SurveyUSA has a lot of good habits as a pollster, and one of them is breaking out the results of early and absentee voting in states where such things are allowed. So far, SurveyUSA has conducted polling in five states where some form of early voting was underway. In each one, Barack Obama is doing profoundly better among early voters than among the state's electorate as a whole:
... Poll % Voted Non-EarlyWe should caveat that these are not hard-and-fast numbers. Estimates of early voting results are subject to the same statistical vagaries as any other sort of subgroup analysis, such as response bias and small sample sizes.
State Date Early Early Voters Likely Voters
NM 10/13 10% Obama +23% Obama +6%
OH 10/13 12% Obama +18% Obama +4%
GA 10/12 18% Obama +6% McCain +11%
IA 10/9 14% Obama +34% Obama +10%
NC 10/6 5% Obama +34% McCain +5%
Nevertheless, Obama is leading by an average of 23 points among early voters in these five states, states which went to George W. Bush by an average of 6.5 points in 2004.
Is this a typical pattern for a Democrat? Actually, it's not. According to a study by Kate Kenski at the University of Arizona, early voters leaned Republican in both 2000 and 2004; with Bush earning 62.2 percent of their votes against Al Gore, and 60.4 percent against John Kerry. In the past, early voters have also tended to be older than the voting population as a whole and more male than the population as a whole, factors which would seem to cut against Obama or most other Democrats.
Now certainly, early voters tend to be your stauncher partisans rather than your uncommitted voters -- just 1-2 percent of early voters in 2000 and 2004 reported that they would have voted differently if they'd waited until election day. So it's unlikely that John McCain is actually losing all that many persuadable voters to the early voter tallies.
What these results would seem to suggest, however, is that there are fairly massive advantages for the Democrats in enthusiasm and/or turnout operations. They imply that Obama is quite likely to turn out his base in large numbers; the question is whether the Republicans will be able to do the same.
Keep in mind that there are veteran pollsters like Ann Selzer who think that most of her colleagues are vastly understating the degree to which youth and minority turnout is liable to improve in this election; Selzer's polls have been 5-6 points more favorable to Obama than the averages in the states that she's surveyed. So while these early voting numbers could turn out to be something of a curiosity, they could alternatively represent a canary in the coal mine for a coming Democratic turnout wave.