Politics

Early Voting Now Up to 18%

by Frank Newport

Obama doing better among those who have voted or say they will vote before Nov. 4

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup Poll Daily tracking data collected through Monday night indicate that 18% of registered voters who plan to vote have already voted, and another 15% say they will vote before Nov. 4; so far the voter preferences of this early voting group are somewhat more tilted toward Obama than those who say they will wait to vote on Election Day.

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Gallup is tracking the self-reported voting behavior of Americans who say they are registered and plan to vote. The question wording is as follows: "Which of the following applies to you? 1. You have already voted in this year's election, either by absentee ballot or early voting opportunities in your state, 2. You plan to vote before Election Day, either by absentee ballot or early voting opportunities in your state, or 3. You plan to vote on Election Day itself."

In Gallup's first report on early voting, based on Oct. 17-19 interviewing, 7% of registered voters who planned to vote said they had already voted, while another 21% said that they were going to vote early. Now, in the latest Oct. 25-27 report, the two lines have crossed, with 18% saying that they have already voted, and another 15% saying that they will vote before Election Day. Taken as a group, these results continue to suggest that about a third of voters will have already cast their ballot before Nov. 4.

The voter preferences of the group of 1,430 individuals who have already voted and who were interviewed by Gallup between Oct. 17 and Oct. 27 show a 53% to 43% Obama over McCain tilt.

Among the group of those who say they have not yet voted, but will before Election Day, the skew towards Obama is more pronounced, at 54% to 40%. By comparison, those who are going to wait to vote on Nov. 4 manifest a narrower 50% to 44% Obama over McCain candidate preference. (Across all registered voters over this time period, Obama leads McCain by a 51% to 43% margin).

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These results indicate that, with each passing day, Obama appears to be freezing in place a higher and higher percentage of votes tilting in his favor, making that portion of the overall electorate impervious to any last minute campaign trends. At the least, the results certainly suggest that the vote returns on Election Night will be incomplete, and perhaps misleading, if absentee and early voting results are not included.

As was true in Gallup's last early voting analysis, those who vote early are more concentrated in the Western states, and to a lesser degree in the South, than in other regions -- particularly the East, where only 3% of registered voters who plan to vote (based on Oct. 25-27 interviewing) say they have already voted.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 9,944 registered voters, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 17-27, 2008. For results based on the total sample of registered voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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