The blizzard of polls that emerged yesterday afternoon had morphed into an Obama avalanche by the time dinnertime rolled around. Surveys at the national and state level disagreed with the results of the two daily tracking polls, Gallup and Rasmussen, which show a tied race around 47 percent. Every other survey, with the exception of one in New Hampshire, showed Barack Obama ahead, and in most cases ahead outside the margin of error. That includes polls of the swing states Mitt Romney has to win if he is to prevail in November.
I said yesterday afternoon that the polls suggested Obama was ahead, but by a little, not a lot. How does that conclusion stand after the data onslaught?
Look, when every poll but two points in the same direction, it would be madness to say signs point to the opposite. Clearly, Obama is leading, and maybe by more than a little. More damaging for Romney’s prospects is the fact that the lead is either stable or strengthening in those battleground states.
Or is it?
A flurry of surveys with wildly contradictory results at the national and state levels has caused the New York Times‘s polling guru, Nate Silver, to throw up his hands. This afternoon, he tweeted: “The. Polls. Have. Stopped. Making. Any. Sense.” This may understate the case. For ten years now, pollsters have acknowledged their jobs are becoming more and more difficult, what with the multiplicity of phones people use, the time they spend on the Internet, and the fact that more and more people screen their calls. The poll madness today suggests that the difficulty may be blossoming into a full-bore crisis—even as the media hang on every number because we need something, anything, that seems like an empirical data point to evaluate the state of the race.
So trying to figure out where the presidential race might be at present is total guesswork, based on data that don’t correlate and are being gathered according to suspect means. So here’s mine: Obama is ahead and Romney is behind. But not by much, and within the margin of error.
Given the steadiness in the findings of the two daily tracking polls, Gallup and Rasmussen, both of which essentially echo each other with a 47-46 result over the past several days, their agreement would seem to be closer to the truth than longer-term polls showing a far wider margin in Obama’s favor. But the existence of those polls, and the lack of existence of a single poll showing a wider margin for Romney, is suggestive of something.
It’s the strangest thing. The media already declared this week that Mitt Romney lost the election, but the polls still seem to show the race tightening. First, from today’s USA Today/Gallup poll, which has Romney trailing Obama by two points in the swing states:
Registered voters in key 2012 election swing states remain closely divided in their presidential vote preferences, with 48% supporting President Barack Obama and 46% Mitt Romney. Other than a nine-point lead for Obama in March, the two candidates have been essentially tied in the swing states throughout the campaign.
Gallup’s daily tracking poll also finds Obama leading Romney by one point nationwide. Note that both of these polls were conducted among registered, not likely voters, which means they are more likely to favor Obama:
After a week that has made it appear as if the presidential election is slipping away from him, Mitt Romney got a bit of good news this morning when Rasmussen released its latest daily tracking poll showing him with a narrow 47-46 percent lead over President Obama. It’s the first time in a week that Romney has had any kind of a lead and only a couple of days ago had fallen a few points behind in this survey.
Given the avalanche of bad results the Republican has gotten in the past few days, the Rasmussen numbers provide a dose of badly needed relief for Romney. Polls released in the last week have shown President Obama with leads as large as 7 points (Gallup), 6 points (CNN), 5 points (Fox News) and 3 points (Reuters). All reflected a clear post-Democratic convention bounce for the president that was in no way diminished by the dismal jobs report released on Friday. The expectation in some quarters is that this trend will continue as the president reaps the benefit of leading the nation during a time of crisis in the aftermath of the attacks on American embassies in the Middle East. But the Rasmussen survey provides at least one ray of hope for the GOP in that it shows that the post-Convention bubble may have burst. Indeed, it may be the harbinger of results from other sources that may show the race tightening rather than moving even further in Obama’s direction.
Whatever bounce President Obama (or Clinton) procured from last week’s convention is fading, according to today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. Both candidates are virtually tied among likely voters:
The survey shows that the race remains close among likely voters, with Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 48 percent, virtually unchanged from a poll taken just before the conventions.
But among a wider sample of all registered voters, Obama holds an apparent edge, topping Romney at 50 percent to 44 percent, and has clear advantages on important issues in the campaign when compared with his rival.
President Obama is up by five in today’s Rasmussen and yesterday’s Gallup, in a post-convention bounce that hasn’t been tempered by Friday’s disappointing jobs report. Time for the GOP to panic? Not yet. At the Washington Examiner, Conn Carroll argues that if you take a step back, Romney is still better off in the polls than he was before the Republican convention:
When Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate on August 12th, dubbing themselves America’s Comeback Team, the Real Clear Politics poll average had Obama beating Romney by almost 5 points (47.7 percent to 43 percent). Today, even after Obama’s convention bump, RCP has Obama’s lead narrowed to less than 2 (47.8 percent to 46 percent). Don’t like RCP? Well the more liberal Huffington Post Pollster poll average had Obama up 46.8 to 45.1 when Romney picked Ryan. Today, HuffPo has Obama up by less than 1 point, 46.8 to 46.1.
Don’t let anyone fool you: this is a close election. It will be decided by two events: 1) the first debate between Obama and Romney on October 3rd; and 2) the next jobs report October 5th.
Most Americans say President Obama will win reelection (58 percent) over Mitt Romney (36 percent), according to the latest Gallup poll. These numbers are basically indistinguishable from the same survey taken in May. While this measurement has been decent at predicting the winner since Clinton vs. Dole, there are some details that should worry Obama more than Romney:
Of course, Americans’ beliefs about who will win are influenced by their preferences. Those who say they would vote for Obama if the election were held today overwhelmingly believe he will win, by an 86% to 9% margin. One reason Obama has the edge in overall predictions about the election is that Romney voters are less positive that their candidate will prevail, with 28% saying Obama will win, compared with 65% who believe Romney will win.
The line from Romney headquarters last month was “every day we’re not talking about the economy is a day we lose.” This line, which came from the highest reaches of the campaign, was proffered to explain the unwillingness to provide substantive details on a host of policies besides the economy. Well, Romney HQ isn’t talking about the economy these days. It’s talking about the ad that all but accused Romney of murdering a woman with cancer. It’s talking about its vice-presidential pick. It’s talking about whether its ad accusing the president of gutting welfare-to-work laws is accurate. Guess what? It turns out you can’t just talk about the economy when people—and the media—want to talk about something else.
The polls suggesting he’s seven or nine points behind are surely wrong, but given that there is only one national poll that shows him ahead, we have to presume Romney is behind. He should presume he’s behind. And given that there’s no good reason whatever for Obama to be leading, one can only presume that Romney’s strategy in July and now in August is not working.
Which is why the “we only talk about the economy” line, while superficially clever, was and is so foolish—stupid, even. Of course Romney wants to focus on that one issue. It’s the one that hurts Obama the most, and the one on which he seems to score the best. He and his team have an idea about the campaign. They need to win independents to win. Independents are less ideological. So don’t press the ideological buttons. Keep it simple. Keep it plain. Obama has hurt you. I’ll help you. Fine.
But that’s not the only reason they’re doing it this way.
Yesterday’s USA Today/Gallup poll found President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital career have had little impact on the race. Today’s Reuters/Ipsos poll supposedly contradicts that finding, but don’t put much stock in that just yet:
Sustained attacks by President Barack Obama’s campaign on Republican rival Mitt Romney’s business history and refusal to release more tax records appear to be working, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.
More than a third of voters who are registered to a party or as an independent said in the online survey that what they had heard about Romney’s taxes and his time at Bain Capital private equity firm had given them a less favorable impression of the Republican candidate.
And particularly worrying for Romney is that a large slice of independent voters — whom he needs to win the November 6 election — are also buying into the Obama campaign’s portrayal of him as a ruthless businessman who may be hiding something in his taxes.
According to a new poll for The Hill, two-thirds of likely voters say President Obama has kept his 2008 campaign promise to change America—but it’s changed for the worse.
The survey found 56 percent of likely voters believe Obama’s first term has transformed the nation in a negative way, compared to 35 percent who believe the country has changed for the better under his leadership.
As one would expect, the belief that the president has changed the country for the worse is strongest among Republicans (91 percent). Somewhat surprisingly, only 71 percent of Democrats believe Obama has changed things for the better. I say that because a strikingly high number of Democrats—one in five—are willing to admit they believe Obama has changed the United States for the worse.
A USA Today/Gallup poll of 12 swing states doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know about the presidential race. It’s very tight, with President Obama holding a slim 47-45 percentage point lead over Mitt Romney in the 12 states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin) that are likely to decide the election. However, the significant figure Democrats will be crowing about is not that two-point edge that is well within the poll’s four-point margin of error. Rather, it is the fact that eight percent of those polled say the political ads they have seen in recent months have influenced their opinions. As the pollsters rightly assume, it isn’t likely that a brief television commercial will change anyone’s opinion of the president — about whom most voters have entrenched views be they positive or negative — but that means the deluge of negative Democratic ads about Mitt Romney have changed some minds about the Republican nominee.
That’s good news for Democrats who understand that sliming the challenger is the only way for a president who can’t run on his record to gain re-election. The bad news is that if the smears directed at Romney’s business record have only managed to keep Obama relatively even with his opponent, it’s a sign he’s in trouble. Contrary to the Pollyannas of political punditry who say such attacks hurt the candidate who throws the mud, going negative is actually quite effective. But while the Democrats can help themselves by seeking to solidify the image of Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy in the minds of the public, the president’s efforts to shift the blame for the poor economy on his predecessors are not working as well. That means the president’s campaign has locked itself into a box in which the only way to go is to continue escalating their attacks on Romney. That’s worrisome for Romney but also doesn’t give Democrats much room for winning over independents who are more concerned about the parlous state of the economy than about Romney’s wealth.
President Obama has had a run of bad luck recently. National tracking polls show he remains in a dead heat with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The result of the Wisconsin recall election was an ominous portent of Democratic trouble in a battleground state he won by double digits four years ago. And his idiotic comment about the private sector doing “just fine” solidified his image as being out of touch with the nation’s economic troubles and incapable of responding to the problem with anything but liberal cant. But the president does have a few cards up his sleeve in his battle for re-election. Chief among them is that pollsters consistently show that most Americans find him to be “likable.” As Politico notes, having strong favorability ratings is usually enough to get a candidate re-elected. But what makes this election so interesting is that President Obama’s high personal numbers are combined with other factors such as a horrible economy that normally spell doom to an incumbent.
Voters are still vaguely sympathetic to the president, and that’s a potent electoral factor when combined with all of the advantages that come with being an incumbent. But the trouble with this discussion is that the characterization of Obama as “likable” is somewhat of a misnomer as it implies tremendous charisma or genuine personal affection. What is at work in creating the president’s favorability ratings is nothing like the appeal of a Bill Clinton or a John F. Kennedy or even the mixed feelings many Americans harbored for George W. Bush (or at least did so until Hurricane Katrina, the lingering Iraq War and the spillover from the war on terror made a man who was widely seen as a great guy if an imperfect leader the most unpopular living president). Barack Obama’s popularity is not a function of his personality but the product of the historic nature of his presidency and the willingness of the mainstream media to treat him with a deference they have not shown to any of his predecessors since Kennedy.