Two polls show the 2012 election campaign in a curious moment: the candidates are talking about one thing few voters noticed -- who's more like an Etch A Sketch -- and not talking about one thing voters are upset about, the Afghanistan war. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter.
Findings: A majority of Americans haven't heard about that one time, way back in ancient history (last week), when Mitt Romney's adviser said on TV that the campaign was like an Etch A Sketch -- they'd shake things up and start all over for the general election. The comment exploded on the Twitter and the Web, the toy's stock soared, both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum held the toys up at rallies. And most people didn't notice.
Pollster: Pew Research Center
Methodology: Survey of 1,003 adults nationwide from March 22 to March 25.
Why it matters: This is our life's work, America! Pay a little attention! Relatedly, there was some argument that the Etch A Sketch "moment" would have sticking power, like John Edwards' $400 haircut moment or John Kerry's "I voted for it before I voted against it" moment. So far, that is not the case.
Caveat: People who care about politics -- people who read tweets with Etch A Sketch jokes -- are more likely to vote. This poll also found Americans would like to hear more about the New Orleans Saints.
Findings: The Afghanistan war is more unpopular than ever, as only 23 percent of Americans think the country is "doing the right thing" to fight the war, while 69 percent think we shouldn't be involved.
Pollster: The New York Times/ CBS News
Methodology: Survey of 986 adults from March 21 to March 25.
Why it matters: The Iraq war was the central issue of the 2008 campaign -- it helped Barack Obama, an early opponent, beat Hillary Clinton, an early supporter -- and as Wired's Spencer Ackerman points out, the Afghanistan war is now even less popular than that conflict was then. And it's quickly losing popularity, with support dropping by 15 percentage points in a few weeks. Yet the Afghanistan war is not even a major issue in the 2012 election.
Caveat: The Pentagon says polls won't change how it conducts the war. As Ackerman writes, "Politicians (mostly Democratic ones) used to contrast the allegedly-virtuous Afghanistan war with the allegedly-illegitimate Iraq one. Goodbye to all that — and to the dubious, armchair notion that any war is “good,” rather than unfortunately necessary."
Findings: Santorum and Romney are tied with 30 percent of voters' support in North Carolina, which votes May 8. Newt Gingrich is way back, with 19 percent.
Pollster: Public Policy Polling
Methodology: Robo-calls to 561 likely Republican primary voters from March 22 through March 25.
Why it matters: Romney was leading Santorum by four percentage points a couple weeks ago, which would mean North Carolinians are going the opposite direction of the conventional wisdom that the race is essentially over. Most of Santorum's support has come from Gingrich, the pollster says. The South continues to reject the latest southern strategist. Gingrich has won just two states in the region, South Carolina and Georgia.
Caveat: The poll still finds Romney with a pretty high favorability rating -- 50 percent -- that isn't much lower than Santorum's (55 percent). So it's not like voters are totally opposed to Romney.