Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Obama still strong in Virginia

Barack Obama's approval rating in Virginia is up over 50% and he leads all of his potential Republican opponents in the state...even Governor Bob McDonnell who we threw in as a wild card.

51% of voters in the state approve of the job Obama's doing to 44% who disapprove. The biggest key for him is that he has the Democratic base completely behind him- 94% approve to only 4% who disapprove. Virginia still has a lot of white conservative Democrats, particularly in certain parts of the state, so for Obama to have almost unanimous approval within his party is very impressive. He even has more Republicans (albeit a paltry 7%) who approve of him than there are Democrats (4%) who disapprove. That's not something we're seeing in our polling very often right now. Independents narrowly give him good marks, 48/46, as well.

McDonnell is popular too, with 50% of voters who approve of him to 35% who disapprove. PPP has polled on 38 of the sitting Governors in the country right now and that ranks him 14th in approval spread. He has very good numbers with independents at 53/34 and a lot more Democrats (20%) think he's doing a good job than Republicans (8%) think he's doing a bad job.

Despite his popularity there is not a lot of interest from Virginia voters in a McDonnell White House bid next year. Only 20% would like to see him run for President to 59% who think it's a bad idea and 21% who aren't sure. McDonnell trails Obama 51-43 in a hypothetical contest, winning only 2% of the Democratic vote and trailing 49-44 with independents.

McDonnell does better against Obama than the rest of the Republican field. Mike Huckabee trails by 9 points at 52-43, Mitt Romney is down 11 at 51-40, Sarah Palin has a 15 point deficit at 55-40, Newt Gingrich is 17 points behind at 54-37, and Donald Trump does the worst with a 22 point gap at 54-32.

Here's the most important thing people need to know about Obama's good numbers in Virginia: it is not just a bin Laden bounce. This is the third poll we've conducted in Virginia over the last six months. He's had positive numbers in all three of them. He's led all of the Republicans we've tested in all three of them. And the closest any of the Republicans have come to him across the three polls is 5 points. He's up by bigger margins this time and that's probably attributable to bin Laden but Obama doing well in Virginia is not new news. It's one of the few swing states where he's consistently polling similar to his 2008 numbers and it may well prove to be a firewall for him- if he stays strong here he really doesn't need to win the Floridas or Ohios of the world that we generally think of as the quintessential swing states.

Why is Obama holding up so much better in Virginia? It's partially because the state has a significant black population and those voters have remained loyal to him. But the biggest reason is that he hasn't shown the slippage with white voters there that he has throughout most of the rest of the country. Our final Virginia poll in 2008, which hit Obama's margin of victory right on the head, found him winning 42% of the white vote. His approval rating now with white voters? An identical 42%. That's a major contrast to other places where we're often finding his approval number with white voters down 10 points or more from his 2008 vote share.

Beyond the fact that he's holding up well with white voters there's another reason Obama's polling so well in Virginia- voters there are extremely unimpressed with the Republican candidate field. Mike Huckabee is the most 'popular' of the candidates with a 37/41 favorability rating. After him is Mitt Romney at 35/43, Newt Gingrich at 26/54, Sarah Palin at 31/62, and Donald Trump at 22/69.

Even if Obama was unpopular in Virginia he'd still be in a decent position to win the state again because the GOP contenders are so weak there. Take those unpopular Republicans and combine them with a decently popular Obama and you have a very difficult battle for the GOP to get Virginia back. And it's hard to imagine the party winning back the White House without Virginia- because of that fact and because of Obama's relative strength there, this is looking to me like the most important state in the Presidential race next year.

Full results here


I Am Iron Man said...

As a Virginian it's great to think that my state could act as a firewall for Obama. It's difficult to see the Republicans winning the general election without taking Virginia... and right now I'm feeling confident that we will make the right decision again in 2012!


Anonymous said...

Slightly OT but did PPP poll the Presidential race in Missouri on the last go-round? I see discussion of the Senate and Gov races there, but none at the Presidential level. Since Missouri is one of only two states where Obama lost by less than 5 Percent in 2008, it would be interesting to see if it looks like it is within reach.

Bob said...

Anonymous: I saw a poll on the Missouri Presidential a few months ago from another polling firm. It had Obama trailing all Republican candidates except Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Both Huckabee and Romney lead Obama in the single digits (I think Huckabee was ahead by 6%) and Obama tied Newt Gingrich in the poll. Missouri is going to be harder to win this time around because it has lost a lot of urban population and has likewise shifted to the right. Arizona and Georgia on the other hand look like they may end up becoming pick ups in 2012. Obama is improving upon his 2008 performance in both states.

678 Media Group said...

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT but did PPP poll the Presidential race in Missouri on the last go-round? I see discussion of the Senate and Gov races there, but none at the Presidential level. Since Missouri is one of only two states where Obama lost by less than 5 Percent in 2008, it would be interesting to see if it looks like it is within reach.

May 10, 2011 3:02 PM

Obama has a better chance of winning Arizona than Missouri .. That should tell you how much of a chance he has of winning MO in 2012 ... MO is no longer a Bellwether state .. PPP needs to poll Ohio .. If Obama is underwater there he is in trouble ..

wt said...

Actually an Obama win in Virginia potentially sets up a 269-269 tie if Romney is the nominee (carrying the McCain states + OH, FL, NC, NV, NH, IN and IA).

The election would be thrown into the GOP controlled House.

There are a few other permutations of the 269-269 map, but I think this is one of the most likely.

NRH said...

If you take the states that have gone blue in the last three straight elections (2000, 2004, and 2008), and add Virginia and Colorado, then it doesn't matter what any swing or red state does; even with the shift in the Electoral College from redistricting, Team Blue draws over 270 EC votes.

Even with a good candidate, Republicans in effect would need to completely sweep the table of all swing states, plus pick off a state that hasn't favored them lately. In 2000 and 2004, Bush managed to get all the swing states, but in both years had Colorado and Virginia gone blue, he would have lost.

The net effect is that any Republican who wants to have any chance in the general election needs to start with the assumption that they can sweep the traditional swing states and then find a message that can play well in a Democratic state. They won't even look for something like that, though; they'll play to their nutter base all the way to the bitter end.

Steve said...

Good news for Obama and for Dems like me. Two queries, though:
1. To what do we attribute these numbers? Is it because Virginia, a state where much of the employment (either around Hampton Roads or in NoVa) is government, tech or defense, has done a lot better in the Great Recession than the Midwest, which got hammered? When I see surprisingly strong approval for Obama and for a GOP governor, I think, "Hmmm, their economy must be OK."
2. Didn't McCain do better in VA than much of the late '08 polling suggested? though I suppose PPP got it right.

Anonymous said...

Results seem plausible to me. Washington Post poll of Virginia released last week showed similar numbers for Obama.

NRH said...

The big story in Virginia is the growth of NoVa and Richmond. The urban, Democratic-leaning population in those areas has grown enough to counter the rural, Republican-leaning population in the western part of the state. Given the demographics (younger, more diverse, urban areas are growing more), Virginia has been trending blue and isn't showing any signs of stopping. It's similar to the trend that flipped Colorado, with Hispanic growth and the growth of Denver fuelling a Democratic conversion.

And what has a lot of currently-being-ignored Republican strategists up at night is that the same pattern is showing in Texas, Hispanic growth and growing cities. Losing Virginia and Colorado puts Republicans just outside the line of being able to compete in a base-vs-base fight, but when Texas flips, that's a knockout punch for national aspirations.

I Am Iron Man said...

Yes, Texas could be in play in 2016. And if the Republicans manage to nominate a truly terrible candidate this year and Obama's approval rating is ~ 55% or above on Gallup... maybe he can win it next year.

Lots of ifs... It would be nice to really destroy the Republicans at the Presidential level, not just for "mandate" purposes but because it would hopefully lead to congressional coattails... Obama needs a Democratic House to get anything done.

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