The new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, with a sample of 2014 adults of whom 1866 said they were registered and 1573 were considered “likely voters,” and with the undecideds allocated 90% to Kerry, calls the election a dead heat, 49-49.
In the actual polling results, before the allocation of the undecideds, Bush was ahead 48-46, down from 51-45 a week earlier. Among registered voters, Kerry led 48-46, a reversal of last week’s 49-47 for Bush. (Thus Gallup’s dead heat prediction still assumes that Republicans will vote more heavily than Democrats, which I’m not sure is right this year.)
Awarding Kerry 90% of the undecideds seems a bit extreme. But the poll is likely to underestimate Kerry’s vote because it misses the cell-phone users. Moreover, even with the national numbers tied, Gallup shows Kerry leading by 5 points in the battleground states.
Bizarrely, Gallup’s state-level polling Kerry ahead in Florida and Ohio and behind in Pennsylvania. But of course those samples are somewhat smaller. And note that the state-level polls don’t allocate the undecideds; allocating the 4% undecided in Pennsylvania 90-10 would make the state a dead heat. Kerry’s gain in Florida over the week look to be real rather than mere sampling variation, since the Senate race moved the other way.
Some snippets from the USA Today story:
Sen. John Kerry has erased President Bush’s modest lead and the two candidates head into Election Day tied at 49%-49%, a nationwide USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows as an extraordinarily bitter and expensive campaign prepared to end.
Across the dozen battleground states expected to determine the winner, Kerry holds a 5-percentage-point edge — including small leads among likely voters in the critical states of Ohio and Florida. He trails by a similar margin in the third big battleground, Pennsylvania.
The findings suggest that Osama bin Laden’s warning to Americans in a video broadcast Friday failed to provide the boost for Bush that some analysts predicted. That development and the disclosure last week that 377 tons of high explosives were missing from an Iraqi site U.S. troops failed to secure seemed to have damaged his standing.
A week earlier, Bush had led Kerry on who would better handle the situation in Iraq by 11 percentage points; that edge shrank to 4 points. The 22-point advantage Bush had held in handling terrorism was cut in half.
In Florida, 30% of registered voters said they already had cast their ballots, using early voting sites and absentee ballots. They supported Kerry 51%-43%.
And Ralph Nader?
The independent candidate who helped swing the 2000 election to Bush isn’t much of a factor this time. Among 1,573 likely voters, he was backed by 9.
This isn’t just cheerful reading (though it certainly is that). Bush has been riding an air of inevitability ever since the Swifies started assassinating Kerry’s character, and being seen as a winner is an important part of Bush’s image (and always an advantage in a Presidential race). The Gallup numbers, and the rest of the new polls showing an even or near-even race, should help change that dynamic.
Update: Greg Abbott has an Electoral College projection based on state-by-state polls. Cheerful reading.