2012 Presidential Election: the polls to watch

I am an obsessive follower of politics. With 189 days left until the US presidential election, I'm in full-on obsessive poll-watching mode.

As usual, you should ignore national polls. The important point is the electoral college. You can see a projected electoral map for 2012, and you can also create your own. My current pessimistic prediction has Barack Obama winning by just 3 electoral votes, hinging on a win in Virginia.

Virginia is one of the four battleground states that are going to matter in this election. The full set, and their current polls, are:

Obama won all four in 2008 but this is pretty much guaranteed not to happen this year.

While national polls are almost useless, it is worth keeping an eye on these three:

  • Obama's job approval: is he doing a good job? This has been negative for most of Obama's presidency, which is not great but not unusual either.
  • Obama's favorability: do you like him? (Whether or not he's doing a good job). Obama's favorability is generally ahead of his job approval. Favorability has typically been a better predictor of electoral success.
  • Romney's favorability: another key, because you're unlikely to vote Obama out of office, even if you don't like him, if you dislike the other guy more.

Romney's favorability is currently negative, which is great news for Obama and terrible news for Romney.