Where the polls stand - the last look

Here's our last look at the state of the polls before we know the result tomorrow.

After months of campaigning, millions spent on advertising and mail, the campaign has settled in to where it always looked destined to, a narrow lead for the president, creating an even narrower path for Mr Romney to achieve 270 electoral college votes.

The most conservative of the polling analyst, Real Clear Politics, has the race for electoral college votes almost neck-and-neck

One of the states they have in the toss-up column naturally being Ohio. However, their state-by-state look at the polling shows President Obama with a lead averaging 2.9%, one of his largest in some time, right at the moment he would want to be leading.

Meanwhile, 538, the NYT poll analyst has the President winning the electoral college vote 307.2 - 230.8, a margin that has been increasing since the first debate

583 has the probably of President Obama winning Ohio at 86.8%.

If you just want to settle in an watch the results, BuzzFeed has created a "Viewer's Guide To Who Won The Presidential Election"

This (probably)* doesn't have to be all that complicated. Obama has several paths to victory. Romney has fewer. And these are the main ones, organized by the time (EST) that polls close.
*The New York Times counts 512 possible outcomes — but the paths above are the likely ones.

As you can see, Romney has to run the table of swing states in order to prevail.

Of course, all of this only matters if you vote. Don't forget to check our our voters checklist of what you might need, and what your voting rights are in Ohio.

Where the polls stand - Post convention

With the RNC and DNC conventions over, the clear winner, based on current polling, appears to be President Obama.

”Mr. Obama had another strong day in the polls on Saturday, making further gains in each of four national tracking polls. The question now is not whether Mr. Obama will get a bounce in the polls, but how substantial it will be.Some of the data, in fact, suggests that the conventions may have changed the composition of the race, making Mr. Obama a reasonably clear favorite as we enter the stretch run of the campaign.” Nate Silver in The New York Times.

Let's take a look at the state of play. First, Real Clear Politics has the race essentially unchanged from last week, with President Obama having 221 electoral college votes to Mitt Romney's 191, 126 are listed as toss-ups

In Ohio, RCP has Obama's lead increasing from an average of 1.4% to 2.2%

538, whom we quoted up top, has the President's advantage increasing by 10 electoral college votes, and now stands at landslide levels of 318.8

In Ohio his chances of victory have also increased and now stand at 74.6%, up from 71.5 last week.

Crazy polling result of the day perhaps comes from a PPP poll of Ohio, where 15% of Ohio Republicans said Mitt Romney deserved more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

SB5 repeal, the difficult second act

Like most compelling stories, the repeal of SB5 will be told in 3 acts.

The first act introduced us to the characters, and the main story element putting those characters at risk, and in confrontation with each other. The antagonists in our story are the Ohio GOP in the form of the legislators and Governor who passed SB5. Pitted against them are our protagonists, the working people of Ohio who will need to fight to preserve their rights to earn a decent living in safe working conditions.

Our protagonists responded to this assault, with over 10,000 volunteers going into their communities and collecting 1,298,301 signatures to place SB5 on the ballot for repeal, setting up the rising tension of act II.

Ordinarily, the second act could be expected to begin with a fight over whether this effort had collected enough signatures to qualify, but having collected over a million more than needed, no one expects this to present a problem.

The next issue to be resolved then will be the formulation of the ballot language. The Ohio Ballot Board will have to decide if the question is posed to voters as "shall the law take effect?” or "shall the law be repealed?" Conventional wisdom suggests it’s easier to get voters to vote “No”, rather than “Yes”, and precedent indicates that’s how the Board will decide the matter. Either option is likely to have little effect on the result.

The story will progress to the repeal campaign protagonists needing to identify and persuade voters, and the antagonists trying all manner of dirty tricks to stop them. So before we look at what that means, let’s take a look at how many voters will likely be needed to vote against SB5 in order for the campaign to prevail. Below is a table of voter turnout going back 15 years. In bold are the off-cycle years, as 2011 is (i.e. none gubernatorial or presidential elections.).

Year Total Votes Turnout Major Issue
2010 3,956,045 49.22% Gubenatorial
2009 3,292,374 44.64% Veterans, livestock, casino
2008 5,773,777 69.97% Presidential
2007 2,436,070 31.34% Local issues only
2006 4,185,597 53.25% Gubenatorial, min wage, casino, smoking ban
2005 3,093,968 40.26% State Bond issue, Reform Ohio Now
2004 5,722,443 71.77% Presidential, Gay Maririage Amendment
2003 2,614,354 36.62% State Bond Issue
2002 3,356,285 47.18% Gubenatorial
2001 2,574,915 36.00% Local issues only
2000 4,795,989 63.60% Presidential
1999 2,467,736 34.53% Local issues only
1998 3,534,782 49.81% Gubenatorial
1997 3,163,091 45.55% Bail, Workers Comp
1996 4,638,108 67.83% Presidential, Riverboat Casino

As you can see these off cycle years have lower turnout with variations that are greatly affected by whether and to some extent, what, state ballot initiatives are present. Ranging from almost 3.3 million in 2009, down to 2.4 million in 2007. It would be wise to think that 2011 will see turnout in the high end, if not the highest. With the GOP and Tea Party failing to get their healthcare countermeasure initiative on the ballot, the turnout battle will be solely fought on the grounds of SB5 repeal.

It would be safe to assume a high turnout – perhaps north of 3.3 million votes, which means the repeal campaign would need 1.7 million votes. The 1.3 million signatures is a great start, and will form the initial base with which to identify potential repeal supporters.

But not all those 1.3 million will be supporters, so in excess of 400,000 more voters will need to be identified – most likely a million more. These voter contacts will require massive volunteer efforts to call (phone bank) and contact in–person (canvass).

These signatories, plus union members and their households, Democrats and Independents (who according to polls favor repeal in the majority) will all be contacted at some point, either by telephone or in person, and most likely both, to determine if they can be relied upon to vote for repeal.

This is why continuing to enter signature data is critical. It is also a huge structural advantage that repealers have over the SB5 supporters – they have no such list from which to draw upon.

As potential voters are contacted they will be graded, typically on a scale of 1-5, on whether they support repeal or not. Those falling in the middle of that range will require persuasion, and that is where the nastiest of the fall campaign will be waged, for the hearts and minds of the undecided voter.

Both sides will be polling to determine what the best lines of attack and defense are. What messages work and what don’t. These polls, unless leaked, will never be made public – but everyone will feel their effects.

Typically one begins to see visible signs of political campaigns after Labor Day. TV, print and mail advertising will begin to bombard voters. The nastiest pieces will be sent via the mail, but in today’s political climate the TV ads won’t be much better.

Repeal supports should expect to see some very ugly TV ads as early as September as the SB5 supporters try and move the polls in their favor. This will be akin to probing the enemies’ lines looking for weaknesses.

In order to provide some inoculation to these inevitable attacks, the SB5 repeal campaign will also try to persuade voters of its case too. First with visibility events, and urging supporters to talk to friends, family, and coworkers, followed by extensive paid media efforts on TV, in print, and mail too.

By the time we reach this point, Act II will be coming to a close and we’ll be entering act III, final act – GOTV, or Get Out The Vote. We’ll discuss that in a later article.

SB5, Issue campaigns and Polls

There's a long way to go before SB5 is repealed. What may currently feel like a wind to your back can suddenly reveal itself to be a maelstrom instead. With today's polling news that Ohioans overwhelmingly favor repealing SB5, we thought it would be a good idea to cover some election basics.

Right now we are collecting signatures to place the repeal of SB5 on the November 2011 ballot. We need 231,000 verified signatures, which means we need a lot more than that in reality, conservatively, 50% more. But. Each person who signs a SB5 repeal petition is almost as good as a vote, so the more signatures collected the better our chances in November.

November 2011 would be a very low turnout election year under most circumstances, with no major offices on the ballot to attract people to the polls. A similar past year, 2007 saw only 31.34% of registered voters cast a ballot, compared to 53.25% in 2006 and 69.97% in 2008.

Given this, the first thing to bare in mind is that there is a great difference between a voter and a registered voter. A lot of registered voters do not actually vote! In off-cycle election years like 2011 it could be about 2/3 of registered voters who stay home on election day. There are a few lessons to be learned from this simple and obvious fact.

  1. When reading polls be careful to consider if they are of registered voters (RV), or have been screened for likely voters(LV).
    Today's Quinnipiac poll is of registered voters, as will most polls be until after Labor Day when it becomes easier to gauge a persons likelihood to vote
  2. Getting your supporters to actually go vote (GOTV) is crucial to success.
    We need to turn as many registered voters into actual voters on election day in November. The best way to do that right now is to collect signatures. Lots and lots of them.

Back to polling. We all know about sampling errors and margin of error, but you should also be aware that it is very hard to accurately poll issue campaigns, and even harder to do so in low turnout elections. Two recent examples from Ohio demonstrate this quite well.

In 2005 a group of people attempted to reform Ohio's election and redistricting laws. Right before the election the Bliss Institute polled the issues and found

State Issue Two (Absentee Balloting)
Favor: 63.8%
Oppose: 36.2%

State Issue Three (Campaign Contributions)
Favor: 61.2%
Oppose: 38.8%

State Issue Four (Nonpartisan Redistricting)
Favor: 43.5%
Oppose: 56.5%

State Issue Five (Role of Secretary of State)
Favor: 42.5%
Oppose: 57.5%

The Dispatch found similar results. All 4 issues lost just a few days later by massive 2:1 margins. The polling was way off.

In 2006 a coalition similar to the SB5 coalition put a minimum wage initiative on the ballot. It won 57%-43%, but in a NYT/CBS poll just 2 weeks earlier it enjoyed over 77% support.

The bottom line -

  • We have to work hard now, to collect as many signatures as possible
  • We have to work hard through the summer and fall to talk to voters and convince them that repealing SB5 is the right thing to do
  • In the closing month of the election get as many people to vote early as possible
  • On election day, get as many supporters of repeal to the polls as possible

That's a lot of work. Ready for it?

An election to watch tomorrow

There's an election tomorrow worth keeping an eye on. The Wisconsin Supreme Court election has turned into a proxy battle for the union busting "budget repair bill" Scott Walker rammed through.

The fate of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill may hang in the balance Tuesday, when the state's voters head to the polls. The April 5 election, which pits conservative supreme court justice David Prosser against liberal assistant attorney general JoAnne Kloppenburg, will determine whether judicial conservatives or liberal activists have a 4-3 majority on the highest court in the state.

In a typical year, Prosser would win another 10-year term in a walk. But 2011 is far from typical. The left and unions are angry and energized over the Budget Repair Bill that curtailed the collective bargaining power of public employee unions. And while a Prosser victory is possible, all of that energy means that Kloppenburg is favored to win tomorrow's very low turnout election--historically, only about 20 percent of the state's voters show up to the polls in springtime elections.

It's been an ugly campaign as you can see from this recent ad

Prosser was elected in 2001, unopposed with 549,860 votes. In a 2007 election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the winner prevailed 487,422 votes to 342,371.

What to look for tomorrow? It would have been a stunning upset for Kloppenburg to win, so that's the first test of how organized and angry pro-middle class voters are. But also keep an eye on the votes cast for each - that will give us a rough indication of the effects these labor busting moves are having on real voters, in real elections.