What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tuesday will tell us a lot about the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and right now the numbers are running Mitt Romney’s way. Things are a little murkier when it comes to the following week’s Super Tuesday.

The former Massachusetts governor has widened his lead over leading challenger Rick Santorum in Arizona with that state’s primary looming on Tuesday. It’s now Romney 42%, Santorum 29%, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul far behind.

True to a primary season already marked by sudden and surprising ups and downs, Romney has jumped back into the lead in Michigan’s Republican Primary race. That vote’s also on Tuesday. Early in the week, Santorum held a four-point lead over Romney, but by week’s end, following the last scheduled debate among the GOP candidates, Romney was ahead 40% to 34%. 

Looking beyond next week to a couple Super Tuesday primary states shows tougher ground for Romney, although wins in Arizona and Michigan are sure to change those numbers. For now, however, Santorum earns 43% support in the Oklahoma Republican primary field, followed by Gingrich with 22%, Romney at 18% and Paul with seven percent (7%) support.

Gingrich leads the pack in the Republican Primary race in his home state of Georgia with 33% support, followed by Santorum at 28%. Romney runs third with 20% of the vote, and Paul trails with nine percent (9%). This is the first state surveyed by Rasmussen Reports since South Carolina in January that Gingrich is leading in.

Four years ago, President Obama won a solid victory in the Electoral College by carrying the big swing states and adding a couple of states that had been in the Republican column for decades. As he seeks reelection, attention will likely focus on four key states—Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. Combined, they have 75 Electoral College votes, and if the president is successful in these states, it will be just about impossible for the GOP candidate to win the White House. During 2008, Barack Obama picked up 52% of the vote in these states to Republican nominee John McCain’s 48%. Currently, polling those Core Four states on a combined basis, the president and Romney are tied at 44% each. If Santorum is the GOP candidate, it’s Santorum 47%, Obama 46%.

A closer look at one of these states, Virginia, finds the president with single-digit leads over both Romney and Santorum.

Romney runs neck-and-neck with Obama in the key electoral state of Pennsylvania, but Santorum, a former U.S. senator from the Keystone State, trails the incumbent by six points. Most voters in the state disapprove of the job the president is doing.

Obama lost Montana to McCain in 2008 by a 50% to 47% margin. Now he draws even less support against the top two Republican hopefuls in the first Rasmussen Reports survey in the state.

The president’s overall job approval numbers remain up slightly amidst some improved perceptions about the economy. But a number of his initiatives remain unpopular, and lurking out there is the threat of a major jump in gas prices.

Most Americans now believe gas will top $4 a gallon in the next few months, and most think $5 a gallon gas is possible. Government regulations and unrest in the Middle East are seen as the chief culprits.

Even the threat of dramatically higher prices at the pump hasn’t sparked a run on electric cars yet. Because of their higher sticker prices, the president in his latest budget has proposed $10,000 subsidies to encourage the purchase of electric cars with his goal of having one million of them on the road by 2015. Voters by a two-to-one margin (58% to 29%) oppose taxpayer-funded subsidies for this purpose.

“Trickle down environmentalism” has little support, Scott Rasmussen explains in his latest syndicated column. “While agreeing with the president on the importance of reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” he says, “voters don’t see providing subsidies to wealthy electric car buyers as the way to reach that goal.”

It will be interesting to see how the electric car subsidies play out in the upcoming congressional budget debate, especially since voters are clear they want the government to spend less, not more. But then the nation’s politicians created the current budget crisis by pursuing their own agenda and ignoring voters, Scott argues in his new book, The People’s Money: How the American People Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt
. In it, he highlights solutions to the nation’s fiscal crisis that can be supported by voters.

The national health care law is another thing the politicians put on the books despite strong opposition from voters. Even before its passage by Congress in March 2010, most voters opposed the law, and they’ve continued to do so in regular tracking ever since. Fifty-three percent (53%) said again this past week that they want to see the law repealed.

Coming out of that law is the new mandate that even if it’s in violation of their deeply held religious beliefs, institutions must provide free contraception for women. That requirement has prompted lawsuits and an angry backlash from the Catholic church and others. The administration has backed down slightly, but that doesn’t seem to have calmed the anger. Taking a closer look at the controversy, Rasmussen Reports finds that support for mandating coverage of the so-called “morning after pill” is even lower than support for mandating coverage of contraceptives in general.

Just 31% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the country is heading in the right direction. That’s down three points from the week before which marked the highest level of optimism since April 2010.

Signals about the economy remain mixed. While the Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes have shown improvement in recent weeks, both were down at week’s end.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Adult Homeowners now think their home is worth more than what they still owe on their mortgage. That’s the highest level measured since early January of last year. Confidence that home values will increase in the next five years is also at its highest level in over a year.

But then the number of homeowners who think their home is worth more than what they paid for it remains low. Fifty-three percent (53%) believe their home is worth more money than when they bought it. That’s little changed since December but down 27 points since June 2008, just before the Wall Street meltdown.

Voters aren’t sure if either party will make a difference. Republicans held a narrow one-point lead over Democrats on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. Democrats led the GOP on the generic ballot for the first time in roughly two-and-a-half years three weeks earlier. Republicans have led every week but one since June 2009.

The hotly contested U.S. Senate race in Virginia between two popular former governors, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen, remains a dead heat.

Democratic incumbent Jon Tester runs slightly behind his leading Republican challenger, Congressman Denny Rehberg, in his bid for reelection in Montana’s U.S. Senate race. 

In other surveys last week:

— Most voters (54%) think women should be allowed to serve in the same combat military roles as men, but 83% believe they should be able to pass the same physical tests as men do if they’re going to be in the Green Berets or Navy SEALs. 

— Americans are a little more enthusiastic about paying their income taxes than they have been in the last couple of years. Thirty-three percent (33%) say they’ve paid their income taxes already with two months to go until the deadline.

— Fewer voters than ever think the United States is a more dangerous place today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Maybe that’s because most believe the United States is winning the war on terror.

— Voters continue to name border control as the more important issue in immigration reform, and they still support a welcoming immigration policy. Fifty-nine percent (59%), however, also are at least somewhat concerned that efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants will end up violating the civil rights of some U.S. citizens.

— All boats rise with the tide? Like the president’s voter approval ratings in recent weeks, voter perceptions of two of his top Cabinet officers – Attorney General Eric Holder and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner – are up slightly since the end of last year.

— Americans have an overwhelmingly favorable opinion of Abraham Lincoln but are strongly opposed to celebrating his February 12 birthday as a separate holiday. They’re satisfied instead to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday along with George Washington’s on Presidents’ Day.

— Americans continue to believe Ronald Reagan is the most influential president of the last half century, but they are a bit more divided over which president should be next in line to be honored by a federal holiday.

— Sixty-eight percent (68%) of American Adults are at least somewhat likely to buy Girl Scout cookies this year, including 47% who are Very Likely to do so. 
That’s up slightly from last year.

— Adults have grown a little fonder of driving over the years, but a sizable number still says it’s strictly for getting around.

Subscribers to Rasmussen Reports receive more than 20 exclusive stories each week for less than a dollar a week. Please sign up now. Visit the Rasmussen Reports home page for the latest current polling coverage of events in the news. The page is updated several times each day.

Wall Street Journal profile called Scott Rasmussen “America’s Insurgent Pollster.” The Washington Post described him as “a driving force in American politics.”  If you’d like Scott to speak at your conference or event, contact Premiere Speakers Bureau.

Remember, if it’s in the news, it’s in our polls.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection,
publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events
in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence,
we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions,
sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics
provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day.
If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a
daily update newsletter,
the Rasmussen Report on radio
and other media outlets.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll
and commentaries are available for free to the general public.
Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year
that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on Election 2012,
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and a full history of our data.

Scott Rasmussen,
president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.

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