Thursday, April 14, 2011

Obama leads...but also shows weakness

Barack Obama continues to lead all of his top potential 2012 opponents for reelection...but his advantage over all of those Republicans might not really be quite as big as it looks.

Obama's up 5 points on Mike Huckabee at 48-43, 6 on Mitt Romney at 47-41, 9 on Chris Christie at 48-39, 10 on Rand Paul at 48-38, 14 on Newt Gingrich at 52-38, and 18 on Sarah Palin at 54-36.

Here's the catch though: in every one of those match ups the vast majority of undecided voters disapprove of Obama...they just either don't yet know or not yet completely sold on the potential Republican candidates so they go into the undecided column. Chances are when push comes to shove those folks are going to vote against Obama if they don't think he's doing a good job. So we also calculated the numbers allocating the undecideds based on their approval or disapproval of Obama- when you do that Obama only leads Romney and Huckabee 51-49, is just up 52-48 on Paul and Christie, has a 54-46 advantage over Gingrich, and still wallops Palin if only by a 56-44 margin.

This is just one poll but my guess is that with the vast majority of 2012 horse race polls you're seeing right now this phenomenon of most of the undecideds being Obama disapprovers is in place and that means the leads he's posting in these surveys are perhaps not quite as comfortable as they might appear at first glance.

Obama has narrowly negative approval ratings with 47% of voters giving him good marks to 48% who think he's doing a bad job. His saving grace continues to be the Republican candidate field, the universal unpopularity of which allows Obama to lead in head to heads despite his own weak numbers. Interestingly Christie has the best net favorability of the folks we tested this month at -2 (28/30). He's followed by Huckabee at -6 (36/42), Romney at -11 (32/43), Paul at -19 (26/45), Gingrich at -27 (28/55), and Palin at -30 (31/61). Right now Republicans aren't fully capitalizing on Obama's unpopularity because all of their own candidates are so unappealing but if that changes things will be looking even dicier for Obama.

Obama is definitely weaker right now than he was in 2008- his leads over Huckabee and Romney here are smaller than this margin of victory over John McCain even before you allocate the undecideds. The big question just continues to be whether the GOP will nominate someone who can take advantage of Obama's vulnerability or if they'll nominate someone so extreme that voters with reservations about Obama end up voting for him anyway as the lesser of two evils.

Full results here


Matt D said...

This sort of shows that your last PA poll was likely out of whack. Obama can't win nationwide, even narrowly, and lose PA.

Hell, Kerry won the state by 2 points while losing nationally.

You guys go amazing polling, but that one poll seemed odd, and this seems to confirm it.

Tom Lundy said...

Thanks for including Rand Paul.
I see him as the leader of the tea party movement in Washington and wondered how he would poll against Obama.

Ziege said...

There is a large subset of independent, and often undecided, voters who you will have a hard time getting to say they "approve" of ANY politician. These are people who, in my research, often say both parties are equally corrupt, all politicians are liars, etc.

So, it's really just not useful or even descriptive of reality to engage in an exercise where we assume that they will break for Obama vs his opponent based on their approval of Obama. In other words, taking Obama disapprovers and tallying then as GOP opponent approvers is useless and doesn't tell us anything about whether Obama's lead is stronger or weaker than straight up head-to-head numbers indicate.

Unknown said...

Aren't you making a few unwarranted assumptions here - such as that the remaining voters who 'disapprove' of Obama's performance so far are DEMOCRATS - and their disapproval is because Obama has not done enough on the Progressive side of things - but voters who will, in the end, vote Democratic in 2012?

Anonymous said...

According to the crosstabs, almost one-quarter of self-described liberals view Palin and Gingrich favorably.

There are three plausible explanations for these nonsensical results:

• These people are lying to the pollster about their views on Palin and Gingrich
• These people are lying to the pollster about whether or not they're liberals
• These people are completely ignorant about who Palin and Gingrich are.

Don Hammond
Ann Arbor

I Am Iron Man said...

I think it's a mistake to think that every single person who is unhappy with Obama is going to vote GOP. Many of those people will vote for Obama anyway because the Republican candidate is scary or won't vote at all.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be better to look at who the people that disapprove of Obama voted for in the last election? What their demographics are? What their approval marks are for the Republican candidates?

Tom Jensen said...

If you used 2008 vote or generic Congressional ballot preference to allocate the undecideds you would get basically the same numbers as using the approval/disapproval question to allocate.

Anonymous said...

No Donald Trump in the poll? You guys gotta start including him in your polls.

fladem said...

I have been looking at some of the apporval ratings in some states. The data are from Talking Points Memo.

Florida: 4 polls, approval rating average 45.6.
Ohio: 2 polls, approval rating average 47.
Penn: 4 polls Approval rating 44%

I am not done, but the average shift in approval from Obama's total in 2008 in state polling 92 -7.14.

That is trouble for an incumbent. When you look into the internals, one key difference you continue to see is the age makeup of the electorate, which looks like the 2010 election and not 2008. The young as a % of the electorate are down by between 40 and 70%.

Anonymous said...

After analyzing a lot of recent polls and state approval ratings, I am going to take a guess on where I think Obama will win/lose next year:

Obama will win:

Obama will lose:

Toss Up:

Dustin Ingalls said...

Based on our polls, Obama is stronger in FL and particularly OH than he is in NC or PA (or against Romney in NH and NV).

Anonymous said...


How are Obama's #'s looking thus far, in the poll coming out this week? Thanks, for the good work.

Anonymous said...

I'm quite impressed Obama is leading in Head to head match ups even if only narrowly. 9% unemployment, 60%+ wrong track, gas prices having gone up a lot recently, and a lot of partisan fighting and worries about the deficit.

Yet, he still outperforms leading Republicans. Astonishing.

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