NBC/WSJ National Poll Tied at 47 — Real Story Hidden in the Mess of a Write-up

UPDATE:  And we have our answer.  On this morning’s “Daily Rundown” Chuck Todd displayed a graphic showing President Obama garnering only 36% of support from White “likely voters” versus 59% for Mitt Romney.  This contrasts as I speculated below with his support of 38% among White registered voters.  At 36% support among whites Obama is finished. [End update]

Let’s start with the screaming headline if the President’s name was O’Bama and he was a White Irishman: PRESIDENT BELOW 50% TWO WEEKS BEFORE ELECTION …sub-headline: No President has ever won re-election with support this low

But this is the press’ dream President/candidate so we’ll analyze the poll for what it is, an incumbent President stuck at ~47% in every poll, in every month, in every contested state.  This election may be remembered as the 47% election between Obama’s unmoving support level as well as  Romney’s remark.

As for the poll, it looks decent from a make-up standpoint.  They don’t provide the likely voter party ID but Chuck Todd tweeted out it was D +3 while the registered voter sample was D +6 (RV #s confirmed in the data).  The racial make-up was clean at 74% White, 12% Black, 8% Hispanic, 2 % Asian.

Now for the ugliness if you are President Obama:

This demographic information is from the First Read write-up which I would give a “F” if I were an English teacher grading this.  They mix in registered voter preferences with likely voter preferences and rarely distinguish which is which.  Conflating these two groups makes it impossible to draw decent conclusions.  Journalism FAIL. Of course they’ll never provide this raw data to the public so we are left to rely on their shoddy journalism:

  • Obama leads among African Americans (92 percent to 5 percent) — close to the historic average of 90% and not the absurd 95% he got in 2008
  • Latinos (winning about seven in 10 of them) — why did they not give us the #?  But that phrasing means 68 or 69%, barely higher than his 67% in 2008
  • Romney, meanwhile, has the edge among seniors (60 percent to 35 percent) — but Chuck Todd incessantly told me Paul Ryan would hurt Romney with seniors?  I told you otherwise
  • Romney lead with whites (55 percent to 38 percent)– Here we are below the magic 40% mark which is the danger zone for Obama.  But again, you already knew that

For some professionally incompetent reason they now switch to likely voters

But Romney’s gender gap narrows when you move from registered voters to likely voters —

  • Obama’s lead with women shrinks to eight points (51 percent to 43 percent)
  • Romney’s advantage with men grows to 10 points (53 percent to 43 percent)

These likely voters #s on the gender gap are a big freaking deal. Democrats gap with women almost always exceeds Republicans gap with men and Obama even won the male vote in 2008. Are we to assume the prior #s are all registered voter preferences?  If so, is Obama at 35% among whites in the Likely Voter screen?  That’s a huge story buried in this incompetently written paragraph on racial demographic preferences in the NBC/WSJ poll. Why even give the registered voter numbers?  Any reasonable observer wants to know the likely voter preferences.

Just as bad for Obama is that his support is softer than Romney’s (Question 14). Of each candidate’s support:

  • Romney: 84% will definitely vote for him, 10% will probably vote for him and 6% are just leaning towards him
  • Obama: 82% will definitely vote for him, 9% will probably vote for him and 8% are just leaning towards him and 1% are not sure

Fewer “definite,” fewer “probably,” more “leaners” and an unsure … not a good place for an incumbent.


  1. Posted October 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I think i read somewhere that they also increased the number of 18-29 year olds this time.

    But yeah, this is the first step towards kinda admitting Romney is leading. Show it a “tie” this week, then next week show “Oooh Romney is ahead but it’s still real close!!”, then the day before the election admit “oh okay, so RR’s winning now”

    • William Jefferson Jr.
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Agreed. PPP has also decided to come down in steps from their absurd, earlier polls. All of a sudden Romney is leading in their NC, FL, NH, IA polls, though ony by a point or two. Watch that widen over the next 2 weeks.

    • Posted October 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It might be different from their prior poll, but this poll exactly matches the 2008 age demographics.

      • EpiphoneKnight
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t that too favorable toward Obama, then? Youth enthusiasm is down right? (26 yr Old Conservative- voted R twice in Prez races already)

  2. AJ
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is great news. I read everywhere that Romney is going to win. sadly i live in communist mn, so it obama all this time. Go Romney / Ryan.

  3. No Tribe
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It’s probably good that we don’t have the likes of Chuck Todd leading with the main story– lack of support among whites for Obama. Otherwise, the title would be “Are white’s Racist against Obama?”

  4. Medicine Man
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Would be nice to see the Indy cross-tabs.

    • Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

      yea, there’s a lot of info they don’t provide. Real bummer.

      • Medicine Man
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        Normal polls release the PDF with all the data….(not a tweet from Chuch Todd regarding party ID). It brings this data chunk down a whole level.

  5. zang
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    NBC has consistently delivered the worst polling for Romney. I wonder if we are going to see any change in their abysmal state polling?

  6. AussieMarcus
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Geez, PPP must have been REALLY unhappy having to show Romney up in Iowa……only 1-2 days later they rush out another Iowa poll showing Obama up (although only by 1).

    They also raced out a new Florida poll….seem to have tried every trick in the book to get Obama ahead but couldn’t do it…..

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Why would you do another poll two days later except for that reason. Expect another Ohio poll here real soon. The Kos Kids were really wetting their pants.

      • Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        Oh, and er……they changed the weighting from R+3-4 last time to D+8 this time.

        Just to get Obama ahead.

      • zang
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        They were paid to do the new one.

  7. zang
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The new ppp Iowa poll was commissioned by a left wing group.

    • Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Permalink | Reply


      They tell the public the truth and the Lefties what they want to hear?

  8. dizzymisslizzzy
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Frequent lurker–love your blog.

    Any thoughts on the supposed high turnout of Dems in North Carolina early voting?

    • jeff
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I get the sense that even Chuck Todd is embarrased by his own polls

    • Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I don’t look at North Carolina so I don’t have much to offer beyond the fact I believe there is a 0% chance of Obama winning North Carolina. The few times I’ve mentioned North Carolina it is to demonstrate the woeful 2008 effort by Republicans relative to the robust operations by the Romney campaign.

      Here are some choice quotes:

      The GOP effort is even more impressive in another battleground state, North Carolina, where party officials boast that volunteers have knocked on 121 times more doors and made seven times as many personal phone calls to potential Romney-Ryan voters than was in the case in 2008 for Mr. McCain and his running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

      In North Carolina, more than 52 percent of all ballot requests so far have come from Republicans, with only 27 percent by Democrats and 21 percent for independents.

  9. shane
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Interesting this poll and PPP. But then you have IBD/TIPP poll going from Obama up .5 two days ago to +6. Polling is very odd this year. I agree you will see them all come back to a concensus.by election. at worse they will all show ties so whomever wins they can claim turnou

    My gut says nationally Romney is between tied and Ras’ +2. I have to.see Ohio go +Romney before i can sleep at night 🙂

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

      +5. I agree. I’ve watched Rasmussen since ’04 and the last 2 presidential campaigns, they have called it with 0.5%. I get comfort with Gallup because it gives Rasmussen cover (lol) and they have history, but Rasmussen seems to not be as volatile as the others.

      They are not as good with State polling, I believe the missed 3 or 4 in ’08 (basically the states that were 49/49 and misjudged Obama’s turnout). I guess that is why there is a margin of error.

      I get some comfort regarding Ohio’s history regarding GOP candidate doing better than the national vote going back 40 years, but until it happens, one always gets a bit nervous at times.

      • Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Even polls with D>2008 samples or overweighted early voting samples of 75-25 can STILL only get Obama 1-2 points ahead in Ohio.

        Take comfort in that!

      • Medicine Man
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        P.S. The internals of the IBD daily poll go against common sense ( see earlier posts from the day). They will smooth out over time since they seem to be so volatile (and D+7).

      • valleyforge
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        Bush won Ohio by less than his national margin in 2004. And that was with an R+5 Ohio electorate. Ohio does historically have a slight Republican lean but it’s been trending closer to par, It’s stronger tendency is to be a true swing state and be closer than the national margin (2000 being the only exception in the last 30 years). But I expect Romney to win nationally by 3-4 points and Ohio by 2 points so I don’t think that will change.

      • Medicine Man
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink


        Point being is that BO hasn’t been at or above 50% since the first debate. For and incumbent to be in the mid to upper 40’s this late in Oct where Romney is 1-2 points ahead is a tough place to be. Not sure if I have ever read where in modern history, one has clawed his way back up.

    • jeff
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Average out Ras and Gallup and I think you have agood idea of where the race stands which is RR leading 4 to 5 points and thats not even counting the undecideds breaking for tge challenger.

  10. valleyforge
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Keith – I agree the NBC blog write-up is terrible. But they do launch into the internals by starting “A combined 47 percent of registered voters say…” and then several paragraphs down they lay out the demographics and then explicitly shift over to the LV comparison. So all the numbers you quote above are RV.

    But if Romney is up 17 among whites then he’s up at least 22 among LV. Though whites probably have a larger LV swing than the overall poll (O+5 to tie).

    Using NBC’s sketchy (love that word) numbers it’s impossible to back into a realistic racial breakdown of the LV vote. If the LV white gap is 23 points, then for Obama to tie he has to keep Romney to about 20% of Hispanics and 30% of “other” races, both well below McCain’s levels and not believable. This simply points to NBC’s racial crosstabs in general being unreliable.

    • Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

      valleyforge, I read it the same way but found it weirdly misleading. I wrote it up that way because normal readers won’t deconstruct the paragraphs the same way and anyone who tries will quickly conclude they are reporting apples and oranges in the same paragraph. Really annoying.

  11. MikeN
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Comment on racial breakdowns, I don’t think 92% is reasonable, and it would be a huge shift toward Romney.
    Consider Obama got 95-5 in 2008(I thought I read 96-4 that year).
    Now say, 20% of his 2008 voters stay home. That is still 76-5 which is 93.8%.
    94-6 is what I would expect with a lower vote share.

    • Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Funny you say you thought you saw 96 – 4 for Obama. I saw the same thing but to be consistent, I was quoting all #s straight from CNN who had it at 95 – 4 – 1 (Other) so I stayed with the 95 #

  12. MikeN
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    If it is 96-4, then take away 20% of Obama voters, which would be the result of a 25% increased turnout, and you are still over 95%.
    Just what percentage is Romney likely to flip back?

  13. Dave
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’m wondering why more polls aren’t showing up as a Romney lead. From NV to Ohio, polls at the state level to the national level, why is there such a consistent wide spread effort to manage the public polling numbers in favor of Obama? The leftist hacks we talk about are only people doing their job. They are directed by someone else, and so it goes all the way to the top. Sh!t flows downhill…all the way. Because of this, it has been clear for months the establishment appears solidifed behind Obama — to a degree that is hard to remember in recent history. The establishment includes the corporations of the press (Disney, Comcast, GE and Time Warner), the Fed (QE-Infinity), Europe (US cash and government bailout knowledge is helping saving the Euro), large wall street banks (who have benefitted tremendously from DC’s largesse) and many US corporations in general and their executives (who continue to donate to Obama in record sums) who have benefited from targeting the stock market with tax payer $$$. Romney presents an unknown or worse yet, a change in economic policy towards the Fed, the stock market and Europe. With so much institutional support, I am skeptical they will let Obama lose. All they have to do is keep appearences up (which it appears they are working overtime to do), and keep it close to do what is necesarry to add to any shortfall in the vote count in the critical regions. This is perhaps why Obama didn’t show up to the first debate. He figured he didn’t have to. It’s all very consipracy theorist but sometimes conspriacy theories are true, esp when there are large $$$ (and nations in the case of Europe) involved. My hope is my fears are unfounded and what is making sense to people and showing up in some polls with some significant historical precedent — that Romney should win — will happen. If Obama pulls it out by a hairline, in one particular state, probably with a dem gov, with possibly reports of voting irregularities then quite possibly the establishment felt compelled to act.

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