SurveyUSA poll shows virtual tie in Ohio

The topline results from SurveyUSA’s poll in Ohio earlier this week might at first blush look like good news for Barack Obama.  After all, he still leads Mitt Romney, if by a single point, in a state that Republicans almost certainly have to win to deny Obama a second term. However, the poll taken in the three days after Obama’s debate flop only shows him with 45% support, in a sample that has a significant Democratic advantage:

In an election for Ohio’s 18 vital electoral votes today, 10/09/12, one week after Buckeye voting began and 4 weeks till votes are counted, Barack Obama is at 45% to Mitt Romney’s 44%, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted for WCMH-TV, NBC4 in Columbus. Obama’s advantage is within the survey’s possible sources of error and may or may not be significant.

It’s a dead heat, or at least it was earlier this week.  But an incumbent at 45% with four weeks to go in an election is in deep trouble, especially when the sample has a D+6 advantage.  The D/R/I on this poll is 39/33/25, which is defensible, but only if one thinks that the turnout model will come close to 2008’s 39/31/30.  The turnout in Ohio two years ago was 36/37/28 for an R+1, and there isn’t much evidence to declare that Democratic enthusiasm has returned to Ohio.

In fact, as SurveyUSA breaks down the figures themselves, the opposite seems true:

“Optimistic” Ohio voters back Obama 4:1. “Worried” Ohio voters back Romney 2:1. “Angry” Ohio voters back Romney 3:1.
Romney leads among voters who are married. Obama leads among voters who are single, divorced or widowed. …
Ohio voters, narrowly, say Romney would do a better job balancing the federal budget.
Ohio voters split on who would do better at keeping America safe.
Ohio voters say Obama is more in touch with the average person.

The key in Ohio will almost certainly be independent voters, and they break sharply toward Romney.  He leads 44/35, with 12% still undecided and 9% claiming to vote for “other.”  That means that Obama has to make up nine points and get out of the mid-30s in less than 28 days among a group that he won in 2008 by eight points, 52/44.  In other words, Romney has already matched the level of John McCain with Ohio independents, but Obama is seventeen points below his 2008 pace.

Can Obama make it up among “optimistic” voters?  That’s unlikely.  Only 36% of all likely voters surveyed consider themselves “optimistic,” while 60% consider themselves either “worried and concerned” or “frustrated and angry.”  Among independents, that’s a 28/69 split.

Finally, let’s look at the gender gap.  In 2008, Obama won the gender gap in Ohio over McCain by eleven points — three among men and eight among women.  In this SUSA poll, Obama has a +4 in the gender gap, as Romney leads by seven among men and Obama leads by 11 among women.  He only gets to 40% among men, though, and since only 35% of men consider themselves “optimistic,” he’s probably near his ceiling.

An incumbent who can’t get out of the mid-40s overall, or even into the 40s among independent voters, with four weeks to go is not on track for a win.  Romney has a big opening here to close the deal in the Buckeye State.

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