A few readers asked me to look into the Fox News polls, since Fox is commonly thought to lean right (they do not, actually, they simply do not engage in the orgy of Obambast that is commonly seen at other networks), yet their most recent poll has Obama leading McCain by six points. So, I had a look-see into the FN/OD polls.
Before I go into that, I suggest the reader observe some of the other polls released this week. RealClearPolitics shows Obama up by 5 in Rasmussen, up by 6 in Fox, up by 7 in “Hotline/FD Tracking”, down by 2 in Battleground, and tied in Gallup.
So there is a fairly broad range of opinion reflected there, and as I have said before, you should never take the headline for the whole story. I also think it’s best to look at movement in support within the context of a single poll; this aggregation stuff is popular for the 3rd-grade intellects at CNN, but it’s simply not valid for any empirical analysis.
The “Fox News” poll is really a poll performed for Fox news by a company called Opinion Dynamics. Just something to remember, when considering the bias source and degree. Looking at the record, it turns out that there have been only four FN/OD polls which provide useful information for the Obama/McCain comparison; one released September 24, one released September 10, one released August 21, and one released July 24 (which included data from April 30 and June 19 polls).
Looking at these, I found the following lines of support, going from April 30 to June 19 to July 24 to August 21 to September 10 to September 24:
Obama, support from Democrats:
67%, 81%, 75%, 78%, 79%, 84%
Note the sharp jump in June, the fall-off and recovery and how it has steadily increased to its 84% high
Obama, support from Republicans:
13%, 11%, 5%, 8%, 5%, 6%
Note the steady drop of support, although it’s interesting to see a little recovery in the last poll. Too soon to say if that’s significant or an outlier.
Obama, support from Independents:
37%, 30%, 34%, 31%, 31%, 36%
This is the most interesting category, since we see Obama drop support from independents, then recover it, although again the recovery is so recent and singular that it could be an outlier rather than a new trend.
Now, with those in mind, look at FN/OD’s overall support for Obama, with weighting noted for each (Dem-Rep-Ind)
April 30: 43% (44-30-21)
June 19: 45% (42-35-16)
July 24: 41% (42-33-19)
August 21: 42% (42-35-20)
September 10: 42% (41-34-21)
September 24: 45% (41-34-21)
Note how Obama increased his overall numbers for June 19, even with the weighting going against him.
There are two significant demographic movements within the FN/OD poll; the sharp jump in democrat support after April, and the sharp improvement in support from independents in the last poll.
Now, look at McCain the same way:
McCain, support from Republicans:
81%, 81%, 86%, 82%, 88%, 86%
McCain has had pretty steady support from republicans, note though that he’s had trouble getting it to increase since July.
McCain, support from Democrats:
22%, 10%, 10%, 8%, 9%, 5%
Not surprising, but it looks like McCain lost a lot of the Hillary supporters about June.
McCain, support from independents:
47%, 38%, 32%, 30%, 46%, 31%
As the race became more partisan, McCain appears to have lost independents, but what was going on during the first week of September, when he gained 16% from the previous poll? If it’s not an outlier, the September 10 poll may show an opportunity for McCain.
Now, with those in mind, look at FN/OD’s overall support for McCain, with weighting noted for each (Dem-Rep-Ind)
April 30: 46% (44-30-21)
June 19: 41% (42-35-16)
July 24: 40% (42-33-19)
August 21: 39% (42-35-20)
September 10: 45% (41-34-21)
September 24: 39% (41-34-21)
There’s some interesting movement in the FN/OD poll. It includes what may be outliers, but could also be significant trend indicators. What else is interesting, is how unstable support from independents seems to be, a factor which could put a lot of states in play.
For comparison, I went back to recheck Gallup’s demographic group support, and while they posted only between August 24 and September 21, the five weeks cited showed the following supports from independents:
Barack Obama: 29%, 23%, 29%, 27%, 24%
John McCain: 31%, 29%, 28%, 32%, 38%
Those numbers do not shift much, and with one small exception they have all favored McCain. It is impossible on the available information to say whether the Gallup or FN/OD poll is more accurate in gauging the mood of independents, but from what I can see, it would appear that this year the independents are likely to decide a number of battleground states.
Finally, it is worth noting how much of FN/OD’s respondent pool remains undecided. For each poll, look at the portion of undecided voters:
April 30: D 11%, R 06%, I 16%, overall 11%
June 19: D 09%, R 08%, I 32%, overall 14%
July 24: D 15%, R 09%, I 34%, overall 19%
August 21: D 14%, R 10%, I 39%, overall 19%
September 10: D 12%, R 07%, I 23%, overall 13%
September 24: D 11%, R 08%, I 33%, overall 16%
There is a double-digit percentage of ‘undecideds’ reported not only overall for every poll, but for both democrats and independents. FN/OD reports that effectively one in three independents have not decided between Obama and McCain.