Obama Wins, Polls Lose; Surveys Give a Slanted View of the Electoral Landscape

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Either President Obama is on track for a major electoral win in November, or there is something seriously wrong with most major polls.

The economy is the worst it's been in decades for a first-term president. Growth has virtually halted, unemployment is up and federal debt is off the charts. Consumer confidence is down, and people think the country is on the wrong track by a 2-to-1 margin. Mr. Obama, once called the most gifted political fundraiser of his generation, has been reduced to frantic appeals for cash. Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who is attracting more funds every cycle, is on track to claim the title of the billion-dollar man. Yet somehow, the media consensus is that the Obama campaign is not only ahead in the race, but increasing its lead.

The perception problem can be tracked to the polls. A series of surveys have shown Mr. Obama with support levels far beyond what one would expect given the state of the union. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported the results of a Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times swing-state poll of likely voters showing that Mr. Obama hits the magic 50 percent mark against Gov. Mitt Romney among likely voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, with wide support for his plan to hike federal income taxes on upper-income voters. The poll has Mr. Obama up six points in Florida and Ohio and 11 in Pennsylvania. That would spell a handy win for the incumbent.

On the same day, Gallup reported that Mr. Obama's approval ratings among registered voters in those states were 44-46 percent, a range that also includes solid red states like Georgia and Mississippi. There are some problems comparing the two surveys: likely versus registered voters, and voting support versus mere approval. …