During last year's elections, when polls were showing things headed south for many Democrats in key battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, they also included warning signs for President Obama and his reelection chances in 2012.
In a new set of polls, Obama's numbers in those two swing states, which were looking troublesome last summer, have improved, just as his standings in national polls have risen recently. However, that rebound does not return him to the point where it could be said he has regained the kind of strength he had in 2008.
Surveys this month and last by Quinnipiac University show Obama with his most positive marks in Pennsylvania since July 2009 and improved numbers in the key swing state of Ohio. However, his job approval numbers remain stuck just below 50 percent in the pivotal state of Florida, and voters there are divided on whether he deserves reelection.
One of the key elements in last year's drop in support for Obama and the Democrats was the defection of independents, who had been strongly in their corner in 2008. The Quinnipiac polls produced mixed results for Obama on this front with his support among independents picking up in Pennsylvania, but not showing improvement in Ohio and Florida.
Here's a round-up of the trends in the three states:
When Quinnipiac polled the state
last July, independents disapproved of the job Obama was doing by a 53 percent to 40 percent margin with 8 percent undecided, (the numbers are rounded up). When Obama carried the state by 54 percent to 44 percent in 2008, exit polls showed independents were behind him by 58 percent to 39 percent, with 3 percent not disclosing their preferences.
Obama's poor showing in the July poll prompted Quinnipiac to say at the time, "When a politician's approval rating is down 13 points among independent voters, that is generally a sign of political vulnerability." Voters overall said by a 6 point margin that Obama didn't deserve a second term which, Quinnipiac said, "also should make the White House nervous, especially since Pennsylvania has not voted Republican for president since 1988."
Things look better for Obama in the latest Quinnipiac survey
, conducted Feb. 8-14. Fifty-one percent approve of the job he is doing compared to 44 percent who do not, with 5 percent undecided. That's his highest mark since July 2009 when the percentage of those who approved stood at 56 percent.
The improvement was driven by a turnaround among independents who approved of his performance by a 50 percent to 46 percent margin, with 4 percent undecided, compared to last December
when 42 percent disapproved and 41 percent approved, with 17 percent undecided. Women in particular gave Obama high marks in the new poll, approving of his performance by a 55 percent to 39 percent margin, with 5 percent undecided, while men are roughly split in their view of him.
That does not mean Obama has entirely regained his appeal. Forty-five percent say they would vote for him over a Republican in 2012 compared to 39 percent who would not, while 11 percent say it depends on who his challenger is and 5 percent are undecided. Putting aside whether they would support Obama or a Republican, voters say he deserves reelection by a narrower 48 percent to 45 percent margin, with 8 percent undecided.
Voters also don't like where Obama stands on two key issues. By 52 percent to 40 percent, they say the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan, and by 48 percent to 42 percent they believe health care reform should be repealed.
Support for his Afghanistan policy comes mostly from Republicans -- 55 percent believe the U.S. is doing the right thing by being in Afghanistan while 61 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents do not. Eighty-one percent of Republicans want health care reform repealed compared to 69 percent of Democrats who want to let the law stand. (Twenty-two percent of Democrats favor repeal). Independents favor repeal by 47 percent to 40 percent, with 13 percent undecided.
Ohio, with its 20 electoral votes, has always been in the top tier of bellwether states-to-watch in presidential elections, given that you have to go back to 1960 -- when Richard Nixon carried it in his losing race against John F. Kennedy -- for the last time it failed to support the winner.
And most of those races have been close if you subtract the blow-out elections when Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon swamped George McGovern, Ronald Reagan trumped Jimmy Carter and then Walter Mondale, and George H.W. Bush dispatched Michael Dukakis.
Obama won Ohio in 2008 by 51 percent to 47 percent. Quinnipiac's poll last June
showed 49 percent of voters disapproving of Obama's performance compared to 45 percent who gave him positive marks, with 6 percent undecided. Independents disapproved of his performance by a 53 percent to 40 percent margin, with 7 percent undecided.
Quinnipiac said of that poll: "Given Ohio's key position in the Electoral College, the White House needs to keep a sharp eye on the president's numbers in the Buckeye State. They aren't awful, but they aren't good either."
The latest Quinnipiac poll
, conducted Jan. 12-17, finds that 49 percent approve of the job Obama is doing while 46 percent do not, with 5 percent undecided, an improvement from last June
when 49 percent disapproved and 45 percent approved with 6 percent undecided. However, unlike Pennsylvania, Obama's numbers were on the wrong side of the ledger with independents who disapproved of his performance by a 53 percent to 41 percent margin, with 6 percent undecided.
Forty-four percent of voters overall said they'd back Obama over a Republican if the 2012 election were held today while 39 percent would not, with 11 percent saying it would depend on who his opponent was and 6 percent were undecided.
Independents said they'd vote against him by a 41 percent to 34 percent margin, with 15 percent hedging their bets based on who the challenger was and 9 percent undecided. (Exit polls from the 2008 election in the state showed independents supported Obama by a 52 percent to 44 percent margin, with 4 percent not saying who they backed).
Forty-eight percent of voters overall believe Obama deserves to be reelected while 44 percent do not, with 8 percent undecided. Fifty-one percent of independents don't believe he deserves reelection while 40 percent say he does, with 9 percent undecided. Like Pennsylvania, Obama gets stronger support from women than he does from men, but by not as big a margin.
Quinnipiac's poll last October
found that 56 percent of voters disapproved of the job Obama was doing compared to 40 percent who approved, with 3 percent undecided. The pollster said that poor showing was a factor in dragging down Democrat Alex Sink's ultimately unsuccessful campaign for governor. "The president's low ratings, especially among independents who are likely to decide the governor's race, are a problem for Sink's campaign," Quinnipiac said at the time. "It's a fair bet that if the president had a 56-40 percent approval rating, instead of the opposite, Sink probably would be ahead."
Obama, who carried Florida in 2008 by a narrow 51 percent to 48 percent margin, gets negative marks for his performance in a Quinnipiac survey
conducted Jan. 25-31, although the result is within the poll's 2.9 point margin of error. Forty-nine percent disapprove of the job Obama is doing while 47 percent approve, with 4 percent undecided.
Forty-two percent said they'd vote for the Republican if the 2012 election were held today while 40 percent would back Obama. Twelve percent said it depended on who the Republican was and 6 percent were undecided. Forty-eight percent said Obama doesn't deserve reelection while 45 percent said he did, with 8 percent were undecided.
Independents were almost evenly divided on the question of Obama's performance and his 2012 chances.
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