The small but consistent leads that pollsters are giving President Obama in Ohio are based on the notion that Republicans will not show up on Election Day. What started as a couple of polls with questionable samples has become a consensus. Pollsters, with few exceptions, are predicting that Democrats will at least maintain their turnout edge from 2008 if not increase it.
A sampling of the crosstabs from recent Ohio polling reveals the following:
Survey USA 10/20-10/22: Obama 47, Romney 44
- Party ID: Democratic 39, Republican 32
- Independents: Romney 47, Obama 39
- Evangelicals: Romney 60, Obama 32
- 2008 vote: Obama 51, McCain 40
PPP 10/26-10/28: Obama 51, Romney 47
- Party ID: Democratic 43, Republican 35
- Ideology: Conservative 38, Liberal 31
- Independents: Romney 50, Obama 46
- Congressional Generic Ballot: Democrats 50, Republicans 42
Time magazine 10/23-10/24: Obama 49, Romney 44
- Party ID: Democratic 37, Republican 28
- Evangelicals: 18% of the electorate (31% in 2008)
- Independents: Romney 53, Obama 48
- Same-party support: Obama 92/6, Romney 85/11
The Purple Poll, Gravis, and the American Research Group (ARG) show similar party ID breakdowns, with Romney winning independents.
Republicans have every right to be frustrated with the pollsters. The numbers in Ohio just don’t add up. The recipe for winning a battleground state is simple — mix an enthusiastic base with a majority of independents. So far, Republicans are matching if not exceeding Democrats’ enthusiasm and are certainly leading by solid margins with independents.
Still, Republicans should be cautious when going after the pollsters. The total sample from the above-listed Ohio polls has a very small margin of error and the polls themselves have been remarkably consistent in their prediction of turnout and final result. Further, ARG and Gravis have generally been friendlier to Republicans this year than other pollsters.
Nevertheless, these samples strike me as quite implausible. And it’s not just the turnout projections. The Survey USA poll, for example, shows evangelical support for Romney at only 60 percent. McCain won 71% of the white evangelical vote in 2008. In addition, the Time magazine poll shows that a nine-point Democratic advantage in party identification is further exacerbated by Democrats supporting Obama 92/6 while Republicans only support Romney 85/11 — a net difference of 12 points in same-party support.
In 2008, Obama got 51.5% of the vote in Ohio, while McCain got 46.9% of the vote (a 4.6% margin). That’s why Survey USA’s sample, in which Obama voters outnumber McCain voters by 11 points, seems like an unlikely reflection of what the 2012 Ohio electorate will actually look like. Surely Romney can top McCain’s lackluster 2008 performance.
Likewise, the PPP poll shows self-identified conservatives outnumbering self-identified liberals by just seven points. In 2008, self-identified conservatives outnumbered self-identified liberals in Ohio by a 15-point margin.
The good news for Republicans is that according to the SUSA poll, an exact duplication of the 2008 electorate (adjusting for 7% new voters) would actually put Romney in the lead due to his strong performance among Ohio independents.
The bottom line that if Ohio Republicans show up at the polls — and support the Republican candidate — Romney will win. If the current turnout projections are accurate, however, Election Day will be a miserable day for Republicans up and down the ballot in Ohio.
Brandon J. Gaylord, the editor-in-chief of HorseRacePolitics.com, is a graduate of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. Brandon got his start in politics as an intern in Vice President Richard Cheney’s Office of Political Affairs.