Latest Iowa poll shows Obama ahead and over 50 percent

NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist released its latest Iowa poll today, which shows President Barack Obama ahead of Republican Mitt Romney by 51 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. It's the best poll result for the president in Iowa this month. We Ask America conducted a one-day survey in Iowa on October 15 and found Obama ahead by 48.7 percent to 45.9 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 1.2 percent. American Research Group found Obama and Romney tied at 48 percent in its poll that was in the field between October 11 and 14. Rasmussen Reports found Obama leading 49 percent to 47 percent in a one-day poll taken October 7.

Details on the NBC/WSJ/Marist poll are after the jump. Early voting and the gender gap are the key components of Obama's advantage in Iowa.

NBC's Mark Murray summarized the findings from the latest poll, which was in the field from October 15 through 17.  The survey reached 1,137 "likely voters," producing a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The full polling memo is here (pdf); it also includes results from the September poll by the same firm.

The second presidential debate did not appear to change many minds. Murray notes,

[I]n the day prior to the debate, Obama was ahead of Romney in Iowa by nine points among likely voters, 52 percent to 43 percent. The day after, the lead was eight points, 51 percent to 43 percent.

The gender gap persists, with Obama ahead among female likely voters in Iowa by 57 percent to 38 percent. Romney leads by single digits among male likely voters.

About 48 percent of respondents said things are generally moving in the right direction, while 47 percent said the country is off on the wrong track. That's an improvement from last month's NBC/WSJ/Marist poll in Iowa, which found "right direction" at 43 percent of likely voters and "wrong track" at 49 percent.

Absentee voting in Iowa is on track to set a record this year. Murray commented,

What especially seems to be helping Obama in Iowa is early voting. Thirty-four percent of likely voters in the poll say they have already cast their ballots, and the president is winning those people, 67 percent to 32 percent. Another 11 percent are planning to vote early, and he's up among that group, 55 percent to 39 percent. But it's reversed among Election Day voters: Romney is ahead, 54 percent to 39 percent.

For Obama to be leading among early Iowa voters by a two to one margin, he would need to be getting most of the votes from independents who have cast absentee ballots so far. The Iowa Democratic Party has done a lot of outreach among no-party voters identified as supporters of previous Democratic presidential candidates.

Iowa Democrats have also invested significant time and money into voter registration drives and turnout events on college campuses. Young people are less likely than older generations to identify with a political party. This week the Obama campaign held "campus takeover" events in many college towns around the state. The president himself spoke at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. Bruce Springsteen drew a large crowd at Hilton Coliseum in Ames today.

Republicans are stepping up their GOTV in Iowa as well. Earlier this week, I received another voter mobilization robocall paid for by the Republican National Committee, and a personal call from someone in the GOP's "victory" office in Urbandale. Today I listened in on part of a Paul Ryan telephone town hall with Iowa supporters. He encouraged them to vote early so that they will be able to help turn other people out to vote on November 6. I also got a robocall from a conservative interest group featuring the voice of Mike Huckabee, which was targeting "pro-life" voters.

The NBC/WSJ/Marist poll may be overstating Obama's support here. Murray comments, "the Iowa poll shows Democrats with a two-point party-identification advantage over Republicans; the 2008 exit poll had Democrats with a one-point edge." If the GOP benefits from an "enthusiasm gap," as many polls suggest, then winning Iowa is still within reach for Romney.

National tracking polls are showing a mixed picture this week. Gallup sees Romney ahead and above 50 percent nationwide.

As a supporter of electing the president by national popular vote, I have been wondering whether it would help that cause for Romney to win the popular vote but lose the electoral college. My hunch is no, because Democratic support for national popular vote reform would drop significantly if the electoral college saved Obama's presidency. Although many Republicans would no doubt portray Obama's victory as illegitimate, I doubt they would seek to abolish the electoral college, because it is perceived to benefit small states--most of which lean Republican.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread.

  • State of The Race

    So we have had a couple of posts on early voting & polls the last few days for Iowa. The question then becomes does this tell us anything. Any number crunchers out there want to dissect all the updated info?  Both sides are spinning this new info furiously but much of that is from people outside of the state who likely dont have a great grasp of Iowa politics.

    • poll results can be off

      depending on whether the sample was representative of the likely voter universe, but absentee ballot numbers reflect actual votes cast. Any candidate would rather go into election day with 70,000 more votes in the bank than his opponent.

      Republicans know that early voting has cost them some Iowa House and Senate seats the last few cycles, and maybe also the Braley and Loebsack races in 2010. They would like to cut the Democratic advantage substantially before November 6.

  • Small State Realities

    Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states),  presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections. Voters in states that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

    Kerry won more electoral votes than Bush (21 versus 19) in the 12 least-populous non-battleground states, despite the fact that Bush won 650,421 popular votes compared to Kerry's 444,115 votes. The reason is that the red states are redder than the blue states are blue.  If the boundaries of the 13 least-populous states had been drawn recently, there would be accusations that they were a Democratic gerrymander.

    Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group.  Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK 70%, DC 76%, DE --75%, ID 77%, ME 77%, MT- 72%,  NE - 74%, NH--69%, NE - 72%, NM - 76%, RI - 74%,  SD- 71%, UT- 70%, VT - 75%, WV- 81%,  and WY- 69%.

    Of the 25 smallest states (with a total of 155 electoral votes) 18 received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions.  Of the seven smallest states with any post-convention visits, Only 4 of the smallest states - NH (12 events), NM (8), NV (12), and IA (7) -   got the outsized attention of 39 of the 43 total events in the 25 smallest states.  In contrast, Ohio (with only 20 electoral votes) was lavishly wooed with 62 of the total 300 post-convention campaign events in the whole country.

    In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).  

  • The National Popular Vote Bill

    The National Popular Vote bill would change existing state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), to a system guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes for, and the Presidency to, the candidate getting the most popular votes in the entire United States.

    The bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections. It ensures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

    National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don't matter to their candidate.

    And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state are wasted and don't matter to candidates. Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California's population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

    With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere would be counted equally for, and directly assist, the candidate for whom it was cast.

    The political reality would be that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the country.

    The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    A survey of Iowa voters showed 75% overall support for a national popular vote for President. The question was "How do you think we should elect the President when we vote in the November general election: should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current electoral college system?

    By political affiliation, support for a national popular vote for President was 82% among Democrats, 63% among Republicans, and 77% among others.

    By age, support was 76% among 18-29 year olds, 65% among 30-45 year olds, 76% among 46-65 year olds, and 80% for those older than 65.

    By gender, support was 82% among women and 67% among men.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO - 68%, FL - 78%, IA 75%, MI - 73%, MO - 70%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM- 76%, NC - 74%, OH - 70%, PA - 78%, VA - 74%, and WI - 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK - 70%, DC - 76%, DE - 75%, ID - 77%, ME - 77%, MT - 72%, NE 74%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM - 76%, OK - 81%, RI - 74%, SD - 71%, UT - 70%, VT - 75%, WV - 81%, and WY - 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR - 80%, KY- 80%, MS - 77%, MO - 70%, NC - 74%, OK - 81%, SC - 71%, TN - 83%, VA - 74%, and WV - 81%; and in other states polled: AZ - 67%, CA - 70%, CT - 74%, MA - 73%, MN - 75%, NY - 79%, OR - 76%, and WA - 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium, and large states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.


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