Rasmussen: Romney tops Obama, 45/39; Update: Party affiliation ratio in sample added

posted at 12:15 pm on December 29, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Two polls released today show Barack Obama in serious trouble for re-election.  Rasmussen has polled Obama head-to-head against various Republican candidates most of the year, and in today’s matchup against Mitt Romney, Obama falls behind among likely voters to the widest margin yet:

Mitt Romney has now jumped to his biggest lead ever over President Obama in a hypothetical Election 2012 matchup. It’s also the biggest lead a named Republican candidate has held over the incumbent in Rasmussen Reports surveying to date.The latest national telephone survey finds that 45% of Likely U.S. Voters favor the former Massachusetts governor, while 39% prefer the president. Ten percent (10%) like some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

A week ago, Romney trailed Obama 44% to 41%.  The week before that, he held a slight 43% to 42% edge over the president. The two candidates have been essentially tied in regular surveys since January, but Romney remains the only GOP hopeful to lead Obama in more than one survey. Despite Romney’s current six-point lead, his latest level of support is in line with the 38% to 45% he has earned in matchups with the president this year. However, Obama’s 39% is a new low: Prior to this survey, his support has ranged from 40% to 46% in matchups with Romney.

It’s Obama’s number that is more significant in these early head-to-head matchups.  Republicans are still vigorously contesting a primary, which means Republicans haven’t united behind a candidate in the way Democrats are already lined up behind Obama.  These head to head matchups will only truly be on an equal basis after the nomination has been wrapped up by someone, whether that’s Romney or another Republican candidate.  An incumbent who can’t break 40% in a poll, especially at this stage of the race, is an incumbent in deep, deep trouble.

The internals of this poll show how.  Obama is losing independents 45/29, while party loyalty on both sides is pretty stable; Romney gets 79/8 among Republicans, while Obama gets 80/11 among Democrats.  Obama carries the under-$20K demographic and the two demographics above $75K, but only within the margin of error, while Romney wins the three middle-class income demos, two by double digits.  But the big eye-opener is Romney’s six-point lead among women [see update II], which would be the kiss of death indeed in a general election for any Democrat, Obama included.

Why does Romney score so well against Obama now?  A new Gallup poll might explain the shift:

Americans perceive Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul as closest to themselves ideologically, and Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama as furthest away.

USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans to rate their own ideology — and the ideology of the eight major presidential candidates — on a 5-point scale with 1 being very liberal and 5 being very conservative. Americans’ mean score on this scale is 3.3, meaning the average American is slightly to the right of center ideologically. Huntsman’s score matches that at 3.3, but that mean rating excludes the 45% of Americans who did not have an opinion of Huntsman. Of the better known candidates, Romney’s and Paul’s 3.5 scores are closest to the average American’s ideology.

I’m a little skeptical of a poll that puts Ron Paul in the mainstream of American politics, but that’s what Gallup finds — at least for now, while Paul gets a late vetting in the primaries.  The median ideology rating for Americans is a 3.3 on their scale, and Obama scores a 2.3, which is actually further to the Left than Michele Bachmann is to the Right at 4.0.

Here’s more context in how that benefits Romney:

Overall, 42% of Americans in the Dec. 15-18 poll describe themselves as very conservative or conservative, 19% as very liberal or liberal, and 37% as moderate. Those figures are in line with what Gallup has measured in recent years for ideological self-identification.

It’s safe to say that the conservative 42% of the electorate won’t be casting votes for Barack Obama in his re-election bid, and Romney has a closer affinity to the 37% in the middle than Obama does.  That leaves Obama with the liberal 19% and a reduced draw on the moderates, which split 44/40 in the Rasmussen poll for Obama, not nearly enough for him to prevail.

Update: Andrew Malcolm has more thoughts about the Gallup results.

Update II: I misread the columns in the internals.  Romney trails by six points among women, 40/46, not leads among them.  My apologies.

Update III: Rasmussen informs me that the D/R/I in this sample is 33/34/33, which is very close to the 35/35/29 from the midterms.  If anything, it might oversample independents just a bit, but otherwise looks pretty solid.

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