A different look at swing state polling

posted at 6:31 pm on June 16, 2012 by Karl

Larry J. Sabato is correct that presidential polling in June is no better than a coin flip. Moreover, state-level polling at this point in the cycle remains noisy and not particularly useful. Indeed, partisan swings have become more uniform across states in recent elections. For these reasons, this early in the campaign, I still favor looking at Obama’s average job approval +.5 percent as a rough projection of his electoral support.

Nevertheless, I turn my attention to state polling. Why? Because — to paraphrase Nathan Jessep — deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me to talk about swing state polling, you need me to talk about swing state polling.

However, for a change of pace, it might be fun to look outside the standard head-to-head question (which tells us little at this point on a national level). Many anticipate 2012 will be a close election like 2004. As Jay Cost has noted, in that contest, Pres. Bush did not win a single state in which he had a net negative job approval. Accordingly, it might be interesting to look at Pres. Obama’s job approval in a selection of swing states.

That survey reveals Obama currently has net negative job approval in: North Carolina (-3.3%); New Hampshire (-1.7%); Colorado (-1.7%); Pennsylvania (-1.7%); Florida (-1.1%); Ohio (-0.9%); Virginia (-0.6%); and Iowa (-0.6%). Moreover, Obama’s job approval is below 48% in these states. In contrast, Obama has net positive job approval in Wisconsin (+3.9%) and Nevada (+4.0%). Obama’s job approval breaks the 50% mark in these states.

At first glance, those numbers seem pretty good for Mitt Romney. However, the two pro-Obama states seem pretty solid — and Wisconsin is a state where the GOP has been hopeful since Gov. Walker’s recent recall victory. Moreover, Wisconsin is a state Bush lost in 2004 despite having a net positive job approval rating. The other states Bush lost with positive job approval are telling — Michigan (another state some righties are getting excited about prematurely), Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. If Bush could not win PA and NH as an incumbent with a positive job rating, should the positive head-to-head numbers for Obama in those states now should concern Romney all the more… or should Obama’s net negative job approval give him hope he may be able to kick Lucy Van Pelt’s football this time around? Furthermore, on an approval basis, Virginia and Iowa seem as winnable for Obama as the head-to-head polls might suggest. Of the swingiest states, only North Carolina (where Obama breaks 50% disapproval) seems as winnable for Romney as Nevada and Wisconsin seem for Obama.

In short, for whatever they are worth (and I reiterate they may mean very little right now), Romney may be narrowing the gap in head-to-head polls, but Obama’s state-level job approval ratings tend to suggest that this election remains a dogfight. Righties need to heed the advice of Instapundit (channeling Han Solo): “Great kid… don’t get cocky.”

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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I’ll say it again. Good advice.

WannabeAnglican on June 16, 2012 at 6:34 PM

this election remains a dogfight

That depends on how Barry will serve it or dress it up.

bayview on June 16, 2012 at 6:35 PM

If Romney wins the popular vote nationwide by say even 2%, it would be very unlikely that Obama would win the electoral vote. And remember, state polls are generally less accurate than nation wide polls.

VorDaj on June 16, 2012 at 6:39 PM

Scru these polls. There is a sure-fire way to de-elect Obama.

Our single greatest weapon against a 2nd Obama term is in your back pocket. It’s your wallet. All conservatives should stop all discretionary spending from now until election day. If you don’t need it…and I mean NEED it…don’t buy it. Go Galt and disappear until November. The Occupidiots and Georgetown Law students are the looters Ayn Rand wrote about.

Remind yourselves that every dime you spend between now and November 6 is a de facto donation to Obama’s re-election campaign.

Voters will hang the poor economy around Obama’s neck and on November 7 his official title will be President-Reject of the United States.

We’ll meet at dawn on election day and finish the job we started in 2010.

Doug Piranha on June 16, 2012 at 6:42 PM

I think it’s pretty obvious Obama is focusing on the western path +FL with his immigration pandering. I think he thinks WI and MI will be there for him in the end but Latino turnout in Florida will rescue him if one of them falter.

The Count on June 16, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Doug Piranha,

That is easy since not too many have any discretionary spending left. I know may people that this will be the year of stay-cation. All is bad and as far as I can tell there is little money that is not already committed by almost all the middle-upper middle class families I know.

jukin3 on June 16, 2012 at 6:48 PM

If the economy does not improve, Barry is toast.

GarandFan on June 16, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Mid terms,state elections, recalls, economy,unemployment, fuel prices, grocery inflation, Europe clusterfark, SSM, Obamacare— all the numbers (polling, actual results or costs) on these issues DO NOT favor Obama…I am going cocky now.

hillsoftx on June 16, 2012 at 6:56 PM

I think it’s pretty obvious Obama is focusing on the western path +FL with his immigration pandering. I think he thinks WI and MI will be there for him in the end but Latino turnout in Florida will rescue him if one of them falter.

The Count on June 16, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Western path is a pretty safe bet. Worst kept secret of this campaign, actually… I hope you’re right though that he’s counting on Florida in addition to save his rear, because Florida won’t be there for him. Many of the Hispanic voters there are Cubans unimpressed with his immigration pandering and not afraid to go Republican. Meanwhile even those he does energize aren’t going to overwhelm the senior vote in that state that is going to break hard for Romney. Florida isn’t even going to be very close come November.

That said he can win on the Western path without Florida, but he absolutely needs to hold PA, MI, OH or two of those and VA, WI. So hopefully Zero will go in on a futile effort to keep Florida, while Romney tears through the less defended territory in the Midwest.

Gingotts on June 16, 2012 at 6:59 PM

I think it’s pretty obvious Obama is focusing on the western path +FL with his immigration pandering. I think he thinks WI and MI will be there for him in the end but Latino turnout in Florida will rescue him if one of them falter.

The Count on June 16, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Immigration pandering doesn’t work in Florida because FL Latinos are overwhelmingly Cubans (who have the Special Cuban Migration Program and the Cuban Refugee Act) and Puerto-Ricans (who are US citizens by birth). None of these groups is affected by immigration laws.

I think that Obama is very worried about Nevada and Colorado and this move shows that. There’s a reason why both campaigns are spending like crazy in those two states. If Latinos turnout at their normal rates and not at their 2008 rate, then I’d say Colorado leans R and Nevada is a toss-up.

I agree with Jazz that Michigan and Wisconsin are the longer shots of the ten battle-ground states. My estimate is that Romney would already have 311 electoral votes before he flips one of those (and the first to fall would be Wisconsin).

joana on June 16, 2012 at 7:01 PM

this election remains a dogfight

That’s racist! (but tasty)

daj on June 16, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I’m still a little tired and hung over from last night, but I would swear the headline read: A Different Look at the Swinger State Polling. What kind of place are you running here?
OH, swing state.
Swing state, swinger state, I think Obama’s pandering has left him without a partner in November.

HornetSting on June 16, 2012 at 7:02 PM

My estimate is that Romney would already have 311 electoral votes before he flips one of those (and the first to fall would be Wisconsin).

joana on June 16, 2012 at 7:01 PM

In other words you see the western states and PA flipping first? Maybe. I’d put WI, NV and PA all at around roughly the same chance of flipping this early out. That could change with more numbers from out there. Enthusiasm among NV Mormons could outstrip a surge of Hispanic voters.

I do think CO’s chances of going our way are underestimated by just about everybody everywhere. I can only guess that is because of Ken Buck’s loss in 2010, but there were many campaign specific issues in that which don’t translate here.

Gingotts on June 16, 2012 at 7:09 PM

…people in Nevada are a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket when looking at their economy… JugEars should be way down on their poles!

KOOLAID2 on June 16, 2012 at 7:15 PM

wrt to CO…i think barry’s next step is to not enforce fed law on small amounts of weed in those states w/Medical marijuana laws on the books….that would go very well in CO

he’s working diligently on this state by state strategy. i’m not encouraged about the R chances. if it is close, the draw goes to barry.

r keller on June 16, 2012 at 7:25 PM

In other words you see the western states and PA flipping first? Maybe. I’d put WI, NV and PA all at around roughly the same chance of flipping this early out. That could change with more numbers from out there. Enthusiasm among NV Mormons could outstrip a surge of Hispanic voters.

I do think CO’s chances of going our way are underestimated by just about everybody everywhere. I can only guess that is because of Ken Buck’s loss in 2010, but there were many campaign specific issues in that which don’t translate here.

Gingotts on June 16, 2012 at 7:09 PM

As of now, indeed I do – of course things can change. The fact that there’s so little investment so far in WI and MI reinforces my belief.

Mormons already have high turnout rates and vote overwhelmingly for the Republican. So, their potential is already close to maxed out. Hard to see the Mormon effect for Romney being any larger than 0.5% in Nevada and less than that in Colorado. I agree it’s still something and can be decisive on the margins.

I like Romney chances in CO, but again, it depends on Hispanic voters turnout not matching 2008 levels of intensity. If that happens, the path to win the state becomes narrow: there are just too many latte liberals and ski bums in Denver and Boulder. Mind you that Obama won CO by +9 while winning the country by +7 in ’08.

joana on June 16, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Remind yourselves that every dime you spend between now and November 6 is a de facto donation to Obama’s re-election campaign.

Voters will hang the poor economy around Obama’s neck and on November 7 his official title will be President-Reject of the United States.

We’ll meet at dawn on election day and finish the job we started in 2010.

Doug Piranha on June 16, 2012 at 6:42 PM

..noble sentiments and advice, Doug. Stop by my place and I’ll treat you to a beer or two. Home brewed “off the grid”, of course!

The War Planner on June 16, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Because — to paraphrase Nathan Jessep — deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me to talk about swing state polling, you need me to talk about swing state polling.

You want the swing-state polling?!

I want the margin of error!!

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE MARGIN OF ERROR!!!!

JohnGalt23 on June 16, 2012 at 7:28 PM

Which means than an uniform swing won’t be enough. And at some point, there aren’t enough white swing voters left to turn. With a high Latino turnout, Obama’s floor on states like Nevada and Colorado is very, very high.

joana on June 16, 2012 at 7:29 PM

chicken little. its 1980.

t8stlikchkn on June 16, 2012 at 7:29 PM

Not counting them before they’re hatched, but yea, Mitt by 5% in the popular vote.

I look forward to many more crying guys. It will be more tasty than the ginger kid’s tears at Cartman’s chili cook-off. Even better will be the One’s post-presidency. Narcissists don’t handle massive public rejection well.

Boogeyman on June 16, 2012 at 7:34 PM

How can Obama have a net positive approval in Nevada? Unemployment is over 11%. There as dumb as Californians because that’s what most of them are.

Mark1971 on June 16, 2012 at 7:35 PM

The bottom line is that you need to go vote. Get your friends to vote. Get their friends to vote. Volunteer if you can.

SouthernGent on June 16, 2012 at 7:41 PM

Tight.

Landslide.

Key West Reader on June 16, 2012 at 7:58 PM

Don’t get cocky period. Just remember the voters re-elected FDR 3 additional times during a terrible economy and a terrible jobs market. There is no accounting for Americans getting stupid during a presidential election. I hope this will be a 1980 style repeat but it could be a 1996, 2004 repeat also.

chemman on June 16, 2012 at 7:59 PM

How can Obama have a net positive approval in Nevada? Unemployment is over 11%. There as dumb as Californians because that’s what most of them are.

Mark1971 on June 16, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Mark, haven’t you heard that EVERYONE loves Obama? If you don’t love Obama you are a racist. And nobody wants to be called a racist. And that Rham Emmanuel dude. And all that.

Key West Reader on June 16, 2012 at 7:59 PM

Interesting, although these days I don’t put credence in any poll of this kind that isn’t going to be tested within 14 days by an actual election.

J.E. Dyer on June 16, 2012 at 8:01 PM

Hey Karl- Brit Hume tweeted about your article:

It’s early to make much of state polls, but this is still a useful — and balanced — analysis by @justkarl http://hotair.com/archives/2012/06/16/a-different-look-at-swing-state-polling/

novaculus on June 16, 2012 at 8:02 PM

How can Obama have a net positive approval in Nevada? Unemployment is over 11%. There as dumb as Californians because that’s what most of them are.

Mark1971 on June 16, 2012 at 7:35 PM

As I say up-thread: Nevada is one of those states where Democrats have high floors because of the combination of minorities and urban white liberals.

As you know, those job approval polls are of registered voters – so turnout doesn’t matter. If minorities had the same turnout rate of whites, Nevada would be a blue state like New Jersey or Oregon. The demographics just wouldn’t be there for us, as they aren’t in other states.

For the time being they don’t, which is what makes the state purple.

joana on June 16, 2012 at 8:07 PM

— to paraphrase Nathan Jessup

You friggin people

Rio Linda Refugee on June 16, 2012 at 8:10 PM

Don’t get cocky period. Just remember the voters re-elected FDR 3 additional times during a terrible economy and a terrible jobs market. There is no accounting for Americans getting stupid during a presidential election. I hope this will be a 1980 style repeat but it could be a 1996, 2004 repeat also.

chemman on June 16, 2012 at 7:59 PM

That is because he had the media of the time fluffing him all of the way.

Rio Linda Refugee on June 16, 2012 at 8:13 PM

Larry J. Sabato

a/k/a Larry Sabotage.

The guy that finished off George Allen (with the followup comments about Allen’s supposed off-color remarks years prior to the Maacaa video).

Never trusted the weasel after that.

PappyD61 on June 16, 2012 at 8:43 PM

joana on June 16, 2012 at 8:07 PM

TROLL ALERT

obviously Obama headquarters in Chicago is now scraping the bottom of the barrel in their astroturf operations.

Romney has not even fully staffed up his operation or finished raising about 400 million dollars- when he does your boy is going down hard. even if the mooch “doesn’t go down”..

AirForceCane on June 16, 2012 at 9:11 PM

Boy, those Nevadans are gluttons for punishment. 13.2% unemployment – by far the nation’s highest – in a state with low taxes and abundant resources. Maybe the Spanish energy model wasn’t the best model for Nevada:

http://fiscalwars.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/whats-wrong-with-nevada/

stout77 on June 16, 2012 at 9:20 PM

There as dumb as Californians because that’s what most of them are. Mark1971 on June 16, 2012 at 7:35 PM

I’m guessing you mean “they’re” instead of “there”.

Øbama is going to get clobbered in Nevada due to the Mormon vote. The same Mormons that lined up to vote for Harry Reid will line up for Romney this time out. Put Nevada in as a red state this year. I don’t care what any poll says. The same stupid pollsters that show Øbama doing “just fine” also had Sharon Angle up by 6 points the day before the ’10 election.

Mojave Mark on June 16, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Mormons never voted for Harry Reid – Angle won every Mormon heavy county, Esmeralda, White Pine, Lander, Elko – and they’re only 7% of the Nevada population. They already vote Republican by huge margins.

Romney will need to win Washoe, keep things more or less close in Clark and then run the table on the rurals.

He’ll need to win whites by 15 points at least and then lose Latinos by no more than 50 points.

joana on June 16, 2012 at 11:24 PM

I had a large percent (not quite half) of my Mormon colleagues vote for Reid. It made my brain explode but they did. I live in Clark county so maybe that explains it.

I just don’t see Nevada as a problem in ’12. Unemployment has sucked the energy out of the dhimmicrats here. Who in his right mind would vote for four more years of failure?

Mojave Mark on June 16, 2012 at 11:58 PM

I had a large percent (not quite half) of my Mormon colleagues vote for Reid. It made my brain explode but they did. I live in Clark county so maybe that explains it.

I just don’t see Nevada as a problem in ’12. Unemployment has sucked the energy out of the dhimmicrats here. Who in his right mind would vote for four more years of failure?

Mojave Mark on June 16, 2012 at 11:58 PM

I’d say the very large percentage of folks in Nevada who either work for local, state, or federal government or who work for private entities whose contracts are all almost entirely funded by government contracts; and thousands of folks in unions who work for casinos in Washoe and Clark counties. Those red numbers almost always destroy the blue rural votes, and explains why Reid is still plaguing this country with his moronity.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on June 17, 2012 at 12:21 AM

I had a large percent (not quite half) of my Mormon colleagues vote for Reid. It made my brain explode but they did. I live in Clark county so maybe that explains it.

I just don’t see Nevada as a problem in ’12. Unemployment has sucked the energy out of the dhimmicrats here. Who in his right mind would vote for four more years of failure?

Mojave Mark on June 16, 2012 at 11:58 PM

I’d say the very large percentage of folks in Nevada who either work for local, state, or federal government or who work for private entities whose contracts are all almost entirely funded by government contracts; and thousands of folks in unions who work for gambling houses in Washoe and Clark counties. Those red numbers almost always destroy the blue rural votes, and explains why Reid is still plaguing this country with his moronity.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on June 17, 2012 at 12:22 AM

Polls aside for a moment, I think you can find a way to argue that most (if not all) of those states Karl mentioned can become Romney states in the fall. But, with the economy the way it is, can anyone argue persuasively that Obama has a path to victory in a majority of them? If I were working for the President’s campaign I’d have a hard time even thinking he would win a plurality of those states.

Right now, it’s hard to think he’ll win more than a couple and, at this early stage of the election, I think that sense tells much about where the rough calculus stands.

MTF on June 17, 2012 at 12:55 AM

Not counting them before they’re hatched, but yea, Mitt by 5% in the popular vote.

Boogeyman on June 16, 2012 at 7:34 PM

That’s just the margin that I’ve been predicting as well. I don’t think that this election will be close at all. Mitt is just getting started and PBHO’s already out of ammo. He’s trying to circle the liberal wagons around gay issues, a phony war on women, illegals, potheads, etc. It ain’t helping him.

MJBrutus on June 17, 2012 at 6:13 AM

Wisconsin’s fate will turn on whether the photo ID law passed last year and significantly blocked by a couple of Dane County Lawgivers-In-Black will be restored by an appellate court before November. Though its blockage by said LIBs (one of whom signed a Recall Walker petition) was not effective in the statewide race, it, and the attendant voter fraud, allowed the Democrats to seize the Senate. Fortunately, there are exactly zero legislative days scheduled before January, and it is almost certain that the Republicans will regain control with at least a seat to spare.

Steve Eggleston on June 17, 2012 at 8:21 AM