A new poll from Public Policy Polling (D) shows that while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is sewing up the Republican nomination, the process is dragging him down in key swing states — PPP numbers from Ohio show that a 56 percent majority of general election voters now view Romney unfavorably, which leads to a seven point deficit in a matchup with President Obama.
Obama leads Romney 49 - 42 in the new Ohio poll, a state where the political ground has shifted greatly over the last few months. After the massive defeat of SB 5, the anti-union legislation pushed by state Republicans, Obama has seen a major turnaround in his numbers on the ground.
Back in October, PPP’s President Dean Debnam said that were the election to have been held then, Obama would have lost. PPP’s analysis at the time suggested it would be hard to see more support coming to the president as the election got closer. The SB 5 vote moved the state back toward Obama in PPP’s November poll, resulting in a nine point lead, and it seems that trend is continuing into the new year.
“The race in Ohio is going to get closer because there are so many more undecided Republicans than Democrats,” PPP pollster Tom Jensen wrote in a email to TPM. “But it does look like Obama’s chances at matching his 3-4 point victory in the state from 2008 are pretty good right now. John Kasich [Ohio’s Gov. and chief proponent of SB 5] has really hurt the Republican brand in the state and the economy’s getting better. Romney’s not popular enough to overcome those two factors if they persist through November.”
Obama’s approval in Ohio is now locked at a near majority of 48, while Romney has run into problems with general election voters there. Besides the negative 28 - 56 split on Romney’s favorability, fellow Republicans view him positively by a mere seven point margin, and independent voters are well down at 30 - 53.
Obama wins independent voters by five points, and while Republicans aren’t ready to completely support Romney just yet, he takes eighty percent of them in general election matchup. That’s expected during a contested primary, as PPP’s polling of the Republican field in Ohio actually showed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with a one point lead in a GOP trial heat, so Republican support would likely climb should Romney become of the nominee.
It’s also worth noting that other pollsters, like Quinnipiac University, don’t see the same extreme negative split on favorability as PPP does, showing it about even. “It’s partly because the Quinnipiac Poll is old and Romney’s favorability numbers have worsened in most polling since then,” Jensen wrote. “But we also tend to show higher unfavorability numbers for politicians on both sides of the aisle than live interview pollsters. People are just more willing to tell us that they don’t like people.”
There’s room for growth for Obama as well. He gets about 77 percent of the African-American vote in Ohio in the current PPP poll, far from the 97 percent of the black vote he saw in 2008 exit polls from CNN.
Clearly if voting blocs on either side start moving to their traditional positions within this most crucial of swing states, things will get tighter. But Obama’s fortunes in the state have improved since the depths of last summer, and the post-SB 5 picture in Ohio looks increasingly challenging for Republicans.
The PPP poll used 820 automated interviews with Ohio voters conducted January 29th and 30th. It has a sampling error of 3.4 percent.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.