Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Where have all the PUMA's gone?

The following report is also available in PDF form on our main website:

There was a lot of bluster from certain supporters of Hillary Clinton, particularly in the days soon after Barack Obama became the presumptive nominee, that a huge chunk of Democratic voters would vote Republican or stay at home this fall. A lot of summer polling backed up their point, and showed a significant unity gap between Democratic and Republican voters.

In our final pre-convention polls of seven battleground states John McCain was winning 87% of the vote from self identified Republicans while Barack Obama was getting just 78% from Democrats. On average McCain’s lead with voters of his own party was 14 points greater than Obama, and the discrepancy was particularly remarkable in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio. At that point McCain was winning in three of these states, losing in three of them, and tied in the seventh.

State

Democrats

Republicans

Difference

Colorado

Obama 85-11

McCain 84-11

D+1

Florida

Obama 76-16

McCain 84-12

R+12

Michigan

Obama 84-8

McCain 87-9

R+2

Missouri

Obama 78-15

McCain 92-7

R+22

North Carolina

Obama 69-19

McCain 86-6

R+30

Ohio

Obama 75-17

McCain 89-7

R+24

Virginia

Obama 84-12

McCain 89-8

R+9

Average

Obama 78-14

McCain 87-9

R+14

Current polling data, however, indicates that any PUMA effect that may have been present in summer polling is long gone in the post-convention period:

State

Democrats

Republicans

Difference

Colorado

Obama 89-7

McCain 85-10

D+7

Florida

Obama 81-15

McCain 84-11

R+7

Michigan

Obama 89-6

McCain 85-11

D+9

Missouri

Obama 89-7

McCain 92-7

R+3

North Carolina

Obama 79-18

McCain 89-7

R+21

Ohio

Obama 84-9

McCain 89-8

R+6

Virginia

Obama 91-6

McCain 89-8

D+4

Average

Obama 86-10

McCain 88-9

R+3

Now there is just a three point gap between the level of support McCain is getting from Republicans and that Obama is getting from Democrats. Obama has increased his average support within the party by 12% over the last two months while McCain has gained just a single point with voters in his.

One thing these numbers speak to is why Sarah Palin was such a poor choice of running mate for John McCain. For all the claims that she has motivated the Republican base the reality is that, enthusiastic about him or not, Republicans were already unified behind McCain before the convention. They would have come out to vote for him anyway out of dislike for Obama, and their unenthusiastic votes would have counted just the same as their enthusiastic ones.

He didn’t need to make a choice to mollify conservatives in the party who are less than enamored with him. Rather he needed to win over independents and conservative Democrats. But our polling has shown over and over again that Democratic voters really don’t like Palin, and that is particularly true with female voters who might have originally supported Hillary Clinton. The Palin pick has helped to unify support for Barack Obama among folks in his party.

Other factors helping lead to this increased party unity have been the downturn in the economy, helping to focus Democratic voters on the need for their party to be in power to deal with these issues, and the more enthusiastic support for Obama among Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Whatever the reason for the increased unity, there isn’t much doubt what its effect on the race has been:

State

Pre-Convention Poll

Most Recent Poll

Shift

Colorado

Obama +4

Obama +10

Obama +6

Florida

McCain +3

Obama +3

Obama +6

Michigan

Obama +3

Obama +10

Obama +7

Missouri

McCain +10

Obama +2

Obama +12

North Carolina

McCain +3

Obama +3

Obama +6

Ohio

Tie

Obama +6

Obama +6

Virginia

Obama +2

Obama +8

Obama +6

Average

McCain +1

Obama +6

Obama +7

Obama’s average gain across the board is seven points, with the shifts remarkably consistent: six point gains in five states, one seven point gain, and one twelve point gain.

The PUMA effect provided for an interesting media narrative during parts of the summer, but it doesn’t appear likely to end up having a real impact on the election.

4 comments:

RS said...

There are two factors that this analysis appears to be missing:
1. More than the Republican base unifying behind McCain, the Palin pick is about turnout of the religious right. Enthusiasm increases turnout, and love for Palin would make the nutjobs vote in greater numbers than just dislike of Obama.
2. It's the economy, stupid! ;-) The most recent polls include not just the Palin pick, but perhaps the most decisive factor this election - our wallet. See this Ben Smith post:
http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1008/Voting_for_Obama_anyway.html?showall

gemimail said...

You might want to take a look at an article in the readers articles on real clear politics entitled "The P.U.M.A. Factor".

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