Monday, November 1 2004
THREE GENERAL TRENDS:
Where do things stand one day before the election? Very, very close. The national horse race numbers have gotten extremely tight, including a couple of polls in particular that don't bode well for President Bush. Gallup and Fox News (as of this morning) have shown movement toward John Kerry in the final days and now have the race dead even.

But as we've been loading all the various internal numbers from these polls into our averages I've gotten the sense there is another story, one which would seem on the surface to be much more in President Bush's favor.

Start with the generic Congressional vote. Right now the RCP Average has Republicans with a 0.5% advantage. If you track the change in each poll individually, with the exception of Gallup the movement seems to be favoring the GOP:

Generic Vote
Latest
Last
Net Chg
CNN/USAT/Gallup
Dem +1
(10/31)
GOP +3
(10/24)
Dem +4
NBC/WSJ
Dem +1
(10/31)
Dem +4
(9/19)
GOP +3
Battleground
GOP +2
(10/31)
Dem +1
( 10/28)
GOP +3
Newsweek
GOP +5
(10/29)
GOP+1
(10/22)
GOP +4
Democracy Corps (D)
Dem +2
(10/31)
Dem +9
(10/25)
GOP+7

In 2002, there was a dramatic move toward the GOP in the final days before the midterm election which was a harbinger of a big night for Republicans. This year the move is much smaller, and it isn't clear at all whether any favorable momentum in the generic congressional vote will benefit President Bush. It could very well be that Republicans have a good night on Tuesday in a lot of places - except at the top of the ticket. Nevertheless, movement toward the GOP is obviously more beneficial for President Bush than seeing the polls move against his party in the final days.

Now look at the latest right track/wrong track numbers:

Right Track/Wrong Track
Latest
Last
Net Chg
Marist
-8
(10/31)
-10
(10/19)
+2
CNN/USAT/Gallup (RV)
-9
(10/31)
-14
(10/14)
+5
NBC/WSJ
-6
(10/31)
-9
(10/18)
+3
CBS/NYT
-4
(10/30)
-18
( 10/17)
+14
Battleground
-11
(10/31)
-12
( 10/28)
+1
Newsweek
-17
(10/29)
-16
(10/22)
-1
Democracy Corps (D)
-6
(10/31)
-11
(10/25)
+5

With only one exception (Newsweek), the polls show people are generally feeling better about the direction of the country. The current RCP Right Track/Wrong Track spread stands at -8.0%, which is the first time it's been under negative double digits in quite some time.

I think it's widely accepted that the RT/WT number this year isn't as tightly correlated to the national popular vote as we've seen in the past. Because of the war in Iraq, terrorism and cultural issues like gay marriage, there is a certain level of anxiety in the country and even supporters of President Bush may respond that they feel like we're headed in the wrong direction.

Still, this question is usually asked among respondents using the loosest possible screen (either all adults or registered voters) so it does gauge the general mood of the country and it's certainly better for President Bush that the RT/WT number is improving heading into tomorrow as opposed to going in the other direction.

Lastly, look at Bush's job approval. Fifty percent is generally recognized as the "magic number" on job approval for incumbents to win reelection. As most of you know, this is because the job approval number traditionally correlates most closely with the candidate's final popular vote total. It also just makes common sense: a majority of the country is probably not going to vote a person out of office if they think that person is doing a decent job as President.

Right now the RCP Average of the 8 most recent polls taken over the last 5 days shows President Bush right on the cusp: 49.8%.

Among all job approval numbers, Gallup is generally seen as the "gold standard." In their final poll they have Bush at 51% job approval among likely voters but only 48% among registered voters.

But again, it's important to look at the change in these polls relative to each other to get a feel for which direction Bush's job approval number is heading:

Bush Job Approval
Latest
Last
Net Chg
Marist
50
(10/31)
49
(10/19)
+1
CNN/USAT/Gallup (LV)
51
(10/31)
54
(10/24)
-3
NBC/WSJ
49
(10/31)
49
(10/18)
nc
Battleground
53
(10/31)
53
( 10/28)
nc
CBS/NYT
49
(10/30)
44
( 10/17)
+5
Newsweek
46
(10/29)
46
(10/22)
nc
FOX News
49
(10/28)
49
(10/18)
nc
Democracy Corps (D)
49
(10/31)
48
(10/25)
+1

With the exception of Gallup (which as previously mentioned is a pretty big exception), Bush's job approval has held steady or increased across the other seven polls taken recently. Again, this may or may not be indicative of tomorrow's outcome, but as a general trend the President's job approval numbers seem to be working slightly in his favor.

I'll finish with the traditional caveats about these being national numbers (as opposed to key battleground state numbers) with small sample sizes, blah, blah, blah. Certainly this race will be won or lost in the trenches of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the rest. But the to the extent we can use national polls as pieces of the overall picture and tools to find threads of commonality in the dynamics of this race, these three trends look favorable for President Bush despite the tightening in some of the horse race numbers. - T. Bevan 10:00 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

 

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