A new poll conducted for The Hill by Pulse Opinion Research found likely voters rating Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney higher than President Obama on several key likeability issues.
Romney led 48 percent to 44 percent when respondents were asked which candidate is a better leader. The match up was 47 percent to 44 percent when respondents where asked who best shares their values, and 46 to 44 when asked who is more honest and trustworthy.
Despite these figures, Obama has consistently had higher overall likeability ratings. The most recent Gallup poll gave him 54 percent favorability, compared to Romney’s 46 percent.
Pulse Opinion Poll Methodology
The automated survey was conducted on July 26, 2012. It sampled 1,000 self-identified likely voters. Pulse opinion research also conducts polls on behalf of Rasmussen and Fox News. It is known for using some controversial polling tactics, including automated interviewing, interviewing that spans a short period of time, narrowing samples down to likely voters, and weighting for party affiliation.
Was the Poll Inconsistent with Other Similar Polls?
Although most other polls show Obama with a distinct edge on likeability, the Pulse poll was unique in that it did not directly ask which candidate was more likeable. Instead, it broke the topic down into specific questions on leadership, values, and honesty. It may be that, while respondents are more likely to say Obama is likeable, they may not feel the same way when asked if he meets certain standards that could define “likeability.” It is also possible that different respondents have different views of what constitutes a likeable candidate. Some of these may not have been considered in the poll wording.
For these reasons, matching this poll up with others that simply asked which candidate is more likeable may not be a fair comparison.
Differences in methodology should also be considered, since Pulse tends to follow a different model than most other polling organizations. A sample that is screened to include only voters who say they are likely to vote in November may bring about different opinions in likeability issues than a poll that is a random sampling of all Americans.
New Romney vs. Obama Poll: Was There Oversampling?
Some recent presidential polls have samples that include Independents as the largest party affiliation demographic, followed by Democrats, then Republicans. The reasoning behind this is usually that it was the way the random sample fell, and the pollster chose not to weight for party affiliation. A common explanation for this occurring somewhat often is that Conservatives are increasingly identifying as Independents, possibly due to the popularity of the Tea Party movement. The Pulse poll had a slightly different demographic, however. Republicans made up the largest party affiliated group at 35 percent, followed by Democrats at 34 percent, and Independents at 31 percent. The pollster also states in its methodology that it weights for party affiliation. Some conservative activists have criticized mainstream pollsters for oversampling Democrats, and they may prefer the weighting and “likely voter” screening conducted by Pulse. Democrats may argue that weighting for party affiliation is considered controversial by many polling experts.
Presidential Race Poll Results: Interpretation
Although likeability and job approval do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, the President has seen his job approval polling averages fall flat around the time this poll was conducted. His current Real Clear Politics average is all tied up, with 47.5 approving and 47.5 disapproving. His numbers were significantly reduced by a Rasmussen tracking report issued July 30 that had him down 5 points in approval versus disapproval. Rasmussen polls are conducted by Pulse, and follow a similar methodology as the poll conducted for The Hill.
Alberts, Sheldon. The Hill Poll: Voters say Romney, Obama equal on issues of character. Accessed July 31, 2012.
RealClearPolitics. Obama Approval Rating. Accessed July 31, 2012.