Morning Jay: A Primer on the 2012 Polls
6:00 AM, Mar 18, 2011 • By JAY COST
This is not "bad news" for Pawlenty whatsoever. When a candidate's name recognition is so low (less than half of voters have an opinion), it's often the case that just the core partisans are registering any opinion at all. And, sure enough, Pawlenty's under-water numbers are largely due to the fact that, for whatever reason, more Democrats given an opinion on him (55%) than Republicans (39%) or Independents (48%).
With this in mind, reconsider the second quoted paragraph. Pawlenty is losing among voters who have an opinion about him because they are largely Democrats at this point. How PPP can look at this data and suggest that the numbers don't "bode well for Pawlenty" is beyond me. Especially when later on, PPP comments:
Then how can they draw any inferences about where Pawlenty stands as a candidate?
All in all, this should serve as a good example of why we need to be careful in how we digest the polling information we're fed.
(3) The number to watch on Obama is his "deserve reelection" number. Later on in the cycle, when the primary campaign heats up and voters are paying at least a little bit of attention, the head-to-head matchups (e.g. Obama v. Romney, Obama v. Daniels) will give us an early sense of which Republican nominee will perform the strongest. But those head to head numbers are not worth very much yet; right now, they're mostly based on partisan affiliations and whatever spare bits and pieces of information Independent voters have put together about the various Republican nominees. Going back to that PPP poll, this should help explain why Romney does better against Obama (42-47) than Pawlenty does (33-47). It's not necessarily that Romney is the stronger candidate, but that he is better known (and, on that point, note that Obama's numbers are the same in both polls).
Right now, the metric to monitor is "Does Obama deserve reelection?" Here's Republican pollster David Hill on that one:
Exactly. And, given the dearth of polling on this question, the best proxy is probably Obama's job approval rating. If you don't think the president is doing a good job, you probably don't think he deserves reelection (although you might still have an open mind about it).
As of this writing, Obama's job approval rating in the RCP average is at 48.9 percent, and it has been under 50 percent for most of the last 18 months. That's not good for the president.
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