I started doing poll analysis in 2004 because of an extremely close Presidential race, Bush v. Kerry, in which the candidates traded the lead several times. The effective margin was never greater than 3% in either direction. It seemed critical to get a good read on what all the state polls were telling us.
Compared with then, this year’s race is shifted toward President Obama. On average he has led by 3.0 points as measured in Popular Vote Meta-Margin. Obama v. Romney is a less volatile contest, and the lead has not switched, Ohio being a fairly considerable block to a switch.
However, at the moment things are quite close. The natural question is, where are your efforts most effective? The answer turns out to be the same whether you support Obama or Romney.
In 2004 I expressed it in terms of the value of an individual vote compared with my vote in New Jersey:
This question can be answered by calculating how much the Electoral College win probability is changed by one person’s vote. This affects where you should go because as an individual, you can only get out a finite number of votes….Here is a case study. If you are a New Jersey resident, your vote has some value, but it is low since the state is very likely to go Democratic by a substantial margin. In contrast, driving a voter to the polls in Pennsylvania is worth nearly 300 times as much. If you go to Ohio each vote is worth even more, over 500 “jerseyvotes.”
In 2008 I tweaked it a bit (explanation, August 8 2008). Now, voter influence is now calculated under the assumption that overall, state polls have shifted by a constant amount, one that makes the win probabilities 50-50. This change is equal and opposite to the Popular Meta-Margin. I have also normalized to the most powerful vote. Like the a developing country’s currency, jerseyvotes fluctuate a lot in value. The results are listed in the right sidebar as “The Power Of Your Vote.”
The application of the jerseyvotes calculation is to identify where local resource allocation (such as get-out-the-vote operations) will have the most effect. Utah residents should make travel plans to Nevada. Massachusetts activists should flood to New Hampshire. And so on. The calculation is similar for ad dollars, but not exactly.
And yes, everybody in the Midwest should go to Ohio to turn out people who have not already voted. Early voting has been big this year.