Polls showing a close presidential race don’t mean one outcome isn’t more likely than the other

That headline above may strike you as  nonsense — and it may well be just that — but  it’s based on the fact that certain people who are most earnestly watching presidential poll numbers see one result as much more likely than the other.

It’s like watching a sporting event in which, though the lead has been changing hands within a narrow range, one side is considerably more likely to emerge as the winner, according to the so-called experts.

At least that’s my reading of the two charts above, both of which seem to belie the polls showing the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as very close.

The chart at the top is from noted polling analyst Nate Silver. And the one below it is from the Intrade market, where bets are made on political predictions. Both charts are fresh this morning, and they both put Obama’s chances of getting re-elected at 65 percent.

Joshua Tucker has more on this stuff HERE.



  1. The day after the electtion, when you pick yourself up and brush the dust off, remember what foolishness you wrote here today. The ship is going down, and now that Romney is over 50% in the polls, the tide will shift even faster. Yes, the grown ups have come home and the teenage party is over. Thanks for the laugh.

  2. RON: Sorry to burst your bubble, but Romney is NOT over 50 percent.

    The latest data from Gallup, released just this afternoon, shows this:

    The three-day rolling average on Obama’s job-approval rating is 50 percent approval and 44 percent disapproval.

    In the presidential race, the seven-day rolling average is Romney 48 percent and Obama 47 percent (which makes it a virtual tie, considering the poll’s margin of error).

    So much for your own foolishness.

    UPDATE: Oops! The presidential-race numbers I quoted apply to registered voters in general. Gallup’s numbers for likely voters put Romney at 52 percent and Obama at 45 percent.

  3. Pat – The Gallup poll is only one data point, however the latest update from Gallup shows Romney with a 52-45 lead among likely voters.

    If Romney actually ended up with a 48 – 47 lead among registered voters (the number you pulled from Gallup), he almost certainly would win the election.

  4. One other point about the Gallup numbers: Only one of the seven days in the latest rolling average came after the second debate. If Romney can maintain his lead over the next four or five days, he’ll be in pretty good shape. If not, the race remains pretty tight.

  5. Agreed…it will be very interesting to see how debate 2 impacts the polls. The reality is the Obama is currently the more likely candidate to win. That’s based upon data, not opinion. Romney seems to still have momentum in closing those odds though. Momentum that I for one hope he keeps. 🙂

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