Let's face it: Reuters polls have been implausibly kind to President Obama over the last few months. Their March poll's partisan sample was so absurd (D+12) that I wrote an entire post critiquing it, and their top line number last month showed the president leading Mitt Romney by seven points overall -- when most other surveys showed the race within a point or two. Today? The race is a virtual tie, with The One clinging to a statistically insignificant one-point lead:
President Barack Obama's approval ratings have dipped to their lowest level since January on deep economic worries, wiping out most of his lead in the White House race over Republican rival Mitt Romney, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. The percentage of Americans who approve of Obama's job performance dropped from 50 a month ago to 47, matching his mark in early January. The number who think the country is on the wrong track rose 6 percentage points in a month to 63 percent. The doubts about Obama's leadership helped Romney pull to within 1 point of the Democratic president in the White House race - 45 percent to 44 percent - among registered voters with less than five months to go before the November 6 election. Obama led by 7 points a month ago. The poll was mostly taken after Obama suffered several recent campaign setbacks, including a weak jobs report in May and an optimistic comment on the good health of the private sector that critics say showed he was out of touch.
The good news for Republicans is that Obama's sizable lead has evaporated, thanks to increased doubts about Obama's leadership. The bad news is that even after a two brutal weeks of bad headlines and Obama missteps, the race is still tied. How is this possible? Let's look at the poll's partisan sample. Though not quite as egregious as their breakdown in March, this Reuters/Ipsos survey relies on a D+9 sample -- at 47 D / 38 R /15 I (note: that's the sample of all adults, not registered voters). By comparison, the 2008 election was a historic high water mark for Democrats, and Obama won by less than seven points. In 2010, the electorate was split evenly between the two parties, at 35 percent apiece. Therefore, a nine-point Democrat sample advantage for the 2012 race is...not especially predictive, to be kind. In other words, despite a very stacked deck in his favor, Obama's ceiling is a tie at this stage in the race, with his job approval underwater. Much can and will change in the next five months, but this snapshot in time is rather inauspicious for the White House. Speaking of snapshots, Breitbart's John Nolte mines a few more troubling data points for Team Obama, suggesting that elements of Obama's 2008 coalition may be fraying. From a poll of New Yorkers:
The poll, conducted by Siena College, finds that currently President Obama has the support of 51 percent of Jewish voters, while 43 percent are opposed to him. Five percent are undecided. That means, Obama's lead among Jewish voters is at 8 percentage points.
And North Carolina:
The poll finds that Mitt Romney would get 20 percent of the African-American vote if the election were held today, compared with 76 percent for Obama. Overall, Romney has a 48 percent to 46 percent lead on Obama in the crucial swing state. Obama received 95 percent of the support from African-Americans in North Carolina in the 2008 election, compared with just 5 percent for Republican nominee John McCain.
Those numbers are from PPP, a Democrat-aligned firm. Incidentally does anyone believe that if Romney peels off 20 percent of the black vote in North Carolina, he'll only win the state by two points? Me neither. Oh, then there's this:
Gallup found that union member support for the president is weaker than it was on Election Day. While Obama took 67 of the union vote, according to 2008 election night polling by Peter Hart for the AFL-CIO, Gallup discovered that just 58 percent of union members back the president now. Some 35 percent support Mitt Romney, 5 percent more than Sen. John McCain won in 2008.That poll was taken after the Wisconsin recall.
Whites' support for Obama in 2008 differed significantly by age, with young voters the most supportive and seniors the least supportive. That basic pattern continues today, although Obama's support has dropped more among young voters than among seniors, thus narrowing the overall generation gap. Currently, 43% of white 18- to 29-year-olds say they plan to vote for Obama in the election, down nine points from the 52% backing him in 2008. By contrast, Obama has lost five points among whites aged 30 to 49 and six points each among the two older age groups.
The president is struggling (relatively and otherwise) among pockets of black voters, Jewish voters, union voters and youth voters five months out from the general election. Rest assured that most of his base will come around by November, but his margin for peel-off may be very slim come election day. The long-accepted conventional wisdom that Obama will waltz to re-election seems rather outmoded now, doesn't it?
UPDATE - Jay Cost has more in a very sharp analysis. Read it.