From swing state to firewall?
A new poll of Virginia shows President Obama opening up an 8-point lead in the state, after two polls earlier in April showed likely Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with small leads. Now the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Obama with a 51 percent to 43 percent lead over Romney, as the numbers reveal a large gender gap among women and a GOP base not yet rallying behind the presumptive nominee.
Below the top-line results, President Obama’s approval rating has improved slightly in PPP’s last poll of the state, taken in December. Obama’s rating now stands at 50 percent to 46 percent, up from the previous 48 percent to 47 percent split. Romney has improved as well, as 38 percent of Virginia registered voters now see his favorably, against 52 percent who see him in a negative light, up from this December rating of 33 percent to 52 percent.
Beyond that, the two numbers that jump out are the split among women voters and how those Virginians who voted for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the 2008 presidential election. Obama and Romney split men evenly, but the president sees 55 percent support from women, while Romney only gets 38 percent. The split seems to be a result of the nationwide gender gap that appeared clearly in polling after the Obama administration instituted new federal rules requiring health insurers to provide contraception to women free of charge. Republicans fought back against the rules, claiming they violated religious freedom by requiring insurers like the Catholic Church to provide something that went against its religious tenets.
As TPM has reported, the focus on social issues may have soured GOP-leaning and independent women on Republicans (at least temporarily) in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, leading to an even more pronounced gap among women voters.
But there also seems to be a base issue as well. Among the Virginia voters who went for President Obama last time around, only 6 percent defected to Romney, with an additional 3 percent still undecided. But among those who went for McCain last time around, 12 percent now say they will vote for Obama. That goes along with a slight problem with Republican voters generally — 20 percent of those GOPers polled said they have an unfavorable view of the former governor, some possible residue from the extended Republican primary fight.
The PPP poll of Virginia used 680 automatic dial interviews with registered voters, conducted April 26-29. The sampling error is 3.8 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.