Thoughts on Yesterday’s CNN/ORC International Poll With Obama Leading by 4 in Ohio

A spate of polls came out yesterday that I left alone for various reasons but the CNN/ORC International poll with Obama leading by 4-points created special consternation among Romney supporters and readers of this blog.  The reasons behind the concern were party ID and the Independent vote.

The party ID was not outrageous. The split was D +3 (Dem 35, Rep 32, Ind 33) when we are usually dealing with Ohio polls at D +8, D +7 and even D +10. As a matter of fact at the same time as the CNN release, American Research Group released an Ohio poll showing Obama leading by 2-points with a party ID split of D +9. In 2008 Ohio turnout was reported as D +8 although this has been disproven in favor of the real split of D +5. The 2004 party ID was R +5 so the fact that this poll ends up somewhere in the middle says we’re at least in an acceptable range. The other factor causing concern among the pro-Romney factions was that Obama was leading in this poll among Independents by 5-points, 49 to 44.  On those two factors alone this should have been a great poll for team Obama since anomalies in those two areas are the most cited reasons to dismiss the regularly erroneous polls we have seen this cycle.

I tried to contact CNN (OK, I tweeted their political director) for the racial make-up of the poll since they conveniently failed to include that in the cross-tabs and this is another prime area for abuse by the polling outfits.  But alas, my tweet went unanswered. Thankfully incredible readers in my comment sections went to great lengths identifying many other credible sources debunking multiple oddities in this ostensibly credible poll.

I’ll state up-front, this poll does not concern me in the slightest over Romney’s prospects in the state. I try to be as objective as possible when running the numbers and my opinions on who is winning are whatever the #s tell me they should be and Ohio is actually looking pretty decent for Romney.  Yes, I said Ohio is looking pretty decent for Romney.


Thanks to Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher), we know that in the seventeen most recent polls in Ohio, only three have Obama leading with Independents and two of those are these same CNN/ORC polls. In the fourteen other polls, Romney’s lead with independents is +11.4. CNN/ORC looks to be the outlier, not the norm by any means.  In that same ARG poll cited above Romney actually had a 21-point lead among Independents. This essentially means Obama is not leading with Independents despite whatever the outlier CNN/ORC says.  When Ohio’s ballots are counted, each side will lock down their base and the differential in partisan turnout will be minimal. Whoever wins Independents will win Ohio. Obama carried Independents in Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2008 and today he is losing Independents by 10+ points.  This is an 18-point swing among the voting group who will decide the state.

Early voting

Early voting is over-represented in the CNN poll. According to @Adrian_Gray in the poll 2/5 of Ohio likely voters have already cast their ballot. County election offices say only 1/5 have voted. Both cannot be right. Extrapolating the CNN poll statewide, Obama leads 59-38 among the 1.4 million that voted early. Romney leads 51-44 among 4.4 million have yet to vote. The math is pretty straightforward where the overwhelming remaining voters support Romney and should overwhelm any early vote advantage CNN found.

2012 is not 2008

Obama’s 2008 early voting secret weapon is gone. He won Ohio in 2008 due to an overwhelming early vote advantage.  On election day more votes were cast for John McCain than Barack Obama but so many votes banked away for Obama that it wasn’t enough. Today, according to the same Adrian Gray: “220,000 fewer Democrats have voted early in Ohio compared with 2008. And 30,000 more Republicans have cast their ballots compared with four years ago. That is a 250,000-vote net increase for a state Obama won by 260,000 votes in 2008”

Undecideds break for the challenger

On average Obama’s support level is always stuck around 47% in the Battleground states.  His current Real Clear Politics average in Ohio thanks in no small party to this CNN poll and the ARG poll stands at 48%.  We have shown across multiple elections against an incumbent President Undecideds break between 66-80% for the challenger. This means there is not a lot of votes left for Obama beyond his base and already accounted for Independents.

Between the reversal of the Independent voting block, the neutralizing of Obama’s early vote advantage and Undecideds always breaking 66-80% for the challenger Obama is looking really bad in Ohio.  And everyone today admits whomever wins Ohio wins the election.  To those who are unnecessarily concerned. rest easy.  Things are looking far better for Romney than is being represented.  The networks need ratings and horse-races increase ratings.  Four years ago at this time the race was over yet you could still see stories about McCain’s momentum.  It was just to keep people tuned in because that’s what pays the bills.  They did the same thing for Dukakis and Dole down the stretch when those races were blow-outs.

This race is far from over and 11 days is an eternity in politics, but every sign says Romney has the initiative and Obama is only responding to whatever Romney does. Obama’s fire-wall keeps getting moved back while Romney keeps pressing forward.  You can’t call a race until the last ballot is cast but I’m fairly optimistic on Romney’s prospects in Ohio at this point.  And I’m a pessimist by nature.


  1. Bill M
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink | Reply

    Actually, the poll does not indicate that 2/5 of voters have already voted. The breakdown states that 2/5 of the voters “have voted OR will vote absentee or early”. They are not claiming that 2/5 have already voted at 59-38, but that of those who have or will vote early, the breakdown will be 59-38,

    • Bill M
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink | Reply

      It’s quite alright to dispute the findings of a poll. However, as I pointed out earlier, your analysis with respect to early voters is not valid. The poll says that 2/5 of the respondents stated that they EITHER have voted already OR plan to vote early if they haven’t already voted. It does not say that 2/5 have already voted. You can, if you like, dispute the fact that 40% of the electorate will ultimately vote early or that the split of early voters will be 59-38. What you cannot do is to use the 59-38 number derived from the poll but apply it to only 20% because only 20% have already voted, and then apply the 51-44 percentage to the other 80%.

  2. Beb
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink | Reply

    Love this site. Still not sure if you post only rosy analysis. Will keep checking.

  3. Dogfish
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink | Reply

    I like it

  4. Dave Ped
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink | Reply

    Keith – great job. I don’t know how I would have made it thru October with BW….ha.

    • Dave Ped
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink | Reply

      I meant without Battleground Watch….

  5. Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink | Reply

    TCJ Research OHIO: Mitt Romney- 50%, Barack Obama- 47% 10/19-10/21

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink | Reply

      Looks like the poll is a little dated. Interestingly, the other polls (top line results, VA, NV, senate races looks pretty much inline with where most non-partisans see it. (Of course caveat is that I didn’t look at the internals).

  6. bsmith
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    Obama won Ohio by 4.6% in 2008. Looking at the difference in early voting numbers between 2008, and the independent vote support, how could anyone really believe 4% in Ohio is an accurate number.

  7. C-Bus GOP
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink | Reply


    You are spot on. Obama by 4 means he wins this state by just about the same margin as he did in 2008 and you will not find a single individual on either side who will tell you that will be the case.

    This poll actually assumes a greater early vote advantage vs. 2008, which will not be the case. Also what must be noted is that per some data released in an RNC memo, not only is the early advantage not as great, but who is voting is worth paying attention to. Dem early voters are more likely to be high-propensity regular voters, while the GOP has gone after lower propensity voters, those not as likely to vote. I vote every election, and I have not received 1 phone call or door knock about voting early- the GOP knows they have me already no need to waste time. Hence, the Dems are “cannibalizing” their Election Day turnout in order to maximize their early vote advantage, while the GOP is actually adding to their electorate.

    Also- if you watch where Obama goes when he is in Ohio, you might think he is on some kind of campus tour – he almost always goes to college campuses to try to recapture those student votes he had back in 2008. All accounts are that that demographic has largely abandoned him. He will no doubt suffer losses in that demographic while Romney will most certainly make some small but significant gains over McCain. Obama is putting a lot of time into this judging by his visit and travel patterns.

    Finally the Independents- it is just impossible to believe CNN’s data that Independents support Obama +5. No other poll at the state or national level is showing anywhere near this. Especially with the way they are campaigning, R is bridging to the center big time while O is basically chasing them away with Romnesia and other attacks, using profanity, and sex ads. That kind of garbage does not play well here in the heartland.

    Not to mention the GOP base here is more fired up than any point in history. The crowd size and enthusiasm at the rallies depicts this. Obama is having troubles turning out crowds – except for the SEIU parasites and the like who get $ for going.

    Everyone please understand we have not lost our minds here in Ohio like the national media indicates. The GOP is alive and well here, and stronger than ever. Don’t believe the hype!!!

    GO MITT!!!!!

    • Prescient11
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink | Reply

      C-Bus, thanks for the great report. If you don’t mind, where are you at in OH? Larry Schweikart, who has been monitoring OH elections for quite some time out of Dayton, seems to echo your comments and given the early voting thinks RR have what they need in OH.

      • C-Bus GOP
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Northern Columbus suburb. AKA the land of Romney Ryan yard signs (outnumbering OB by at least 10-1, likely greater)

    • Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink | Reply

      C-Bus I saw that memo and liked what he was saying but wanted more data before I bogged anything from it. Early voting in such large blocks is such a new phenomenon that is makes analysis even more speculative than I like. The real takeaway is that GOP has matched the Obama machine in intensity and reversed nearly all of his gains from 2008. A great sign. Thanks for the detailed report.

      • C-Bus GOP
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Regarding the early voting advantage- the bottom line for me is this: in 2008, Obama killed at this and racked up about a 375K vote lead largely composed of non-traditional voters (i.e. college students) in huge numbers.

        McCain by Election Day had all the wind out of his sails. He had a terrible ground game here in OH and a depressed base. Independents had deserted him. Part of this was due to general Bush fatigue brought on by 8 years of negative press against him. McCain was broke, while Obama was flush with cash. STILL McCain won Election Day in OH by 115K.

        So regardless of what the numbers really are here is what we know:

        1. The early vote advantage will be less than 2008.
        2. The Election Day advantage will be greater than 2008.
        3. R has the positive message this time while O is on the negative. Opposite of 2008. This will point the direction of momentum and the late breaking undecideds. Profanity and sex ads may work in Manhattan but NOT in the heartland.
        4. College student apathy, R has $ while O is broke, rally crowd size and enthusiasm……you know all this.

        We will press on!!!

    • Porchlight
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink | Reply

      Read elsewhere (anecdotal from a Romney campaign worker in OH) that part of the reason Obama goes to campuses in OH is so that buses can be at the ready to round up students after the rally and take them straight to the polls to vote early. In some case the buses are bringing people to the rallies as well. Needless to say Repub voters will be traveling to polls on their own.

    • fab4gal
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      C-Bus, please stick around on this site until election day! It is very comforting to hear the truth about what is going on in Ohio. It’s the same here in Colorado, Rasmussen still has us as a “toss-up” which makes me literally laugh out loud because there is NO support for Obama here. In 2008 people were screaming from the mountaintops about how amazing Obama is and now you don’t hear a peep about him unless it’s people going “Well I don’t know, I might vote for Obama, I’m not SURE….”

      • C-Bus GOP
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        Thanks! Not going anywhere!!!!

  8. Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    To my very untrained eye, it seems the big problem with this poll is in the white voters. Obama gets 44% of them. That might’ve happened in 2008. But, it won’t happen this time. In fact, I remember reading that he’ll be lucky to get 40% in many of the battleground states. That tells me this poll is using 2008 demographics and not the predicted 2012’s. And another thing, 23% of people who classify themselves as “conservative” voting for Obama? Huh . . .

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink | Reply

      Looking at the internals of the Rasmussen Swing State tracking poll ( 7 day rolling of 1300 LV’s) has R 57 O 39 regarding the white vote.

      • Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Thanks! I thought I read it somewhere. I guess I know where now.

    • fab4gal
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ha! Yeah, 23% of conservatives voting for Obama is just a joke. I read that in 2008, 89% of Democrats voted for Obama and 92% of Republicans voted for McCain in Ohio. Meaning in 2008, when everyone was acting like Obama was Lord and Savior, he only got 8% of the Republican vote. So yeah, 23% in this year when everyone is fed up with the socialist BS is just a joke. Oh well, they’ll skew the polls however they can to get headlines, right?

  9. Medicine Man
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink | Reply

    Early Rasmussen numbers. R 50 O 46. Swing State poll. R 51 O 45 ( + 2 from yesterday)

    • Prescient11
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink | Reply

      McLaughlin had a fantastic write up on how this is going to come down. One thing I think everyone should note is party ID versus actual turnout. I kid you not, Ras has always UNDERESTIMATED R turnout. This year, he is at least a R 3+ which is the highest it has ever been since he was tracking in 2000.

      Meaning that a wave could be building that has not been seen since Reagan.

      • fab4gal
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        Totally agree, Rasmussen is very cautious with his numbers and Republican turnout, I think he always has been? My father told me about the whole US map going for Reagan (boy do I wish I could have been around when that incredible leader was elected) and how amazing it was to see that. I told him a couple of days ago that I think I’m going to see that for myself with Romney. I can’t wait! This is going to be an election I will tell my own future children about. 🙂

    • TeaPartyPaul
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink | Reply

      Medicine whats your take on this storm and halting early voting in Penn. Northeast Ohio, New Hampshire and North Carolina?

      • Medicine Man
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        NH, Penn doesn’t have early voting. It only can hurt the Dems in my humble opinion. I live in Michigan so would be interesting if anybody from the local campaigns could weigh in.

      • Medicine Man
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        TPP: Here is a great website to follow early voting.

      • TeaPartyPaul
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        I had that link at work, now i have it at home thanks to you. I totally forgot about that site…thanks very much. I ask, cause CNN had report where they were actually admitting it was gonna hurt Obama. But then again my take is…”are they turning out die hards, or low propensity voters?” And which side is doing which.

      • C-Bus GOP
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        In OH Dems are turning out die hards early while GOP is going for low propensity voters. This is reflected in actual #s you could compile off OH sec of state docs (reporting what ballot people request – R or D- and how many of the past 4 elections they have voted in).

        I think the D strategy is to bank the die hards early considering the lack of enthusiasm might hurt them with this group on Election Day. Then put out BS polls to disenfranchise the GOP and keep our turnout low.

        Not a great strategy but I guess after 4 failed years its the best they can come up with. Problem is the GOP here in OH is FIRED UP!!!!!

      • fab4gal
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        C-Bus, if this is the best they can do to get early voters out big time, they (Dems) are definitely going to lose. Early voting numbers in Ohio are WAY down from 2008.

  10. Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    If you look at the trend over the last month, both PPP and CNN were clearly stung by the loud and widespread criticism of their D+8-10 samples. Suddenly, their sample size has gone to D+3-5, yet Obama still leads in almost all their polls by 2-8. How? Because PPP and CNN are consistently finding Obama ahead by 3-7 among independents in any given area, when all other polls in the same area show him trailing 5-15. Check it out for yourself.

    The larger point is that early voting with partisan identification is the only poll that counts and CNN, Quinnipiac, Marist, Nate Silver and PPP can’t spin it. It shows Romney trashing Obama in Florida and Colorado, en route to victory in Ohio, in a toss up in Iowa and probably just short in Nevada. Judging by the returns from Dem and GOP leaning counties, he also looks to be in control in Va.

    • TeaPartyPaul
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I will keep praying,god bless you gentlemen for bringing us the actual on the ground #’s and sense. I promise people are paying attention to what you guys, and Keith are saying and continue to work hard like myself…11 days…11 days. May God be with you.

    • fab4gal
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Could someone please link a credible article that proves Independents break for the challenger in these elections historically? Personally, I believe it’s more than just the “Independents go for the challenger” thing this year, I think it’s that combined with the fact that people are royally ticked off with the Obama administration. So whatever the normal “this % of Independents break for the challenger” number, I think you can multiply probably by 1.5 to get the most likely Independents voting for Romney. I am thinking that at a minimum, nationwide, 2/3rds of Independents are going to vote for Romney.

  11. Zang
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Suffolk’s pollster seems to be fairly bearish on Obama’s chances in Ohio…. He’s quoted in the linked article, below:

    • C-Bus GOP
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Great read. Paleologos seems to have his finger on the pulse of this election more than any other public pollster, including Rasmussen. Remember he announced on O’Reilley 2 if not 3 weeks ago that NC, FL, and VA were out of reach for BO- long before anyone else would have made that call.

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