The Convention Bounce Is Apparently Over, But Obama Still Leads
The President's poll lead has shrunk, but there are still signs of trouble for Mitt Romney.
Based on the most recent round of national polling, it appears that the clear and measurable bounce in the polls that President Obama received coming out of the Democratic National Convention has come to an end. We first started to see indications of this in the Gallup and Rasmussen Daily Tracking polls, both of which showed the gap between the candidates shrinking about to the one point range that it was in prior to the two party conventions. We also saw Obama’s lead shrinking in last week’s CBS/New York Times poll, where it was at three points and within the margin of error. There was, to be fair, a Fox News poll that came out shortly thereafter that gave the President a five point lead, but that was released at the same time that the tracking polls were showing the race tightening again. Today, though, there are a number of new polls out that seem to show the race tightening again, but with the President still retaining some distinct advantages over his challenger.
President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney stand about even among likely voters, with 47 percent backing Obama and 46 percent Romney. But there are sharp demographic divides driving each candidate’s support.
Women broadly back the president (55 percent for Obama vs. 39 percent for Romney) while men favor the GOP ticket (53 percent for Romney to 40 percent for Obama). The gender gap tightens some in the suburbs, where women tilt Obama by a narrower 51 percent to 45 percent margin, while suburban men favor Romney, 54 percent to 40 percent.
White voters without college degrees favor Romney by more than 30 points over Obama (63 percent back Romney compared with 30 percent behind Obama), a steeper split than the 18-point margin John McCain held over Obama among the group in 2008. White voters with college degrees are about evenly split (50 percent Obama to 48 percent Romney), about on par with 2008.
Younger voters are less apt to be likely voters than their elder counterparts, hinting at the turnout battle to come, but voters under age 45 remain solidly in Obama’s camp, 54 percent to 41 percent. Senior citizens, on the other hand, lean Romney, 52 percent to 41 percent for Obama.
Just 27 percent of likely voters say they are better off financially than they were four years ago, and only 35 percent say the country has improved in that time. In fact, most, 51 percent, say the nation’s economic situation has gotten worse since 2008. There is a sharp political divide on whether the economy has made gains in the last four years, with 63 percent of Democratic voters saying it’s gotten better while just 6 percent of Republicans say the same.
Those economic numbers are mixed for the President and slightly helpful for Romney, but the fact that the race is effectively tied despite the fact that half of likely voters say the condition of the nation’s economy has gotten worse since 2008 indicates that there’s a not insignificant number of people who think the economy has gotten worse but are still supporting the President. That’s not really good news for Mitt Romney since one would assume that these people would be a natural constituency for whomever happens to be challenging the incumbent President. It could be a sign of the up-tick in Obama’s numbers on the economy that we’ve seen since the beginning of the month, and that would be trouble for Romney if it’s a sustained trend.
Slightly better for the President is the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, which shows the President with a five point lead and, as we’ve already seen, gains for the President when it comes to the economy:
Buoyed by an upswing in economic optimism, President Barack Obama has strengthened his support among voters and is now rated as equal to Mitt Romney on which candidate can best improve the economy, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.
The survey gives the president his highest job approval since March, at 50%, and shows him leading Mr. Romney among likely voters, 50% to 45%, with two weeks before the campaign hits a major landmark with the first candidates’ debate.
The election snapshot comes as Mr. Obama tries to win reelection with the highest pre-election jobless rate since World War II, and with an estimated 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed.
The poll found Mr. Obama to be on a generally stronger footing than President George W. Bush had been in September, 2004, before Mr. Bush went on to win re-election in a close contest. Mr. Obama holds a wider lead over his rival than did Mr. Bush, and voters give him higher marks for handling foreign policy and the economy.
The poll also has good news for the President when it comes to the economy:
More voters now think the economy will improve over the next 12 months—42%—than at any time since late 2009. More than half said the economy is already recovering, the same share as in several surveys over the summer.
In the new survey, the president pulled even with his Republican rival on who voters think is better to fix the economy, after lagging behind Mr. Romney on that question in July.
Mr. Obama faces his own challenges. More than half the electorate says the country is on the wrong track. Voter approval of his handling of foreign policy dipped by 5 percentage points from August amid the unrest last week in the Middle East, while disapproval on that front rose by 6 points.
At the same time, Mr. Romney leads the president by 3 percentage points among voters who rate themselves highly interested in the race, an advantage that could make a difference in who casts ballots on Election Day.
The Romney campaign has hammered recently on the question of whether voters think they are better off now than they were four years ago. The poll found slightly more voters saying the country is worse off since Mr. Obama took office than say it is better off, 41% to 38%.
But in a stark illustration of the work Mr. Romney must still do to win, just 36% of voters said the former Massachusetts governor is better prepared than Mr. Obama to lead the country over the next four years. Nearly half said Mr. Obama was the better prepared of the two.
The one down note for the President is that his foreign policy numbers have slipped a bit likely in wake of the protests and deaths in the wake of protests in Muslim nations. The poll showed 49% of voters approving of the President’s job in this area while 46% disapprove. That’s a 5% drop in approve from last month, and a 6% increase in the President’s disapproval number. Nonetheless, the President still beats Romney on the question of who would be a better Commander in Chief by a 45% to 38% margin, so he still beats Romney in that area. Most likely, the drop in the President’s numbers here is due to the general confusion about what the heck is going on overseas right now. If things were to develop into a full-fledged crisis, I still believe that we’d see a “rally around the flag” effect that would inure to the President’s benefit.
For the most part, though, I think the President would be okay with this slight drop in the foreign policy numbers given that he’s also got a very healthy uptick in his economy numbers. Notwithstanding the questions that some on the right have raised over the demographic breakdown of this poll, that particular phenomenon we have seen repeated in several polls now, including today’s Associated Press poll, so one has to assume that this is now a verified trend and that the President is succeeding in taking away, at least to some extent, the advantage Mitt Romney had when it came to economic issues. If that continues to take place over the coming seven weeks, then it’s going to make Mitt Romney’s task of convincing voters that the President needs to be fired because of the state of the economy all that much harder.
With all the new polling, the President’s lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average has shrunk to +2.7, which isn’t as high as it was just a week ago but is still better than it was immediately prior to the convention. It’s also worth noting that, with the exception of some of the tracking poll data, none of these polls were taken after the release of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” tape earlier this week. How that will impact the race remains an unknown. So, the President is dipping slightly, but as the RCP chart shows, he’s still got a respectable lead over Romney and, more importantly, no indication yet of a sizable Romney surge:
Getting down to the state level, where it really matters, a new set of polls shows Obama with slight leads in three important swing states:
(CBS News) President Obama holds a narrow lead over Mitt Romney in the key swing states of Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado, according to a new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times survey.
Mr. Obama leads his GOP opponent 51 percent to 45 percent in Wisconsin, the home state of GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan. The president held a two-point lead in an August 23 Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times survey and nine points in an August 8 survey. Mr. Obama won the state by 14 points in 2008.
In Virginia, Mr. Obama leads Romney 50 percent to 46 percent, matching his four-point lead from August. Mr. Obama took the state by seven points four years ago, making him the first Democrat to carry it since 1964.
In Colorado, the survey found Mr. Obama holds a one-point lead, 48 percent to 47 percent. That’s within the survey’s three-point margin of error. In the August survey, Romney led the president by five points in Colorado.
These polls also show the same positive news for the President on economic issues that we’re seeing in the national polls:
The president has gained some ground on handling the economy since last month. In August, Romney had an advantage on this issue (including a 10-point lead on it Colorado), but the candidates are now running much closer. In Colorado, 48 percent of voters think Romney will handle the economy better compared to 47 percent for Mr. Obama. In Virginia and Wisconsin, Mr. Obama has a 49-47 percent and 49-46 percent edge respectively on the economy issue.
Amid the protests and violence in the Middle East, likely voters in all three of these battlegrounds see Mr. Obama as the candidate who would best handle an international crisis – 50-43 percent in Colorado, 53-42 percent in Virginia and 53-41 percent in Wisconsin. He also has an advantage over Romney in both Virginia and Wisconsin on national security and terrorism – 51-44 percent in Virginia and 50-43 percent in Wisconsin – and a two-point edge over Romney on the issue in Colorado, 48-46 percent. In last month’s Colorado poll, Romney beat the president on the issue of national security, 50 percent to 41 percent.
So, yes, the President’s lead in the polls coming out of the convention has receded to some degree, and perhaps we’ll see it recede a little bit more ahead of the debates, which start two weeks from today. When you dig down deeper into the polls, though, you see that there’s a very serious problem for Mitt Romney hear. His signature issue, the economy, seems to be slipping away from him, and if that continues he’s going to have a very tough 48 days ahead of him.