The bad news? Pew's partisan split is R+1 (R+3 among likelies), which seems a few shades too optimistic for the GOP. The good news? The media suddenly cares about partisan breakdowns in public opinion surveys. After weeks of mocking conservatives as tinfoil-hat-wearing paranoiacs for wondering if polls with D+8 samples were all that predictive in the 2012 cycle, every member of the Beltway smart set -- from NBC to WaPo -- is eager to share an opinion about the likelihood of a partisan over-samples. The difference? Back then, it made Obama look stronger than he actually was. Totally cool. Now? Romney's benefiting, so it's time to educate the public about the quirks of polling. Isn't bias fun? Welcome to the "conspiracy," guys. To be fair, though, I think R+3 is overstating things a bit. Even the best Republican years (2004, 2010) have resulted in R+0 breakdowns -- which, incidentally, was the split in Pew's registered voters pool, resulting in a 46-46 tie. All that being said, this is mighty fun:
Mitt Romney no longer trails Barack Obama in the Pew Research Center’s presidential election polling. By about three-to-one, voters say Romney did a better job than Obama in the Oct. 3 debate, and the Republican is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September. Romney is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit. Fully 66% of registered voters say Romney did the better job in last Wednesday’s debate, compared with just 20% who say Obama did better. A majority (64%) of voters who watched the debate describe it as mostly informative; just 26% say it was mostly confusing. In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month.
Let's look a little deeper. Pew, which has consistently been one of the least Republican-friendly polls this cycle, asked respondents the following questions. I've duplicated the results below, noting shifts from the last survey where applicable:
Which candidate has new ideas? Romney 47- Obama 40
Which candidate is the strong leader? Romney 44-Obama 44 (R+13).
Which candidate is willing to work with leaders of the opposing party? Obama 45 - Romney 42 (R+14)
Romney now leads on the deficit by 15 points, jobs by eight, taxes by eight, and the role of government by four. He's also fought to a virtual draw on Medicare and foreign policy. The former governor's personal favorability rating has spiked to match Obama's, as Romney has helped himself immensely among younger voters and women. The Republican has also pulled even on helping the middle class, jumping ahead with independent voters (unaffected by the partisan split) by four points. But we're reminded that presidential elections are won with electoral votes, so it's the states that really matter. True enough. Last we checked, Romney had battled to ties or leads in Florida and Virginia, while looking quite competitive in Ohio. Then we had those statistical dead heats in Colorado and Iowa (anecdotally, I've heard Colorado is looking better than ever for Romney). But what about, er, Michigan and Pennsylvania? These were supposed to be uncompetitive must-wins for The One, but three new polls indicate that Democrats may find things too close for comfort in the Midwest:
Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s strong performance in his first debate with President Barack Obama helped him trim Obama’s lead in Michigan to three percentage points, a poll released today to the Free Press shows. Obama’s 10 percentage point lead (47%-37%) in a poll conducted last month by EPIC-MRA of Lansing dropped to 3 points (48% to 45%), according to the poll of 600 likely voters conducted by EPIC-MRA of Lansing. The gap between Romney and Obama was within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Undecided voters shrank from the September survey’s 16% to just 7%.
Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney by a 2 point margin, identical to his lead in late September according to Susquehanna Polling and Research. But the Republican’s debate performance contributed to a 6 point jump in his favorability rating. In a poll conducted just after the first presidential debate, from Oct. 4 to 6, 47 percent of respondents said they support Obama; 45 percent support Romney. 3 percent support Libertarian Gary Johnson. When the undecided voters leaning towards a candidate are factored in (breaking 3:1 for Romney), the race narrows to a 1-point Obama lead, 47 percent to 46.
This is the same pollster that found a close race when surveying Pennsylvania voters on behalf of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last month. I expressed by skepticism about those results at the time, but I also pointed to the polling director's explanation of his assumptions, methods and models, which were pretty compelling. Ditto here. Last but not least, Democrat/SEIU/DailyKos' PPP poll finds the race virtually deadlocked in Wisconsin, another state where Team Obama didn't expect it would need ot play, having romped there four years ago. Factoring in the latest numbers from Pew (skewed toward Republicans), Politico (skewed toward Democrats) and the daily trackers, it's clear that this race is again extremely close -- with some real movement toward the GOP ticket. As I wrote yesterday, the big mystery is whether this represents a transitory bounce or a real shift in the dynamics of the race. One non-mystery is that rumors (often breathlessly and wishfully advanced by the media) of Mitt Romney's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Game on.
UPDATE - Another poll showing a dead heat in Ohio:
Two encouraging notes: The incumbent sits at 45 percent with less than a month to go until the election. That's a major danger zone. Also, I'd wager that many of the the eight percent of "undecided" voters are likely leaning away from Obama. I base that assumption on recent statistical/demographic profiles of undecides both nationally and in Ohio.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography