Pew poll puts Obama approval at 50/41

I’ll give Pew this much credit — they did a better job of sampling in their latest poll than Reuters.  That’s a bit like saying  that Scary Movie 4 was a better film than Battlefield Earth, however.  Pew finds that Barack Obama’s job approval has bounced back up to 50/41, but it took a sample that underrepresented Republican voters to get there:

Mitt Romney has retaken a significant lead nationally in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, even as he has fallen further behind Barack Obama in a general election matchup. Moreover, Obama’s own job approval rating has reached 50% for the first time since last May, shortly after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 7-11 among 1,503 adults, including 1,188 registered voters and 538 Republican and Republican-leaning voters, finds that Romney leads Rick Santorum, 33% to 24%, in the GOP nomination contest. A month ago, the two men were in a virtual tie (28% Romney, 30% Santorum).

That sounds like it sampled Republicans fairly, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.  Pew found that Obama leads Romney 54/32 and Santorum 57/39, which is way outside the RCP average gap for Romney as well as Santorum.  Pew also says that Obama’s standing has improved markedly, despite recent polling indicating otherwise:

The poll includes other positive signs for Obama, as well some potential vulnerabilities. For the first time since last May, significantly more approve (50%) than disapprove (41%) of his overall job performance. That is little changed from a month ago (47% approve, 43% disapprove), but in January 44% approved of the way Obama is handling his job as president, while 48% disapproved.

Obama’s approval rating for handling the economy also has improved over the past several months. Currently, 43% approve of his handling of the economy, while 53% disapprove. In November, 35% gave him positive marks on the economy and 58% disapproved.

How did Pew manage to find this?  Scroll down to page 38 to get to the sample composition.  The overall sample totaled 1503 adults, of which 27.4% were Republicans, and 34.5% were Democrats.  Among the 1188 registered voters, the sample has a D/R/I of 37/30/30.  The 2008 exit polls showed a D/R/I of 39/32/29, and the 2010 election 35/35/30.  Are we to believe that Republicans will comprise a lower percentage of the vote in 2012 than in 2008?  Really?

Furthermore, Pew doesn’t mention that it switches from registered voters to general-population adults when it produces the presidential approval ratings.  One only discovers that by drilling down to page 42 of the report, where the total number of voters is 1503, not 1188.  That group only has 27.4% Republicans, and it’s also the least predictive sampling type available.  They do actually calculate this among the registered-voter sample, which produces a slightly different 51/43 rating, one which would have made the same point — perhaps even more strongly — while not pulling a bit of a bait-and-switch on readers.

So far, the Pew results are all outliers compared to the rest of the polls coming out this week, and its own methodology strongly suggests the reason why.

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