Polls: Obama's Winning! Or Maybe Not!

Posted: Apr 17, 2012 9:42 AM

An obligatory follow-up to last night's post on Gallup's tracking numbers: Within hours of that Romney-friendly poll making headlines, CNN put out its own survey showing The One up by nine points.  No partisan sample breakdown was made available to the public, though, and Allahpundit unearths a few red flags (fourteen percent of self-identified Tea Partiers are leaning towards Obama, CNN?  Really?)  But wait!  Here comes Rasmussen, chasing its eye-opening Congressional ballot tracker with an encore survey showing Mitt Romney leading the president by three points.  Republicans rejoice again.  Until...an even newer Reuters poll had Obama ahead by four, down from the double-digit lead he supposedly held a few weeks ago.  All of this is to say that trading polls in April is a pretty useless exercise.  Here are two historical notes worth paying attention to at this early stage: 

The bad news for Republicans -- Mitt Romney begins the general election cycle as the least favorably viewed major party (presumptive) nominee in 28 years of ABC News/Washington Post polling.  He's underwater by 12 points on the question:

Mitt Romney has emerged from the Republican primary season with the weakest favorability rating on record for a presumptive presidential nominee in ABC News/Washington Post polls since 1984, trailing a resurgent Barack Obama in personal popularity by 21 percentage points. Thirty-five percent of Americans see Romney favorably, while 47 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor. He's the first likely nominee to be underwater -- seen more unfavorably than favorably -- in ABC/Post polls in eight presidential primary seasons over the past 28 years.

The good news for Republicans -- Despite Romney's apparent likeability gap, President Obama is making some dubious polling history of his own:

Incumbents always start out ahead — until now. For some reason they omit 1984, but Conn Carroll has that number: Reagan led Mondale by fully 13 points in April that year. Not since Gerald Ford has a sitting president actually trailed his presumptive opponent six-plus months before the election.

If you like nasty, negative elections, you're going to adore 2012.

UPDATE - Based on sample clues and simple math, Ed Morrissey thinks CNN's pollster has some explainin' to do.

UPDATE II - Gallup's Tuesday daily tracker shows Romney ahead by 5 points, 48-43.  Yes, this number will update every single day until the election.  Helpful for aggregate trends, perhaps, but fairly useless until Septemberish.