Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Presidential Popular Vote is Even

In Polling, Presidential campaign on July 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm

President Obama. / Photo: The White House

A series of new presidential election polls reveals a further tightening of the campaign on the national level, though President Obama maintains a lead over Mitt Romney in the most competitive states.

The two daily tracking pollsters, Gallup and Rasmussen Reports, both give the president only a one-point national lead, 46-45 percent and 45-44 percent, respectively. Looking at an actual benchmark survey, Public Policy Polling, conducting their study (July 19-22; 1,000 registered voters) for the Daily Kos national liberal blog and the Service Employees International Union, projects a flat 46-46 percent tie.

The only national poll not showing a dead heat, taken over virtually the same time frame as PPP’s survey with an identical sample size (July 18-22; 1,000 registered voters) from Republican pollster Bill McInturff and his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, actually stakes the president to a 49-43 percent advantage. Based upon the available data, though the polling methodology appears sound, the McInturff/Hart result appears to be an outlier.

National Public Radio released their poll of the 12 commonly viewed battleground states (conducted by the Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps organizations, July 7-12; 1,000 voters nationwide with an oversample of 462 from the battleground states) but its aggregate result is of little consequence. Though this poll, too, shows an Obama-Romney tie at 46 percent, such a figure is virtually useless because the combined popular vote in the most hotly contested states doesn’t translate into specific electoral votes.

What is valuable are battleground voters’ perceptions and attitudes about the candidates. As we have seen for months, there is severe polarization between the two major parties. By almost a 9:1 majority, Democrats believe the president has performed well in office. Conversely, the same virtual ratio of Republicans believes he has not. Independents tend to fall more on the Republican side, slightly rating Obama’s job performance more negative than positive. Also, Independents in these states generally oppose the Obama healthcare law and, by a slight margin, believe that the Supreme Court decision upholding the law is incorrect. This could prove significant as the campaign continues to evolve.

One thing that does deviate somewhat from at least the conventional wisdom, the NPR battleground state poll does show that both candidates have a strong base. Especially for Romney, this is a change. Before, most data indicated weakness among Republicans for their presumptive nominee, but the NPR data gives both contenders right around 90 percent support within their own party voter cell sample. This finding is good news for both men.

New individual key state surveys stack up relatively well for the president in the fact that he leads in most, but in no case is his advantage more than mid-level single-digit numbers.

Rasmussen Reports gives the President a six-point, 48-42 percent advantage in Michigan. Survey USA finds a similar five-point, 48-43 percent margin for Obama in all-important Florida; and We Ask America returns similar 49-42 percent and 49-43 percent spreads (in Obama’s favor) in Wisconsin and Nevada, respectively. Magellan Strategies produced a much closer 50-46 percent Nevada model. Quinnipiac University shows a tie in Virginia, and the Civitas Institute projects Romney to a one point, 49-48 percent razor-thin edge in North Carolina. Though it’s not a battleground state, Survey USA detects only a 46-40 percent advantage for the president in liberal Minnesota, which is a surprise.

The cumulative effect of the most recent survey data makes the president and his advisers uncomfortable. These are not the type of results strong incumbents would be seeing at this point in the election cycle. It’s going to be quite a remainder of the year.

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