On Thursday, Pollster John Zogby released a national poll in which John McCain had a slim two point lead over Barack Obama.
Similar results were seen in two other polls released on Thursday. A George Washington University Battleground poll showed McCain up by one point and a Gallup poll showed them tied.
Zogby was one of the most trusted pollsters in the 1990s when his polls were accurate to within one percent on average. The key to his success lies in the way he approaches “likely voters” over registered voters. He gained renown in the 1996 Presidential election when his final poll came within a tenth of a percentage point of the actual result.
Zogby was the only major pollster to predict the cliffhanger election of 2000, while most others predicted Bush winning handily.
Another of his “pet doctrines,” which I’ve read in various interviews, is that large blocks of “unsure” voters tend to wait until election day to decide.
In the 2004 election, Zogby lost some credibility when on the very day of the election, he predicted a huge victory for John Kerry. Some accused him of trying to skew the results in the western time zone states with a perceived Kerry trend in the east. Despite his personal prediction, Zogby’s final poll showed Bush with a one point lead over Kerry. Zogby later released an apology in which he stated, “I will do better next time: I will just poll, not predict.” – John Zogby, November 8, 2004
Since John Zogby is a self-described Democrat, and a liberal by most accounts, I find the following news item of interest:
According to John Zogby, president of Zogby International, Barack Obama still needs to sell himself to the country. If not, voters will likely side with “a comfortable old shoe.” That shoe is John McCain, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle quoted Zogby as saying. Zogby also questioned if Americans are still asking of Obama, “Who are you, where are you from?” – The Boston Herald, 9/25/08
To put this a few other ways:
1. The make-up of the electoral college favors rural voters.
2. No Democrat since Jimmy Carter has won more than 49 percent of the popular vote. Clinton won with 43 percent and 49 percent. Carter won with 51 percent to Gerald Ford’s 49 percent.
3. Both Carter and Clinton ran as moderate Democrats and appealed to rural voters in the south.
4. Obama may have reached that Democrat “iron ceiling” of 43 to 49 percent.
5. Media run polls tend to underestimate Republican strength and especially the outcome of the more conservative or moderate candidate.
We saw that especially with Mike Huckabee and Hillary Clinton in the primaries. They both won huge victories in states where they were polled as close or trailing.
6. This is not a national election, it is a state by state election where the Democrats are historically more vulnerable.
Despite McCain’s showing in the national polls, he only has to pick up one or two states currently in Obama’s column to win. If we use the rule that the tie goes to the Republican, Zogby could be right in predicting a McCain landslide.
7. Even during the national economic turmoil, the numbers remain fairly competitive.
Listening to Zogby, one could only predict a McCain resurgence if an economic package is passed early next week with McCain seen as favoring the average taxpayer in the bailout.