Obama -6

+2

North Carolina

Tie

Obama +2

+2

 

This analysis is also available on our website:

 

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/01/looking-at-the-2012-electoral-map.html