A different look at swing state polling
posted at 12:13 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.”