If you pay attention to the day-to-day media noise around the presidential campaign, you get the impression of a race that's constantly whipsawing back and forth based on the news of the moment. The GOP War on Women means Romney's doomed! But wait—now something Hilary Rosen said means Obama's in trouble! And now the monthly jobs numbers mean he's really in trouble. It's Romney's to lose! But wait again—with immigration in the spotlight, Obama could be coming back!
And with so many polls out there, it's never hard to find numbers that appear to confirm these narratives.
In reality, voters aren't moving around nearly as much as the pundits' predictions are. The fascinating chart above, via TPM, pulls in data from a large number of polls, thereby reducing the importance of outliers. It shows that there's a fairly consistent basic shape to the race, in which Obama has a pretty unchanging 2-3 point lead. Sometimes a bit larger, sometimes a bit smaller. Occasionally it's even neck-and-neck. But Obama's small lead appears pretty stable.
Does that mean the president is a lock for re-election? Of course not. It's perfectly possible that the basic dynamics could change, for any number of reasons. But it does serve as a reminder that the daily ups and downs of the campaign—much as we all love to focus on them—probably aren't as significant as they often seem.