This is the most polled presidential election ever. What's the pulse of the nation? Before you cast your ballot on one of a variety of voting machines (find out which ones will be in your state on our Map of Voting Machines in the U.S.), the Internet is here to give you a ringside seat, tracking every ebb and flow of all those opinions.
If you'd like to know where those races stand, the info available now on the web is far more extensive and easy to use than even a presidential campaign manager would have had a decade ago. You'll find opinion polls, polls of polls, and interactive maps where you can keep track of each state's opinion poll results. There are so many, we'd like to help you sort them out, pointing you to the best 10 in order of preference:
WHAT IT IS: The mother of all polling sites STANDOUT FEATURE: Not only do you get the results of practically every poll in the country, you get astute analysis from the site's experts, links to related stories about the candidates and races, estimates of trends, and a great-looking map and graphs that help you visualize the sea of data. The only thing missing is an interactive map where you can try out your own various scenarios.
2. Yahoo Election08 Political Dashboard
WHAT IT IS: This is what happens when you marry the huge dataset from Real Clear Politics (it's #6, listed below) with graphics from Yahoo. There's a clean-looking map with the best mouseover effects we've seen, showing graphics of the candidates and the margins between the two for each state. The site also lets you create your own scenario state-by-state.
STANDOUT FEATURE: The graphics even include prediction market data, letting you know how those who put their money where their mouths are feel about the candidates' chances.
3. MSNBC Decision 08 Dashboard
WHAT IT IS: Comprehensive election site with tons of video clips, news and info. We'd like this even if MSNBC weren't our sister company. You'll need to scroll down to see the excellent map of polls, but it's worth the scroll. Check out the nifty magnifying glass effect on the New England states. You can also position this map wherever you want, dragging it up top if you wish.
STANDOUT FEATURE: Beyond the superficial, drill down to reams of data including demographics, contributions, candidate appearances and of course, presidential, Senate and House polls. Too bad there's just one poll used in all this data, rather than a composite of many.
4. NPR Election Map
WHAT IT IS: We thought this would be a left-leaning site, but no. When we saw the NPR crowd calling Virginia a toss-up even though Obama leads there by 7 points, we knew we were in actual "fair and balanced" territory.
STANDOUT FEATURE: We like the way the map fades to white as you mouseover a state, focusing your attention to the right place. This first-rate map uses an average of poll data, and also lets you create your own scenarios for national and state races.
5. Electoral Vote
WHAT IT IS: Mouse over a state on this site, and it gives you more info than anywhere else.
STANDOUT FEATURE: Not only do you get current polling data, but historical results from the past two elections. Drill down, and you get up-to-the-minute results of a variety of polls, presented in color-coded graphs where you can see how they all compare with each other. The rest is pretty standard stuff with plain-looking graphics. We do like the way to the site will let you download polling data for your own manipulation.
6. Real Clear Politics
WHAT IT IS: The graphics here look like they came from a decade ago, but the data here is sound and extensive. It's a slight disadvantage that you must click a state abbreviation to the left to drill down for local info, but all the data's there nonetheless, including all the latest polls from numerous sources.
STANDOUT FEATURE: We especially like the way you can reset the map to show no tossup states, RealClear's electoral count, or create your own scenarios in the Create Your Own Map tab.
7. New York Times
WHAT IT IS: The Gray Lady puts together a great map, letting you compare the latest polling with results from 2000 and 2004. One limitation, though: Because the Times does its own polling, you'll just see the results of that one poll, so you only get that single perspective.
STANDOUT FEATURE: The Your Map is great. Pick out who will win which state for your own election results scenario, and then compare that to the Times's estimates. Then click on a state for a lot more data, including state races for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and state governor races.
WHAT IT IS: There's tons of data, here, but the graphics all have a static quality. If you're looking for lots of mouseover effects or animations to spice things up, this is not your site.
STANDOUT FEATURE: There's lots of state and national data here — we especially like the Scenario Analysis showing the odds of each candidate winning or losing in various situations. This pollster seems to lean toward Obama, as evidenced by the copy within and the Obama banner ad up top, but if the math is right that shouldn't matter.
9. CBS News
WHAT IT IS: There isn't any specific poll data on the map itself, instead telling you how the states did four years ago. However, you can click on links inside the pop-ups, and you'll find yourself in a gold mine of election reporting and info — there's complete poll and state information from CBS inside the site. Just wish there were more stuff directly on the map.
STANDOUT FEATURE: This map is intent on spreading the election love, giving you embed code so you can put it on your own site.
WHAT IT IS: An info-packed election map with some informative mouseover effects, showing you the margins in each state. CNN gives you a quick look at a few polls, but we wouldn't mind if they got a few more — even its "Poll of Polls" draws from just three.
STANDOUT FEATURE: Besides polling, maps for fundraising, ad spending, candidate vistis, and past results for every state are all just a click away. The "Power Play" map even lets you directly compare the polls with any of those categories. Pretty colors, too.
Bonus map: Check out what you can do with a multitouch map, sure to be part of NBC's election night coverage. Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen shows how it's [not] done: