By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
But one political polling expert in the Commonwealth says it’s hard to gauge the accuracy of that data.
“That’s just outside the margin of error,” said Jeremy Mayer, associate professor and director at the Master of Public Policy Program at George Mason’s School of Public Policy. “So Obama’s better off than he would be if it was within the margin of error, but the real number could be eight. It could be two. It could be one.
“So, Virginia’s terribly close. And Virginia (data), compared to Ohio or Florida, is much less accurate. Why? Because Virginia’s never been a battleground state before.”
Never before has Virginia been such a target for spending and political ads, Mayer said.
But unlike most perpetual swing states, it’s hard identify and model ads for the “likely” voter.
The poll, conducted in conjunction with the New York Times and CBS News and released Wednesday, surveyed 1,474 likely Virginia voters over the phone from Sept. 11 through 17, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
But more respondents identified themselves as Democrat (36 percent) than as Independents (35 percent) or Republicans (24 percent). Virginia doesn’t register voters by party, so it’s hard to tell how well those figures represent the state.
But, Mayer said, that sample seems slightly off — “Not so much heavy on the Democrats, but a little too heavy in the Independent category, actually.”
Take it or leave it, the poll shows Virginia voters seemingly indicate support for Obama, despite believing the country is worse off than it was four years ago. Virginians are more closely divided over whether they, personally, are better off (27 percent) — or worse off (29 percent) — compared to 2008.
“Interestingly in Virginia, which has one of the nation’s lower unemployment rates and has had a very good four years economically, voters are pretty much split down the middle on that question,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Jeff Skelley, a political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said he isn’t so sure a strong correlation exists between the economy and Obama’s numbers in Virginia.
“Really, it seems like there’s more of a correlation between national economic numbers in general and state numbers having less of an effect,” Skelley told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau.
Mayer spoke along similar lines, but said another factor is probably garnering Obama support in the Commonwealth.
“Obama’s getting a little boost in Virginia from the fact that the economy is doing so well,” said Mayer. “I would give him a bigger boost though from the fact that so many people are dependent on government, and the Romney-Ryan rhetoric about radical cuts in spending, I think, is losing them some votes in Virginia.”
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