Published February 15, 2012
President Obama leads each Republican contender in swing states. That’s according to a Fox News Swing State Poll that also suggests a significant shift in the battleground landscape.
Only Rick Santorum is doing better in swing states than in nation polling.
The registered-voter poll was conducted across 10 states where Obama had small margins of victory in 2008 and are considered decisive in the upcoming presidential election.
These swing states fall into three regional tiers. The Rocky Mountain tier includes Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. The Rust Belt tier includes Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And the Dixie tier includes North Carolina, Florida and Virginia.
Across these states, Santorum performs about as well as Romney in matchups with the president.
The swing-state voters back Obama over Romney by 8 percentage points and Santorum by 9 points.
Obama tops Paul by 12 points in the poll. Gingrich lags farthest behind Obama, as voters in these key states prefer the president to the former Speaker by 20 points. In the most recent Fox News national poll -- released Friday -- registered voters give Obama a 13-point edge over Gingrich.
Overall, swing-state voters look much like the national electorate, as both give Obama mixed reviews on his job performance, are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, and remain pessimistic about the nation’s economy. However, there are significant variations by region.
Voters in the Dixie tier are generally more upbeat than voters in the other tiers and nationally. These Southern-state voters are more likely to approve of Obama’s job performance, be satisfied with the way things are going in the country, and think the economy has started to improve.
That translates into more support for the president at the ballot box. Obama currently holds a 14-point lead over Romney in the Dixie states, and an 18-point edge over Santorum.
Compare that to the more cautious mood in the Rust Belt states where Santorum ties with the president, and voters are almost evenly split between Romney and Obama (+1 point).
These results suggest a reordering of the battleground landscape according to Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the Fox News poll with Republican pollster Daron Shaw.
“Obama is finding his strongest support in the Dixie tier where he eked out some of his smallest margins of victory in 2008,” Anderson said. “At the same time, he faces his biggest challenges in the Rust Belt tier where he won by wider margins.”
In 2008, Obama beat his Republican opponent John McCain by less than 1 percentage point in North Carolina, by less than 3 points in Florida and less than 7 points in Virginia. In the Rust Belt tier, Obama's wins were more definitive -- from just over 4 points in Ohio to almost 14 points in Wisconsin.
Shaw said the Republican candidates are under-achieving and specifically points to a “disconnect between the president's solid numbers in the Rocky Mountain states and the sour economic mood there.”
That disconnect, Shaw said, is also dramatically illustrated by two of the poll’s findings. On one hand, Rocky Mountain voters by a 19-point margin say the economy has not turned the corner. At the same time, they give Obama a 7-point edge over Romney.
The best news for the GOP comes from Ohio. Three of the Republican contenders top Obama there -- all except Gingrich.
Buckeye voters back Romney over Obama by 6 points, and give Santorum a 3-point edge over the president. Voters are almost evenly split between Paul and Obama (42-41 percent, respectively), while Gingrich trails by 6 points.
Preference for the Republican candidates is not surprising given that Ohio voters are both unhappy with Obama’s job performance, and are twice as likely to be dissatisfied (66 percent) as satisfied (33 percent) with how things are going in the country.
In addition, 58 percent are pessimistic on the economy. That’s more than feel that way both nationally (56 percent) or across the swing states (52 percent).
By a 9-point margin, Ohio voters give the president’s job performance a thumbs down (40 approve, 49 disapprove). That is far more negative than on the national level, where by a 3-point margin voters approve of Obama (48 to 45 percent) -- his highest approval rating in more than seven months.
The Fox News Swing State Poll is based on live landline and cell phone interviews with registered voters in 10 states that are likely to be decisive in the 2012 presidential election. The 1,200 interviews were conducted across the states and are proportional to their likely contribution to the total vote. The poll was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from Feb. 11 to Feb. 13, 2012. For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The statewide Ohio sample of 505 voters has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.