The latest poll by NPR and its bipartisan polling team [pdf] shows President Obama with a 7-point lead among likely voters nationally and a nearly identical lead of 6 points in the dozen battleground states where both campaigns are spending most of their time and money. ...NPR
NPR's latest poll -- conducted by Democracy Corps and Resurgent Republic -- indicates that the debates could decide the election, according to commentators on NPR early this morning. The numbers in the final polls before the first debate?
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney [is] very much within striking distance of the incumbent as the two men begin a series of three debates Wednesday in Denver. ...NPR
NPR's poll is loudly and clearly "impartial" -- conducted by two credible political analysts, one from each party -- and is as even-handed in its "sampling" as it can be. And, in a change from most recent elections, many former Republicans have become "independents."
Ayres, the Republican half of the team, noted that the actual electorate in November may not have as many Democrats as this NPR poll's likely voter sample, which he called "a best-case scenario" for the president's party.
"When you sample voters over time, you inevitably get varying proportions of Democrats and Republicans in the sample. It's nothing nefarious, just the vagaries of sampling," Ayres said. "This sample ended up with seven points more Democrats than Republicans. In 2008, there were seven points more Democrats than Republicans in the electorate, according to exit polls, But in 2004, there were equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans."
If this year's voters were to split evenly again between the two major parties, Romney would have an advantage. The NPR poll found him a 4-point favorite among independents.
Most observers expect this year's party ratio to be somewhere between the Democratic tilt of 2008 and the even split of 2004 (which recurred in the midterm elections of 2010). Stan Greenberg, the Democratic member of the polling team, said polling this year has generally found fewer people self-identifying with the GOP.
"They're moving into the independent category," Greenberg said, "where also if you look at the brand position of the Republican Party and Democratic Party, the Republican Party favorability has been dropping throughout this whole period." ...NPR