WaPo/ABC poll shows Romney favorability plateaued, Obama dropping among registered voters

Today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll gives a little bit of good news to Barack Obama — and therefore some bad news for Mitt Romney.  In an advance look at the overall poll results, Obama leads Romney on favorability.  However, the gap narrows when the poll reports only from registered voters, which the Post and ABC fail to mention:

Although 40 percent of voters now say they hold a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor — virtually unchanged from May — those holding negative views of him ticked higher in the new survey, from 45 percent to 49 percent.

Meanwhile, President Obama remained in positive territory on that measure, with 53 percent of voters reporting favorable opinions of him. Only 43 percent say they feel unfavorably toward him.

To find the favorability gap among registered voters, one has to look at the report from the pollster, provided by ABC News.  Among RVs, Obama leads in favorability 49/42.  That represents a tie for the Obama low in this poll for 2012 (also 49% in February), while Romney’s 42% is the second-highest report for him since the primaries started in January.  Dropping three points in a month isn’t exactly great news for Romney, but it’s also not as bad as Obama’s drift as an incumbent — especially an incumbent who has spent well into nine figures this spring and summer trying to destroy Romney’s credibility through harshly negative advertising.

Of course, we have a lot of problems in the WaPo/ABC poll series with sampling. In these advance results reports, the sampling data is not usually included, and today’s report is no exception.  We can’t evaluate these results fully until we determine how well the modeling of the sample data matches that of the electorate in 2012.  That doesn’t mean that the information is entirely useless, however, especially within party-affiliation demographics.  Those results are a mixed bag for both candidates, too:

INDEPENDENTS – Obama’s gained back ground he’d lost among independents, customarily swing voters in national elections. In late May he fell numerically underwater among independents for the first time since December (45-52 percent favorable-unfavorable). He’s now back far in front of Romney in this group, largely because of gains among independent women.

Among all independents, Obama’s favorability rating is now 16 points higher than Romney’s (53 percent vs. 37 percent). At the same time, that narrows among independents who are registered to vote – 46 percent favorable for Obama, 38 percent for Romney – indicating, among other factors, the potential importance of voter registration drives in the few months ahead.

That’s an eight-point swing among independents between general-population adults and registered voters — which sounds a little odd to me.  I’d expect to see some difference, but eight points is pretty large.  Still, this isn’t good news for Romney, who needs to beat Obama’s seven-point win in 2008 among unaffiliated voters.

However, Romney has some good news on the Republican-unity front:

Among partisans, Romney’s caught up with Obama in popularity within his own party; 83 percent of Republicans rate Romney positively, as do 84 percent of Democrats for Obama. That’s Romney’s best-ever rating with the party faithful, up 25 points since mid-March.

Romney’s rated favorably by fewer conservatives, 65 percent, though this, too, is a new high.

That’s not a bad development, nor is Romney in desperate straits as we roll toward the conventions.  Team Obama still hasn’t scored a knockout, and they’re three weeks away from getting seriously outpunched in the general election.  Having an incumbent at 49% favorability among registered voters suggest that it’s probably lower among likely voters — and both are bad numbers for the candidate looking for re-election.

Update: Yes, I meant to say three weeks – or to be very precise, three weeks and two days.  Romney can start spending general-election cash once he accepts the nomination at the convention, and that is the official start of the general election.