Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking poll now shows Obama leading Romney 46-45 percent. Five percent are still undecided while four percent prefer another candidate. Rasmussen notes that when “leaners” are included, Romney leads 48-47. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found similar results. President Obama led Mitt Romney 49-48 among likely voters in that poll. The outlier was the CNN/ORC poll in which 52 percent preferred Obama to Romney’s 46 percent.
In all cases the polls do not reflect the disturbing events of the past few days. On September 11, rioters stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo, an event which first prompted the Obama Administration to condemn “those who abuse the universal right of free speech” according to Politico. Yesterday, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Domestically, the September jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was disappointing even though the unemployment rate edged down slightly to 8.1 percent as many people stopped looking for work. The 96,000 jobs added in August were below the average for the year and below the number needed to account for population growth. The BLS also revised downward the job estimates for July.
The president may also be potentially embarrassed the teacher strike in Chicago, part of which he represented in the Illinois state senate. Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, is now the mayor of Chicago. The strike returns the issue of public employee unions to the forefront. The Chicago teachers are demanding pay raises even though Chicago Public Schools are currently operating at a $665 million deficit. If the raises are granted, the school system deficit would rise to $1 billion according to the Chicago Sun Times. Pay raises would likely mean that tax increases in a city that already has some of the highest taxes in the nation.
It was also revealed last week that the Department of Justice is suing Gallup, a prominent polling organization. According to the DOJ, the suit relates to whistleblower claims that Gallup overcharged the government for federal contracts. Critics point out that the federal government joined the suit after Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod criticized Gallup’s polling methodology in the wake of a poll unfavorable to Obama. Emails published by the Daily Caller suggest that Axelrod pressured Gallup to change its methodology.
The biggest problem for President Obama in the polls may be one that is totally unseen. In an article on The Hill, Dick Morris points out that pollsters are using a flawed sample. According to Morris, all pollsters are using models based on 2008 turnout. The problem is that the electorate has changed dramatically in the past four years.
For example, in Gallup’s party affiliation poll, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in November 2008 by a margin of 51-40 percent when leaners were included. Since then, however, Democratic Party identification has dropped precipitously. The most current poll shows the two parties almost tied at 49-46 percent favoring the Democrats. This is almost identical to the numbers in November 2010 (44-47 percent favoring Democrats) when the GOP won a landslide congressional victory.
Similarly, the demographic groups that propelled President Obama to power in 2008 do not support him nearly as strongly now. A Gallup poll from 2008 showed that 99 percent of black voters favored Obama. According to Examiner, it is likely that his support among blacks is now far lower due to high unemployment among blacks and the president’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage. Likewise, other polling data suggests that the president’s support among Latinos and young voters may be much lower than it was in 2008. While these groups still support the president, it is by smaller margins and with less enthusiasm than 2008.
In his Hill article, Morris also points out that voters favor the Republican idea that government should “leave me alone” over the Democratic idea that it should “lend me a hand” by a margin of 54 to 35 percent. Most also believe that the country is worse off today than in 2008. Together with President Obama’s low job approval rating, which was recently as low as 29 percent among independents according to Rasmussen, these factors indicate trouble for the president that is not accurately reflected in the polls.