U.S. Jobless Numbers Dragging Obama Down in Florida
Romney beats president in hypothetical match-up as independents swing toward GOP
Around the State
A slipping economy has Floridians moving away from President Barack Obama and warming up to Republican Mitt Romney, a Sunshine State News Poll shows.
The survey of 1,000 likely voters shows that 54 percent disapprove of the job Obama is doing while just 38 percent approve. That result tracks with Florida voters' sour view of the economy, with 56 percent saying it has worsened in the past year.
"Clearly, the bleak economic landscape is not good news for Obama. This is quite sobering when you consider that the recession technically ended in summer of 2009, which really shows that people don’t believe we are out of the woods by any stretch," said Jim Lee, president of Harrisburg, Pa.-based Voter Survey Service, which conducted the poll for Sunshine State News.
Today's numbers may be even worse for Obama, considering that the July 5-7 survey concluded a day before the latest jobless figures were released last Friday. The national unemployment rate rose again to 9.2 percent as the economy added just 18,000 jobs in June.
"Obama’s negative job approval shows there is a major opening for the GOP to win the state in 2012, particularly when you consider that Obama only won by a close 51-48 margin last time," Lee said. "No president since FDR has won re-election when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent."
Economists calculate that the economy would have to add a whopping 250,000 jobs every month for the next year to drive the unemployment rate below 7.5 percent.
Lee said the numbers are working in Romney's favor.
"Romney is clearly running as the 'most qualified' candidate to get the economy back on track, while candidates like Michele Bachmann and others are talking more about issues that play to the tea party base -- spending, deficits, not raising the debt limit, etc.
"Romney wins Republicans 74-14, while Democrats are voting for Obama 71-20, but independents are still up for grabs, with Romney leading 42-38," Lee reported.
Touting his private-sector experience, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, hammered Obama on Sunday, saying:
"In February of 2009 -- 29 months ago -- President Obama signed into law his $787 billion stimulus bill that would, the administration predicted, bring unemployment under 8 percent. Unemployment was at 8.2 percent the month the stimulus bill passed. The next month, it rose to 8.6 percent, and it has not been below 8.8 percent since. It has risen for three straight months, hitting 9.2 percent in June."
Attempting to inoculate Obama from further bad news, the president's senior political adviser, David Plouffe, told Bloomberg News last week:
“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers. People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’”
That line of logic -- which tweaks the Clintonian adage, "It's the economy, stupid" -- is dismissed by Lee.
Lee likens the approaching 2012 campaign to what happened in the summer of 2008. That year, Republican nominee John McCain's polling numbers collapsed under the weight of financial turmoil and a stock market crash.
"The current numbers have erased any bounce Obama got from killing Osama," Lee said.
Obama’s nationwide job approval is 47 percent, but he continues to underperform in key battleground states like Pennsylvania (41 percent in a VSS poll taken in June), Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and others.
In Florida, the president's ratings were best among respondents who believe the economy has improved (54-42 approval). But that small cohort amounted to barely 13 percent of the persons polled.
Obama topped Romney in only one of five geographic regions of the Sunshine State: heavily Democratic Southeast Florida (57-33). Romney held double-digit advantages in the Panhandle, Southwest and Central Florida, and a single-point edge in the Tampa Bay region.
"Next year’s election will be much closer for Obama, even if he manages to squeak it out," Lee predicted.
Nationally speaking, political consultant Stuart Rothenberg says poll numbers that favor Obama are based on reflexive partisan positions that do not reflect reality.
"Independents are a key swing constituency and Obama's strong showing among swing voters was one of the most important reasons why he did so well overall and in key states such as Ohio and Florida [in 2008]," Rothenberg wrote recently.
But he pointed to a Pew Research Center poll last month that showed the president's disapproval rating among independents rising to 51 percent (identical to the Florida number).
Significantly, Rothenberg noted, "Only 37 percent of Democrats said the economy is poor, while 52 percent of Republicans picked that description and 50 percent of independents called it poor.
"What's the deal? Are Democrats, who are often associated with more downscale voters, doing better in the current economy than Republicans and independents? That's unlikely.
"The more logical answer is that Democrats chose to say things aren't as bad as others see them because they wanted to be supportive of the president and understood that saying current economic conditions are 'poor' would be an indictment of Obama's leadership.
"Sometimes, our partisanship colors how we view reality, rather than our view of reality coloring our partisanship. That's an important thing to remember as we look at survey data," Rothenberg concluded.
Methodology: This statewide poll was conducted July 5-7 with 1,000 registered likely voters for Sunshine State News. Only voters with prior vote history in general elections 2006 and/or 2008 were contacted. Interviews are randomly selected and conducted from a statewide voter file using our IVR (or automated) polling software which uses a pre-recorded voice to ask the questions, with respondents then instructed to score their answers by using their telephone key pads. Interviews are closely monitored to ensure a representative sample of Florida's electorate is achieved based on geography, party affiliation, gender, age and other demographics; results are sometimes statistically weighted. The margin of error for a sample size of 1,000 interviews is +/-3.10 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, but higher for subgroups of respondents.
See full poll results and cross tabs in the attachment below.
On Wednesday: Sunshine State News Poll looks at voters’ job approval of Gov. Rick Scott.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 559-4719.