Voters say they’re worse off after four years of Obama, so why is Romney struggling?

Chris Moody
Political Reporter
The Ticket

In the twilight of President Barack Obama's first term, many polls, including a new Quinnipiac University tri-state survey of likely voters, show that most Americans say they are not better off than they were four years ago. But in those same polls, the president retains his edge over challenger Mitt Romney.

That's not normal, says Quinnipiac University pollster Peter A. Brown.

According to a poll released on Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, CBS News and the New York Times, Romney still has not overtaken Obama among the likely voters in the battleground states of Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin. While Virginians are split on whether they're better off than they were four years ago, voters in the other states say they're worse off.

What gives?

Two words: "Likability" and "relatability"—areas, according to the data, in which Romney continues to struggle.

In those three states, Romney's favorability rating among likely voters hovers around 45 percent. Obama's numbers are slightly better, with favorability ratings of 49 percent in Colorado, 53 percent in Virginia and 52 percent in Wisconsin. (Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton's favorability rating in all three states remains above 60 percent, which may explain why Obama has been running ads online showing him with Clinton and not Vice President Joe Biden, who's favorability tops out at 42 percent in those states, according to the poll.)

Perhaps even more telling is the poll's question about whether likely voters think Obama or Romney care more "about the needs and problems of people like you." In all three states, Obama leads by at least 10 percentage points. In Wisconsin, he has a 17 percentage-point edge on that question over Romney.

"Most times if voters think things haven't gone well, they say, 'Let's think of somebody else.' But at this point they're not saying that," Brown said. "Clearly they think [Obama] is more in tune with their lives."

The poll does show, however, that Obama has lost ground in two of the three states' polls. His five percentage-point lead in Colorado last month has evaporated to a dead heat with Romney and his lead in Wisconsin has trimmed from 51-45 percent to 49-47 percent.

"Obviously, if you're Mr. Obama, you're happier than if you're in Mr. Romney's shoes," Brown said of the poll. But he added a word of caution: The numbers "are not overwhelming."

Meanwhile, the latest Gallup swing state poll shows Obama and Romney are statistically tied.