Where would Barack Obama be re-elected if an election were held today?
We can’t know for sure, and it would depend on many contingencies, such as the identity of his Republican opponent. One quick-and-dirty way to assess this question, however, is to look at those states where Obama’s approval rating is 50 percent or higher. Based on a compilation of public polls since February 15th, that appears to be the case in the following states:
Now, how did we come up with these numbers? We did a lot of work, that’s how. First, we compiled a database of all publicly-available Obama approval and favorability numbers since February 15th, since which time Obama’s approval ratings have been exceptionally steady. (Obama’s disapproval ratings have increased some over this period, but we’re only looking at the approval side of the coin for this exercise). A maximum of one poll was used in each state from each survey firm; this totals 88 polls in all, covering 39 of the 50 states.
Secondly, we performed an adjustment for house effects , just like we did during the election. Most of the approval ratings are from Public Policy Polling, SurveyUSA, Quinnipiac, Research 2000/Daily Kos, or Rasmussen; polls from all other survey firms were then lumped into an “Other” category. The PPP, Rasmussen and Research 2000 produces slightly lower numbers than average for Obama, and so were adjusted upward; the Quinnipiac, SurveyUSA and Other polls produced slightly higher numbers for Obama than average, and so were adjusted downward.
A summary of Obama’s approval numbers, with our house effects adjustment, follows below.
Obama’s approval equals or exceeds 50 percent in all of the states that he won on November 4th, plus Arizona (10 electoral votes), Arkansas (6), Georgia (15), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Missouri (11), South Dakota (3) and Tennessee (11).
Thirdly, in states where no approval polls have been conducted since February 15th, we took Obama’s share of the vote on November 4th and added 6.1 points to it, which corresponds the average gain that Obama has made over his election day results in states where approval ratings are available. This flips Montana (3), Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District (1) and North Dakota (3) to Obama.
…and that’s how we got the map you see above, which contains 445 electoral votes for Obama.
Generally speaking, Obama’s approval ratings are extremely strongly correlated with his November 4 results. If you take his election day total and add 6 points to it, you’ll have a very good estimate of his approval rating in that state.
There are a couple of places, though, where there is a little bit of a suggestion that Obama is overperforming or underperforming. His approval ratings are somewhat slack in the Southwest relative to his election day totals, although it is hard to reach a definitive conclusion since we only have one poll to look at in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. Conversely, there are some signs that Obama is overperforming in the Inner South or what we sometimes call the “Highlands” region — states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. These are places where Obama appeared to suffer somewhat owing to racial animus. I have theorized before that Obama might gain ground in these states as the manifest familiarity of his Presidency displaced the fear of his otherness. It is too early to confirm or refute that hypothesis, but we perhaps shouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that Obama could be competitive in some of these states in 2012.