Tonight Marist released two state polls through NBC, from Iowa and Wisconsin. Their last polls in those states were released just after the Democratic National Convention, and the polls today found Obama with essentially the same leads as he had after the DNC.
In Iowa, Marist/NBC has Obama leading 51–43, which is the same margin as their poll following the DNC (50–42). Between the two states, this poll is the more of a head-scratcher, considering Romney has gained about 4 percent nationally in that same time frame. The party-ID breakdown has a Democratic advantage of 2 percent, higher than 2008 (D+1) and 6 percent better than 2010 (R+4). One tidbit that is going to be an issue with all polls now that early voting is underway in many states: 34 percent of the sample claims to have already voted, and they break for Obama 67–32. That number is way higher than the current estimates from the Iowa secretary of state, which shows about 18 percent have already voted. Because they claim to have already voted, they immediately are pooled into the likely-voter pool, which can inflate the top-line numbers. In addition, among ballots actually cast, there have been only 20 percentage points more Democratic votes cast than Republicans. This excludes the 15 percent of ballots filed by independent voters, but a 35 percent lead for Obama among early voters still seems grossly inflated. In the Marist poll among voters planning to vote on Election Day, Romney leads by 15 percent (54–39).
In Wisconsin, Marist/NBC has Obama leading 51–45, which is a slightly better margin than their post-DNC poll (50–45). Again, considering the gains Romney has made nationwide, it is interesting that Romney would actually lose ground in Wisconsin. The poll has a Democratic advantage of 5 percent, just a bit lower than 2008 (D+6) and 6 percent better than the 2011 recall election (R+1). Among early voters, Obama is up 64–35, but among Election Day voters Romney holds a one percent lead (48–47). The poll finds 15 percent have voted early or by absentee (or plan to); this again is likely an inflated number that could impact the top-line results.
Overall, these polls will give Obama supporters some good news on an otherwise bad polling day, though they’ll give Romney supporters more ammunition against Marist polls which have leaned heavily to Obama this season. For the most part, Marist/NBC polls have consistently shown some of the largest Obama leads of all polls in battleground states.
Last note, but a significant one: In both states, the Obama margin did not move much after the second debate. In Iowa, Obama’s lead in the surveys before the debate was 9 percent, and after the debate it was 8 percent. In Wisconsin, Obama went from a 5 percent lead pre-debate to 6 percent afterwards. This would certainly indicate that Obama won’t be seeing the movement that Romney did after the first debate in Denver. On the other hand, if you believe these Marist polls, Denver never happened at all.
— Josh Jordan is a small-business market-research consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @Numbersmuncher.