President Obama's reelection team was quick to conjure the horror of a Mitt Romney victory in November in an email to supporters Tuesday, but maybe they jumped the gun. A majority of Americans want Rush Limbaugh fired, but, surprise surprise, more women than men want him off the air. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter.
Findings: Most Americans -- 53 percent -- think Rush Limbaugh should be fired for calling Sandra Fluke a "slut." Only 30 percent of Republicans agree.
Methodology: Survey of 1,002 adults from March 8 to March 11.
Why it matters: Democrats usually enjoy a gender gap -- more women voting for them than men -- but that disappeared in the 2010 midterms. They want it back. As Politico points out, it still hasn't reached the level Democrats enjoyed in 2008, when Obama beat McCain among women by 13 points. He's only beating Romney by 4 points against Romney, and 9 points against Santorum. So these poll numbers help explain why President Obama called Fluke. The poll finds 56 percent of women want Rush fired, while 49 percent of men do. More important, 77 percent think the debate over whether some religious institutions should offer insurance plans that cover birth control is about the pill itself -- not religious liberty, as Republicans say.
Caveat: Rush Limbaugh is a radio host, and his actions are not going to be the thing that swings voters from one candidate to another.
Findings: Obama's job approval rating is… well, we're not sure what it is. Some new polls say more people approve than disapprove of the job Obama's doing, like Pew Research Center (50 percent to 41 percent), Reuters/ Ipsos (50 percent to 48 percent), and Bloomberg (48 percent to 47 percent). Other new polls find fewer people approve than disapprove, like from ABC News/ Washington Post (46 percent to 50 percent) and CBS News/ New York Times (41 percent to 47 percent).
Methodology: All of these polls are telephone interviews taken nationwide over the last few days, the earliest beginning March 7 and the latest ending March 11.
Why it matters: Obama's job approval rating is a good measure of his chances for reelection. But how do you measure it if the polls are split? The Pew poll finds Obama polling at his highest since Osama bin Laden was killed. The CBS poll finds him at his lowest approval rating ever. But Obama's team knows how to use even bad news: Campaign manager Jim Messina sent an email to supporters showing Obama weaker against Romney in the general election and asked for donations. "If the idea of a President Romney scares you, it's time to own a piece of this campaign -- donate $3 or more today," Messina wrote.
Caveat: The New York Times' Nate Silver says this is why it's better to look at trends over time, and that it looks like Obama's support has dropped slightly.
Findings: Obama is beating Romney in a general election contest by 12 points, 54 percent to 42 percent.
Pollster: Pew Research Center
Methodology: Interviews with 1,503 adults, 1,188 of them registered voters, from March 7 to March 11.
Why it matters: That's a really big margin, though the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll finds Obama with a similar lead of 11 points. The primary has hurt Romney's standing among independents, several polls have found. Romney hasn't been able to win in very conservative states, but Santorum hasn't been able to win in big swing states.
Caveat: As noted above, Tuesday's ABC News poll showed Romney winning by two points, and Bloomberg's poll from Wednesday shows a tie.
Findings: Santorum is leading Romney in Pennsylvania ith 36 percent of Republicans' support to Romney's 22 percent. The state votes April 24.
Methodology: Survey of 1,256 registered voters from March 7 to March 12.
Why it matters: This is Santorum's home state, but it has a lot of qualities that would make it advantageous to Romney. It's a blue state, which Romney has a history of winning, and it's a big state with big cities, which rewards Romney's financial advantage -- he can buy more ads.
Caveat: State polls can change really fast. No polls showed Santorum ahead in Mississippi last week, yet he won that state's primary Tuesday.