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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Recurring -- and Misleading -- Focus on Party Identification

The discussion of the party identification composition of poll samples comes up in every presidential election with which I've been involved.  Interested observers often opine that when a given poll shows that Candidate X is ahead, it cannot be correct because there is a higher percentage of voters who identify with Candidate X’s party in the sample than there should be, based on comparison to some previous standard.

There are several reasons why this is a faulty approach to evaluating a poll's results.

Party identification is basically an attitudinal variable, not a stable population parameter. It is designed to vary. This is distinct from demographic variables such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education, which are, generally speaking, stable indicators measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. The only issues relating to demographic variables are measurement concerns -- e.g., how the census, which creates the targets, measures ethnicity versus how individual pollsters measure it. But, generally speaking, these are fairly stable targets.

Party identification is not measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, nor are there any other official state or national standards for what party identification "should be" in terms of the percent per party as it relates to the general population.

Many people use the exit polls as a standard. But exit polls use a distinct question wording, a different methodology (in person interviews at the polling place as opposed to telephone interviews), a different environment (people are asked their party identification just after having voted, which could affect how they answer), and different sampling techniques to develop who it is that is asked the question. So party identification figures as measured by a specific poll aren't easily compared to party identification as measured by an exit poll because of these and other potential issues.

Party identification changes as political tides change. General shifts in the political environment can affect party identification just as they can affect presidential job approval and results of the “Who are you going to vote for?” question.

Here is how Gallup asks party identification: “In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent?”

Note that this question does not ask, “What was your party identification in November 2008?” Nor does it ask, “Are you registered with one party or the other in your state?” Our question uses the words "as of today" and "consider."  It is designed to measure fluidity in political self-identification.  

We know that party identification moves over time -- sometimes in very short periods of time, just like other political variables.  Generally, if there is a political tide toward either of the two major parties, all questions we ask that are of a political nature will move in that direction. This includes the ballot, job approval, party identification, among others.

So, it would not be surprising to find that if Barack Obama is enjoying a surge in popularity in any given state, that surge will show up on the ballot question, on his job approval measure, and on the measure of party identification. So, data showing that Obama is ahead on the ballot in a specific state poll and that Democrats have a higher-than-expected representation on the party identification question, are basically just reflecting two measures of the same underlying phenomenon.

This doesn’t obviate the possibility that a sample is a “spurt” or a sample that happens to pick up higher than usual support for one candidate or the other for whatever reason. But, if it is a spurt, the cause is not “getting too many Democrats/Republicans in the sample.” It is instead a matter of  “Getting too many people who, in response to all political questions, answer in a more Democratic or Republican” way.

Basically, if an observer is concerned about a poll’s results, that observer should skip over the party identification question and just look at the ballot directly. In other words, cut to the chase. Don’t bother with party identification sample numbers.  Look directly at the ballot.

For example, we know that in Ohio:

  • Obama won by 5 points in 2008
  • Bush won by 2 points in 2004
  • Bush won by 3 points in 2000

Now if a given poll in Ohio in this election shows Obama with a 10-percentage-point lead, one should just ask, “How likely is it that Obama would be ahead by 10 points if he won by five points in 2008?” -- forgetting party identification, which we assume is going to be higher for the Democratic Party if Obama is ahead, anyway. The discussion of the ballot in the context of previous ballots is, in fact, a reasonable discussion. It may be unlikely that Obama will double his margin in 2012 from what occurred in Ohio in 2008. Or maybe not.  But the focus should be directly on the ballot, and discussions of reasons why it might be different than one expects should not involve an attempt to explain the results by focusing on changes in party identification  -- which is basically a tautological argument.

In Florida:

  • Obama won by 3 points in 2008
  • Bush won by 5 points in 2004
  • Bush won by [much] less than one point in 2000.

So, if one sees a poll saying that Obama is leading Romney by nine points in Florida, then one should ask how likely it is that Obama will exceed his 2008 margin by six points. That is a reasonable discussion. But one need not attempt to say that the nine-point lead in the poll is suspect because there were too many Democrats and not enough Republicans in the sample compared to 2008. The finding of differences in party identification is, instead, simply reflecting what one sees on the ballot.

Essentially, it is much more direct to just focus on the trends and comparisons of the ballot question than it is to introduce an extraneous look at trends in party identification.

I’ve been analyzing election surveys at Gallup since the 1992 presidential election, and I don’t personally put a great deal of stock in survey-to-survey variations in party identification. All of our weighting focus is on the effort to bring more solid demographic variables into alignment with census figures -- including in recent years cell phone and landline phone use. We don't find that party identification is stable enough to be of much use when it comes to comparing sample-to-sample variations, or sample to exit poll differences.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Obama Convention Bounce Fades

The latest Gallup tracking data show that Barack Obama now leads Mitt Romney by one percentage point, 47% to 46% among registered voters, where the race was on Aug. 31-Sept. 3, before the Democratic Convention began.

During the interim period, Obama stretched his lead to as high as 50% to 43%, confirming a Democratic Convention bounce. We began to see Obama’s lead expanding on Tuesday night of the convention, and then saw it begin to dissipate on Wednesday the week after the convention.

The latest Gallup Daily tracking average extends from Sept. 11-17, 2012. This data includes one night of interviewing with the high level of news media focus on Romney’s videotaped “47%” comments. The impact of those comments, if any, will be seen in interviewing in the days to come.

The dominant theme in the race this year has been its central tendency. Neither candidate has been able to maintain a sustained lead for a lengthy period of time. It appears now that the Democratic convention was successful in boosting Obama’s standing in ours and other polls, but the gravitational pull of the race back to a rough parity was apparently not eradicated, and has exercised its will again.

In addition to the attention given to Romney’s video comments, there will no doubt be more news eruptions over other issues or pseudo-issues in the weeks ahead. The next structured event in the presidential campaign is the first debate at the University of Denver on Oct. 3. Keep in mind that early voting has already begun in some states, so as time moves inexorably forward, the potential for a radical shake-up in the race becomes less mathematically possible.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Update: Obama vs. Romney by Religious Groups

Here’s an update on religious identity and the presidential vote this year -- following up from my recent post dealing with religiosity and the vote.

This tablebelow is based on interviewing conducted Aug. 1-Sept. 16 among registered voters. I’m using this large sample period in order to get adequate sample size of some of the smaller religious groups. Jewish and Mormon voters, for example, are just about 2% of the population each, with “other non-Christian” identifiers coming in at about 3%. This expanded period of interviewing means, of course, that any shifts as a result of recent news events -- such as those in the Middle East -- would only be minimally reflected in these data.

These data continue to show, as we have seen previously, that an American's religious identification is highly correlated with his or her presidential vote preference.

Protestants (basically those who identify with a Christian religion other than the Mormon faith and Catholicism) support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by 13 percentage points. Keep in mind that black voters are mostly Protestant. That means that, included in this lopsided Romney vote, is a significant group of black Protestants who opt for Obama over Romney by 89% to 5% (Aug. 1 - Sept 16 data). Among white Protestants, the margin for Romney over Obama is 64% to 30% -- significantly larger than the gap among all Protestants.

Catholics are almost precisely at the sample average.

Bigger differences come into play among the other, smaller religious groups. Jewish voters during this time period are going for Obama by 70% to 27%. This is a slightly larger margin than our last report, when the Jewish margin was 64% to 29% in favor of Obama -- although with the small sample sizes involved, this isn’t much of a shift.

Mormons now support fellow Mormon church member Mitt Romney by 84% to 13%, exactly where it was in our June update.

Both those who identify with a non-Christian religion and those with no religious identity are strongly favoring Obama.

Thus, in America today, we continue to have Protestants and Mormons tilting toward Romney, while most of those who identify with a non-Christian religion or no religion at all are strongly tilting toward Obama -- and Catholics just about right at the overall average.

More broadly, Obama's support is highest among those who are not religious, have no religious identity and those who identify with a non-Christian religion.  Romney's support is highest among those who are highly religious, those who identify with a non-Catholic Christian religion (Protestants) and those who are Mormons.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Religiosity Continues to Power Presidential Vote Choice

Following up from Wednesday’s post, we didn’t see signs of a rally effect in Wednesday night’s interviewing, but I think the jury will be out on that front until we have several days of interviewing going through the weekend.

There are (among many others) two competing forces at work right now in determining public opinion about Barack Obama and vote choice in the presidential race. First, the possible impact of the situation in the Middle East, as I discussed here. Second, the broader regression to the mean effect -- which basically implies that there is a tug or pull on results that move away from what has been established as a mean to come back to that mean. The mean, or average, in this race has been for the ballot tests to be roughly even between Obama and Mitt Romney, and for Obama’s job approval to be in the 40% range. Obama’s numbers on both fronts have pushed up higher above that mean coming out of the Democratic National Convention. All else being equal, a natural tendency is for these numbers to come down from the highs as the impact of the convention fades. It they don't, that means that Obama has, in essence, redefined the mean -- which can occur. But as noted, it will be into next week before we have a solid feel for that.

Meanwhile, on a different front, I continue to be fascinated by our Gallup data confirming the ongoing importance of religiousness in voting intentions this year. If anything, religiosity is becoming more of a powerful factor in relationship to the presidential vote than it has been in the past.

This graph displays the Obama over Romney gap based on our continuing three-week rolling averages (registered voters) -- among voters split into three groups based on their religiosity:

The religiousness groupings are based on responses to two questions “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” and “How often do you attend church, synagogue, or mosque -- at least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom, or never?”

The basic power of religiosity to distinguish vote choice is clear. Highly religious Americans skew significantly into Romney territory, with a Romney over Obama gap at the 20-percentage-point or higher level. Nonreligious Americans are even more predisposed to vote for Obama over Romney. And those who are moderately religious are much closer to the overall average, with no major skew in the direction of either candidate.

Note that the spread between the highly religious and the nonreligious groups is growing slightly, rather than narrowing. This means that religiosity is becoming more of a factor in the presidential race -- to a degree -- that it has been before.

Basically, if you meet a random voter on the street, and you ask that voter two simple questions about religion, you can do a pretty good job of guessing that voter's predicted voting intention. Someone who says that religion is an important part of their daily life and who attends religious services weekly or almost weekly has a much higher probability of being a Romney voter than another person who says that religion is not an important part of their daily life and who attends religious services seldom or never. This latter "person on the street" has a significant probability of being an Obama voter.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

History Shows Attack on Americans in Libya Could Spur Rally Effect

Most domestic and international events, no matter how tragic, are subject to being swept up in the maw of the heated, no-holds-barred presidential campaign we are in now. Both campaigns’ war rooms are constantly adjusting and readjusting their positionings, reactions, public statements, and actions relating to almost anything that becomes an issue in the news.

The killing of four American diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, in Libya late Tuesday, is no exception. Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his advisers made the decision to use the attack as an opportunity to criticize President Barack Obama, and Obama’s campaign representative shot back that the campaign was “shocked” at the politicization.

Whatever the merits of the intense back and forth over the deaths of four Americans, we know from history that high profile international events in which the U.S. is involved or in which the U.S. is threatened can result in what is called a “rally effect,” the result of which has historically been an increase in the sitting president's job approval rating. 

The most substantial effect in Gallup polling history came after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in which President George W. Bush’s job approval rating rose by 35 percentage points. Other examples of the impact of rally effects in history include the initiation of the first Persian Gulf War in Iraq in 1991, when President George H.W. Bush’s job approval rose by 20 points; the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy’s job approval rose by 13 points; the capture of the merchant ship Mayaguez and subsequent rescue attempts in 1975, after which President Gerald Ford’s job approval rating went up by 11 points; the killing of Marines in Beirut in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan’s job approval rating increased by 4 points; and the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, when Obama’s job approval rating rose by 7 points.

It is difficult to quantify the exact determinants of a rally effect and its size. One key issue is the degree to which the American public is tuned into an incident and the other is the nature of the incident itself.

The killing of the four Americans in Libya generally fits the historical description of the types of events that precipitate rally effects -- given that it represents a direct attack on Americans and American interests. Thus, my initial hypothesis would be that this event could result in a rally effect for President Obama.

We are, however, in an unusual political situation now, as Obama is in the middle of a continuation of a separate rally effect that resulted from the Democratic National Convention last week. Obama’s job approval rating, which had been as low as 43% in Gallup’s Aug. 30-Sept.1 report, is now at 51% for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week. It is thus unclear whether or not there can be an additional rally effect manifested in his approval rating when it is already high, relatively speaking. Obama's approval rating is now, in fact, within two points of where it was as a result of a previous rally event -- the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, when it reached 53%.

The Romney campaign is no doubt making very careful decisions on how their candidate should continue to react to the incident in the days ahead.  What Romney will continue to say about the incident and what the impact of his statements will be is unknown at this point.

A commander in chief does not have to engage in highly successful efforts to be subject to an uptick in his job approval ratings as a result of a rally event. The idea behind a rally event is that Americans rally around their commander in chief as they come together in times of external events of significant note. The fact that there was a five-point rally effect for John F. Kennedy after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 shows that the effect can occur even when those in charge were involved in creating the negative outcome.

The ultimate impact of the tragic incident in Libya on U.S. domestic politics, if any, is still an empirical issue that we won’t have the answer to for days yet. In part, this depends not only on the level of attention Americans are paying to the incident and how it plays out, but also on any actions that the Obama administration may take in retaliation. More will be known by the weekend.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Obama Bounces Up to 52% Approval, 48% to 45% Over Romney

President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party look as if they are getting at least a preliminary bounce from their convention. Today's (Friday, Sept. 7) Gallup Daily tracking update puts Obama's job approval rating at 52%, the highest it has been since May 2011, after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama has also moved to a 48% to 45% lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters in the election tracking, up from Obama's 47% to 46% margin over the last nine days. 

Gallup averages the job approval rating on a three-day rolling average, meaning that today's report encompasses interviewing conducted over the three days of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte -- Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Gallup's report of presidential election preferences are, on the other hand, based on a seven-day rolling average stretching from last Friday, the day after the GOP Convention ended, through last night. 

This uptick in these two indicators stands in contrast to tracking during the Republican Convention, during which there was no discernible bounce on the ballot tracking. Gallup does not track other measures on Romney that would be comparable to the job approval figure for Obama. 

The current data are quite preliminary and for the most part don't reflect the influence of Obama's late Thursday night speech, if any.

Key focus points now will be the ultimate magnitude and duration of the apparent Democratic bounce going forward. By the middle of next week we will have a good feel for both of these dimensions. It is possible that these upticks are short-lived and that the race will devolve back to a parity by next week. On the other hand, if Obama builds on and sustains his higher job approval rating and lead over Romney, it could signal a possible resetting of the presidential race as it enters the remaining three-and-a-half weeks before the first debate on Oct. 3.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Convention Impact Update

Our data from last weekend showed a major partisan skew in terms of self-reports of watching the Republican Convention in Tampa. Seventy percent of Republicans reported watching a great deal or some of the convention, compared with 46% of Democrats (and an even lower 42% of independents). Of course, that means that not all Republicans were enthralled with the convention, given that 30% watched very little or none at all. But over half of Democrats watched very little or none at all.

We won’t have data until this weekend on the comparable viewing of the Democratic Convention happening in Charlotte this week. But I think it’s fair to assume that viewing will be the mirror image of what we saw for the GOP Convention. Democrats will be watching much more than Republicans.

We have some initial confirmation of that from early reports of the ratings of the cable news channels for the two conventions. Fox News was the ratings champ during the GOP Convention last week. So far this week, MSNBC and its sister network NBC appear to be the ratings champs at the Democratic Convention.

This gives us good suggestive evidence that the partisan viewing patterns continue --  given all of the evidence that the Fox News audience is disproportionately Republican, while the MSNBC audience is disproportionately Democratic. Pew Research shows that Republicans, for example, are much more likely to cite Fox as their main source of news than Democrats, by more than a 3-to-1 ratio. The opposite pattern pertains to MSNBC. 

An interesting McClatchy-Marist poll this summer showed that 76% of those who watch MSNBC approved of the job Barack Obama was doing as president, compared with 23% of those who watched Fox News.

And, still another interesting study released by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism showed that the portrayal of Mitt Romney and Obama on Fox News and MSNBC are “mirror images” of each other. As the authors say: “Fox has offered a mixed view of Romney, but its assessments of Obama's record and character have run negative by a measure of six to one. The numbers are almost identical, in reverse, for MSNBC.”

None of this is surprising to anyone who watches Fox News and MSNBC at night.  Both are now explicitly partisan in their prime-time approaches, presumably operating under the economic assumption that the best way to maximize ratings and revenue is to lock-in motivated, emotional, passionate groups of viewers who feel strongly about their particular political views of the world.

The skewed partisan viewing of the two conventions, of course, further raises the question of the purpose and impact of the conventions.

Efforts to use the conventions to change the minds of those who are voting for the opposite party’s candidate present a real challenge, given that a lot of those people simply aren’t watching. That doesn’t mean that the opponent’s people don’t pick up some news of the convention through secondary references. They probably do. Democrats probably saw and heard plenty of references to the now famous Clint Eastwood speech in Tampa, and no doubt Republicans can't avoid seeing and hearing references to Bill Clinton's speech on Wednesday night in Charlotte. But it doesn’t appear that vast numbers of Obama voters were glued to the set watching the Republican speeches last week, nor that vast numbers of Romney voters are intently watching the Democrats’ speeches this week.

Going along with that, we didn't see any significant shift in vote intentions following the GOP convention.  On the other hand, we are beginning to see some stronger support for Obama over the last couple of nights (Tue and Wed).  Obama's job approval rating is up based on our three-day rolling average (check here for updates each day at 1:00pm Eastern) and we'll continue to see if there is a concomitant uptick in our 7-day rolling average of the trial heat in the days ahead.

However, another major purpose of the conventions is to reinforce those who are already committed -- to increase motivation and enthusiasm among the core, base vote. The viewing data suggest that the conventions are much better situated to accomplish that objective.

I should note that the impact of Bill Clinton’s speech on Wednesday night may have been muted by competing programming on NBC -- the Giants vs. Cowboys NFL football game. Here we had the first game of the football season: a "red state" NFL football team playing (and defeating) a "blue state" football team. That may have meant that even Democrats were drawn away from the convention to watch the game.

Finally, it's also important to note that our Gallup data suggest that the Democrats apparently have more of a need to fire up their base than the Republicans. For the entire month of August, 85% of Romney voters we interviewed said they would definitely vote in November, compared to 78% of Obama voters. That may change after the conventions. But it shows that, based on this metric, the Democrats have somewhat more of a challenge than the Republicans in terms of getting their base motivated to get out and vote.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Can Obama Take Advantage of Coming Last?

Here we sit in the interval between the two conventions (as I write this Tuesday), with no sign of a significant change in the horse-race positioning -- yet. There may have been subtle changes in aspects of the campaign that we will pick up in additional polling -- say in the images of the two candidates, or in the images of the two parties. But in terms of moving the numbers on the "who will you vote for" question, we just didn’t see it. And we know from history that this is unusual. We usually do see a change in the horse race after the conventions.

Here are two broad explanations for the lack of a bounce.

One involves an external attribution of cause -- the idea that the structure of American politics has changed to the point where voters are already stuck in place by the time the conventions come around, with little room for movement. This goes along with the fact that political conventions are increasingly meaningless in terms of any official function. Furthering this explanation is the fact that this year Mitt Romney chose his vice presidential running mate well before the convention. That marked a difference from 2008, when John McCain announced his choice of Sarah Palin just days before the convention -- heightening the public's interest in the convention in which the unknown Palin made her first national public speech. No such suspense waiting for Paul Ryan's speech -- he was interviewed and out on the trail for a couple of weeks before his speech last Wednesday night.

The second explanation for the lack of a GOP bounce involves internal attribution of cause -- the idea that the GOP got no bounce because they simply failed to change anyone’s minds. This would involve the hypothesis that the Republicans simply didn't have a strong convention.

Any way you look at it, as my colleague Jeff Jones notes, it’s not optimal for the Romney campaign to have received no uptick in the vote as a result of the convention. Presumably the best they would hope for now would be a similar “no bounce” out of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte. If Barack Obama does get a bounce and sustains it, then it may signal a resetting of the election in his favor. 

Lots of discussion about what the Democrats intend to do at Charlotte. Although there has always been a question about the value of a primacy effect (coming first) in debate and conventions versus a recency effect (coming last), there is no question that coming last this year allows Obama's campaign to be able to carefully review what the Republicans did at their convention and thus position themselves against it.

Two themes reinforced by the Republicans were a general animosity toward the role of federal government in the nation's social and economic affairs, and the value of the role of the traditional family.

The role of government is the central political question of our time. The Republicans made it clear that they view government as an entity to be used sparingly, with more emphasis on individuals and individual achievement unfettered by government. Obama will almost certainly not revisit his “you didn’t build it” comment in Charlotte, but the idea behind that statement -- the value of pooled, collective resources channeled through our government to enhance the public good -- will certainly come through during the convention. How effectively the Democrats and Obama can make the case for the value of a significant role of government in redistributing resources and curbing individual/corporate excesses will be a key to the ultimate success of their convention.

Mitt Romney, his wife Ann, and other Republican speakers last week generally extolled the virtues of traditional marriage as the central building block of a well-functioning society. Obama and the Democrats are not as likely to continue down that path, but rather will spend more time emphasizing positive views toward those who are not married, those who want to be married in unconventional ways, and those who are living life in ways that would not be defined as "traditional" in general. Republicans value structure and normative patterns that define things as right and wrong; Democrats are more likely to want to avoid assumptions that some ways of arranging things are better than others and to be accepting of patterns that deviate from tradition. We saw Ann Romney talking about the value of family and traditional marriage and structure. We probably will hear Michelle Obama talking about other issues.

These divergent emphases on traditional marriage fit with the data. Our latest demographic analysis, based on data collected Aug. 13-Sept. 2, shows that married Americans prefer Romney over Obama by a whopping 56% to 37% margin. Americans who are not married prefer Obama over Romney by 58% to 34%. Marriage, in short, is one of the major defining variables of our contemporary political and partisan structure today.

Also, the Republican Convention targeted women, a Romney weakness and an Obama strength. The latest Gallup data show that women are voting for Obama over Romney by a 50% to 43% margin. Men are going for Romney by 51% to 42%.  If Obama followed the same pattern as did Romney (i.e., targeting the gender group among whom he does less well), he would target men at his convention. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Signs of GOP Convention Bounce Yet

The two-week convention phase of this election is now at its midpoint. We won’t know what the impact of the two conventions is until roughly Sept. 7-13, the full week after the Democratic convention closes in Charlotte. That will mark the beginning of Phase VI of the election – the period between the conventions and the first presidential debate on Oct. 3. The key question after next week's Democratic convention will be: Has the race for president been fundamentally reset in any way by the two weeks of the conventions? By “reset,” I mean has either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney moved ahead in the national vote by more than a few points, and stayed ahead for more than a few days?

We have been monitoring the potential impact of the Republican convention on the presidential race on a day-by-day basis. So far, we don’t see an impact. We report a seven-day rolling average of registered voters each day, each of which is based on more than 3,000 interviews. This reporting period is a very purposeful decision on our part -- even if a bit more “sluggish” than if we reported a three- or four-day average. The longer average dampens down short-term changes, and puts more of an emphasis on sustained changes.

The seven-day average has been at 47% Obama, 46% Romney for the last five days. As a matter of fact, both Obama and Romney for the most part have been at or around 46% since we began tracking in April. The latest Gallup average covers Aug. 26-Sept. 1, or Sunday through Saturday. That for the most part covers the GOP convention, albeit with only two days of polling completely after Thursday's climactic events, including Mitt Romney’s speech, and actor Clint Eastwood’s appearance.

At this point, as noted, there is no consistent change in the pattern of vote intentions within our Daily tracking. Each of the two candidates has been up at some point over the last week in the individual nightly numbers, but that’s normal. Romney so far has not been able to generate a sustained “bounce” from his convention over the last week.

We’ll know a little more when we report our seven-day average on Tuesday,September 4, which will contain include four days after Romney’s speech on Thursday. After that point, any impact of the GOP convention will begin to be co-mingled with the impact of the Democratic convention. That’s why the ultimate reckoning will be what the election landscape looks like after both conventions.

We do have some new data that reinforce the tentative conclusion that the Republican convention did not change the race. The results, from data gathered Friday and Saturday and set to be released on Monday morning, show that both the self-reported impact of the GOP convention and  evaluations of Romney’s speech were at the very low end of the scale compared with the previous years in which we have asked the same questions about other conventions and nominees.

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