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So there it is: Via Meadia
‘s best projection for the 2012 election results based on current polls. You can compare Romney’s projected electoral vote with Santorum’s, and with President Obama’s actual results against Senator McCain in 2008. We’ve derived this from
some quick and dirty back of the envelope guesses
complex mathematical formulae using our state of the art computer facilities, including assigning undecideds to the two candidates (the poll numbers in the visual show the original RCP data without adjustments). The goal is less to predict the unpredictable results of an election that will be held almost eight months from now than to illustrate some of the dynamics that may help shape the race.Even as a kid I was fascinated by the way the British polled their national elections. There are many differences between the two political systems, but one way to describe a general election in the UK is to say it is a contest to become prime minister in which seats in the House of Commons work like electoral votes in the US. It doesn’t matter how many popular votes you get; the party with the most seats in the House wins the election, and its leader becomes prime minister.That poses a challenge for pollsters. With more than 600 seats in the House of Commons (the exact number has varied over time), it’s impossible to poll every constituency every day, but in the UK as in the US more than half the fun of democracy is watching elections, and so the Brits have developed a way to use national polls to predict electoral results in the House.The theory is pretty simple; suppose in the last election the Labour Party got 42 percent of the vote nationally and that translated into 360 seats. In some constituencies the Labour vote was higher than 42 percent and in some it was lower — and in some its margin of victory over other parties might have been five or six percent, in others one percent or less, and in still others it lost — again, coming closer in some constituencies than other.Now suppose the current polls show Labour at 45 percent nationally — a three percent swing. By looking at the results from the last election you can make a quick and dirty estimate of how many seats Labour might win this time around. Just count up how many seats Labour lost by less than three percent last time around, and add those to its old total: you now can project what a three percent swing would do to the number of Labour-c0ntroled seats in the next House of Commons — and of course you can do the same thing for the other parties.Looking at how changes in voting percentages change seat totals in Parliament is one of the favorite indoor sports for British political junkies; here is a BBC site where you can adjust national voting preferences
and see how those changes would impact the House of Commons.Via Meadia has been looking for a way to take note of the 2012 election without getting too deeply into the weeds, and for now at least we are going to use this quick and dirty British technique to show readers what current national opinion polls mean for the electoral college vote. In essence, the technique is to take a reasonably reliable poll result (we go with RCP’s “poll of polls”) and see how, once the undecideds are assigned, President Obama is doing compared to his performance in 2008. We assume that the national swing up or down in his support is distributed equally across all fifty states; our graphic has its limits, but over time it should give readers a good sense of where the race is going.For now, we have tested President Obama against his two most likely GOP opponents: Governor Mitt Romney and Senator Rick Santorum. Using this method, it appears that if the election had been held today, President Obama would have handily won. His percentage of the popular vote looks to be lower than it was in 2008, but this doesn’t seem to be impacting him as much in the electoral college as much as the raw polls might suggest.The President is running slightly better against Santorum than he did against Senator McCain; indeed our poll projection shows the President carrying every state against Santorum that he did against McCain — and picking up Missouri as well. (Note that electoral vote totals reflect the changes mandated by the 2010 census.)Governor Romney fares somewhat better: he holds Missouri and retakes North Carolina and Indiana.Again, these maps are hardly predictions; most Americans won’t really start to make up their minds until much later in the year, and everything from the unemployment rate to the foreign situation will be factoring into those choices in ways that we cannot anticipate now.Nevertheless, a few conclusions pop up from the charts:
- the President is reasonably well positioned for re-election, but things could still go either way
- the selection of Marco Rubio as a vice presidential candidate could shake up the race, making the GOP more competitive in New Mexico and Colorado while perhaps swinging Florida into the GOP column
- GOP weakness in Ohio following Governor Kasich’s ill-judged attack on public labor unions could be a major factor in the fall
- Virginia on the other hand could be less Democratic than it looks if worries about defense and intelligence cuts drive some of the northern Virginia vote back towards the GOP
- While the drop off from his 2008 electoral support hasn’t yet hurt President Obama much in the electoral college, further erosion could change the electoral map dramatically. The President can’t afford much more slippage and hope to hold onto his job.
Let us know what you think of this new feature; if and when the polls change in any significant way, we will be back to show how those changes might be affecting the electoral map. We will also be looking at how swings in the national vote could affect the House and Senate makeup.