So that's why Republicans are always calling President Obama a socialist -- everybody hates socialists, even liberals, even Occupy Wall Streeters. Voters see Obama as the most ideologically extreme 2012 candidate -- only Michele Bachmann thought of as almost as far away from Americans' own ideology as Obama. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter.

Findings: Americans see President Obama as the only 2012 presidential candidate more ideologically extreme than Michele Bachmann. Resondents rated their own views on a 1 to 5 scale and then rated each candidates'. Bachmann averaged a 0.7-point difference, Obama averaged a 1-point difference. All others averaged less than half a point, with Jon Huntsman scoring perfectly in the middle, 0 points from American's self-rated ideology.
Methodology: 1,019 adults phoned between December 15 and December 18.
Why it matters: Obama's campaign is trying to frame the 2012 election between him and a Tea Party-influenced Republican Party. And a separate poll from Pew Research Center shows why Republicans are constantly saying Obama is socialist: both liberals and conservatives see socialism negatively.  Even a majority, 52 percent, of Occupy Wall Street supporters see socialism negatively.
Caveat: "Americans" is not the same thing as voters. And Huntsman's rating might have benefited from the fact that 45 percent of Americans had no opinion of him.
 
Findings: 62 percent of Americans are optimistic about the direction the country will go in 2012, and 78 percent think it will be a good year for their family. 
Methodology: Phone calls to 1,000 adults between December 8 and December 12.
Why it matters: As we've noted before, when Americans expect the economy to get better, and then it doesn't, they tend to punish the president.
Caveat: 2011 was bad, according to 54 percent of Americans. But 2009 was really bad -- 73 percent thought it was a bad year.
 
Findings: Jon Huntsman has 9 percent of New Hampshire voters' support, an increase of 1 percentage point this month.
Methodology: Telephone interviews of 543 likely voters in the New Hampshire Republican primary from December 21 to December 27, skipping Christmas. 
Why it matters: Huntsman pitched himself as the moderate, alternative to Mitt Romney -- and is campaigning just about only in New Hampshire -- but it's not working. Gingrich has lost 10 percentage points in the state in the last month, but it looks like most of those voters (9 percentage points' worth) went to Romney. Worse, Huntsman hasn't convinced voters of his top selling point -- that even the White House thinks he's the person who'd pose the biggest threat to Obama. Just 4 percent think he has the best chance in the general election in 2012.
Caveat: This poll's methodology has gotten a bit of criticism. The New York TimesNate Silver points out that CNN polled only registered Republicans -- even though voters are allowed to register on caucus day. Democrats and independents are expected to show up, particularly for Ron Paul.
 
Findings: Rick Santorum is in third place in Iowa with 16 percent.
Pollster: Rasmussen
Methodology:  750 Likely Republican Caucus Participants were asked on December 28.
Why it matters: A new Insider Advantage robo-call poll puts Santorum in fourth, with 13 percent, but both show the social conservative gaining support. The findings match those of Wednesday afternoon's CNN poll, which also showed a Santorum surge but was widely criticized for it's methodology.
Caveat: Rasmussen leans right. It doesn't include Democrats, who can vote in the caucuses. And Hot Air's Ed Morrissey notes that although the poll was conducted in a single day, which can skew results, most of Rasmussen's polls have been conducted that way. That makes the trend more believable.
 
Findings: Romney is crushing Obama in the general election, 45 percent to 39 percent.
Pollster: Rasmussen
Methodology: Survey of 1,000 likely voters between December 27 and December 28.
Why it matters: This is the first time this poll has shown such a big lead for Romney.
Caveat: No other poll has shown such a wide gap between Obama and Romney. Real Clear Politics has Obama averaging 1.6 points ahead of Romney, and the most recent CNN poll put Obama 7 points ahead. The New York Times' Marjorie Connelly explained Wednesday that polling during the holidays is especially hard.