Obama has leads in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, all crucial swing states. The president's approval rating was up for the first half of the year in 13 states and D.C. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter.
Findings: Three battleground states are leaning to Obama. The president has 6-percentage point leads in Florida and Ohio and an 11-percentage point lead in Pennsylvania. More voters in all three of those states believe that Romney does not care "about the needs and problems of people like you" than those that believe he does. On the other side, in all three states voters more think that if elected Obama's policies will hurt rather than help their personal financial situation. There are 2 and 4 point drops between those who think the policies will hurt and those that think the policies make no difference in Florida and Ohio, respectively. In Pennsylvania those numbers are equal. Romney's policies do not do much better on this question.
Methodology: Between July 24 and 30 likely voters in all three states were surveyed via live interview on land line or cell phone. Breaking that down: 1,177 likely Florida voters were included with a margin of error of +/-2.9 percent, 1,193 in Ohio with a margin of error of +/-2.8 percent, and 1,168 in Pennsylvania with a margin of error of +/-2.9 percent.
Why it matters: The Times explains that Obama's moderate success in these crucial states comes from "empathy and personal appeal." The Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold and Aaron Blake points out that "voters do not seem to be warming to Romney personally, despite the candidate’s efforts to introduce himself as a straight-arrow dad who loves a good joke." But the Times notes that Obama has problems elsewhere, especially around economic issues. Still, these overall results also might indicate that, according to the Times, especially in Ohio and Florida, Obama's negative campaigning might be doing some good for him.
Caveat: From the Times: "The findings cannot be compared with previous surveys because the polls are a measure of people who are likely to vote, rather than those who are simply registered. While the intensity of the race is high, it remains an open question how much the summer campaigning will influence the outcome."
Findings: In the first six months of this year 13 states and D.C. gave Obama positive approval ratings.
Methodology: 90,766 adults aged 18 and older in all 50 states and D.C. were surveyed in Gallup Daily tracking from January 1 through June 30. For the total sample the margin of error "with 95% confidence" is +/-1 percentage points. For individual states margin's of error are "no greater than ±8 percentage points, and are ±3 percentage points in most states." For D.C. the margin of error is +/-7 percentage points.
Why it matters: Gallup explains that these results give us some hint as to how the electoral college votes might pan out: "If Obama were to win in the states in which a majority of residents approved of the job he was doing across the first six months of the year, he would have roughly two-thirds of the electoral votes he would need to be re-elected. That seems a reasonable possibility, given that those states have generally voted for the Democratic candidate in recent presidential elections." After that he would need about 90 more votes to win the whole thing.
Caveat: The poll notes that even though voter's opinions could change before the election, historically approval ratings haven't greatly shifted in the final haul.