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Approval Polls Aren’t Election Polls

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Barack Obama (Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages)

Barack Obama (Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Gallup’s approval polls for President Obama this week are getting some press since he is still scoring south of 50% as we approach the election. Some Republicans are making claims that this is a sign that he is getting weaker as a candidate seeking re-election and that Mitt Romney is in the catbird seat.

However, before folks who would like to see President Obama only serve one term get too excited, it should be noted that approval ratings do not equate to election polling.

It’s easy to assume that an approval rating less than 50% would give Mitt Romney a significant advantage; however the two are not as related as they may seem.

It’s one thing to not approve of a person’s job performance, but it’s an entirely different situation to want a brand new person to replace them.

That’s why approval ratings can be so misleading during an election campaign. They make much more sense during a non-election part of a term, but during an election, the results infer something that really isn’t there.

But regardless of how much real bearing the approval ratings have on an election, the results will still make headlines because frankly, polls of all sorts make headlines during an election campaign.

While still not completely translating to an election poll, the Gallup job approval rating does point to some interesting issues for President Obama to address, namely in swing states.

Gallup broke out the daily averages from January through June of 2012 for each state. Some results by state were fairly predictable with major support coming from the Northeast and very little approval in states like Utah and Wyoming.

But approval rates in some swing states, including Colorado, were only in the low 40’s. Again, this doesn’t translate straight across to supporting Mitt Romney, and the polls were taken through the first half of the year. However, low approval ratings in key swing states will likely trigger the Obama campaign to want to attack Romney more than defend the President’s record.

The very items that President Obama’s ads will brag about in the east may not play nearly as well in states like Colorado. Instead of trying to restate the President’s case, it will be easier to make his opponent look worse.

So while not translating in the basic way some folks may think, approval polls may show voters where campaign strategy is headed. And for Colorado, it is likely headed in a fairly negative direction.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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