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Early Polling in Six Battleground States

6:06 PM, Mar 13, 2008 • By GARY ANDRES
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Several recently released national polls show a close general election contest between both McCain vs. Obama or McCain vs. Clinton (NBC News/Wall Street Journal and Gallup). For example, the NBC/Wall Street Journal head-to-head is Obama 47/McCain 44 and Clinton 47/McCain 45. Both results are best described as a statistical dead heat. The new Gallup survey shows essentially the same thing.

But electoral votes--not a national plebiscite--decide presidential contests. Just ask Al Gore. This year's election features more state polling data than any contest in history. And sites like Pollster.com and RealClearPolitics.com compile many of these surveys and generate an "average" of publicly released polls--a methodology that some purists question because some polls survey registered voters while others sample likely voters, some survey have different margins of error, etc. But I think the technique is a good one if kept in perspective--not to predict elections, but as great snapshot of voter preferences at this point in the campaign.

I compiled the table below from state-level polls collected at Pollster.com. It shows McCain's strength against Clinton in Florida and Iowa. McCain also holds a lead against Obama in Florida and Missouri. Obama's best state against McCain is Iowa, but they statistically tie in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Clinton does best in New Jersey in the general and is also within the margin of error in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri.
McCainClintonMcCainObama
FL46.441.347.337.8
IA 48.340.241.251.1
MO45.042.947.042.8
OH44.245.243.845.3
PA45.244.244.241.9
NJ40.347.040.443.0

You can check out all the polls that make up these averages and some great charts of the results at Pollster.com.