Grading Obama On A Curve In Ohio

Marc asked yesterday whether the Quinnipiac Poll showing President Obama's approval rating well below the national average was an outlier. Without more polls from Ohio or similar states that's tough to answer, but Quinnipiac polls Ohio from last year were outliers--in favor of Obama.

Quinnipiac pegged Obama's approval rating in Ohio at about the same level where it stood nationally back in May. Since then his national approval rating has declined, but according to Quinnipiac, it's dropped like a stone in Ohio.

This is unexpected coming from Quinnipiac, which often reported stronger numbers for Obama in Ohio during the election than did other surveys. From March to mid-May, it was the only public poll showing Obama ahead of McCain. (Then it cut against the grain in the other direction by reporting one of two leads for McCain among polls conducted in May.) From then on it consistently reported Obama ahead, typically by larger margins than other polls were reporting--once by 14 points in October, the largest lead either candidate had in an Ohio poll last year.

While Quinnipiac came short of Obama's margin of victory by slightly more than a percentage point in its final poll, it predicted McCain would finish four points worse than he did.

If Quinnipiac graded Obama on a curve, or at least underestimated Republican support, might Obama's approval rating in Ohio actually be worse than the 49 percent Quinnipiac reported this week?

That would be hard to believe given his national approval rating stands at 57 percent and Ohio's status as a swing state. Then again, Obama's ratings from last year were horserace numbers against John McCain that came from asking different questions than whether people approve of the president's job. After all, respondents are now rendering retrospective judgments on Obama, who isn't running to win the White House but will be there for three more years. Perhaps Obama would be more popular if Ohioans were also asked how they felt the GOP's policies, but for now they have only his.

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Justin Miller was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 to 2011. He is now the homepage editor at New York magazine. More

Justin Miller was a associate editor at The Atlantic. Previously he was an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics, a political reporter in Ohio, and a freelance journalist.

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