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Poll watch: Paul Ryan pick doesn't give Mitt Romney a bounce

August 15, 2012|By David Lauter
  • New polls show little indication that Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), above, has provided much of a boost for Mitt Romney.
New polls show little indication that Republican vice presidential candidate… (John Adkisson / Getty Images )

Two more national polls out Wednesday confirm what scattered early data had suggested — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is not seeing much of a boost in the opinion polls as a result of his pick of a running mate.

And a poll of battleground states also showed very limited movement, with Romney gaining a little ground in Ohio and Virginia, but losing some in Florida and Colorado. In all cases, however, the shifts were within the poll’s margin of error.

Before Democrats begin popping any celebratory corks about the lack of a “Ryan bounce,” however, it’s important to remember two facts: Vice presidential picks often don’t generate much movement in polls, and in this campaign, with so few undecided voters and both sides heavily dug in, a big shift for either candidate would constitute a major surprise.

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In fact, it’s probably not too early to guess that neither Romney nor President Obama will enjoy a particularly large or long-lasting boost from their conventions. In some past campaigns, candidates have experienced a big bounce in polls from their conventions — although as the word “bounce” implies, the polls that go up usually come down quickly. So far, however, 2012 has not been that sort of year — stability, not volatility, has defined the race.

The latest national data come from two polls that have generally shown more favorable numbers for Romney than most — Gallup’s tracking poll, and the Economist/YouGov survey. Both polls show that Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as a running mate has had little or no effecct on the race so far.

Last week, the YouGov survey had Romney and Obama just one point apart. This week, the survey has Obama leading by three points, 47% to 44%. Nor has the choice of Ryan changed the motivation of Republican voters — in both weeks’ surveys, 61% of those backing Romney said they were mostly voting “against President Obama” not “for Mitt Romney.” The latter option was chosen by 38% of Romney’s backers this week and 37% last week.

In Gallup’s tracking poll for the four days before the Ryan announcement, Romney led by one point, 46% to 45%. In the four days after the announcement, Romney led, 47% to 45%. The pollsters noted that Romney did a bit better in their Aug. 13-14 polling than he did Aug. 11-12, suggesting that he might receive a delayed bounce as the week proceeds.

The data on battleground states comes from the Purple Poll, a project of a bipartisan group of political strategists. That survey showed the Republican ticket up by one point, 47% to 46%, in the 12 states surveyed, compared with a two-point Obama lead last month, 47% to 45%.

The survey suggested that the Romney/Ryan ticket has an edge on one important theme — change — with voters by a 6-point margin saying that the Republicans were more likely to bring “real change to Washington.” But in a cautionary note for the GOP, the survey also showed the Democrats with a strong edge on the subject of Medicare. Asked which ticket was more likely to protect Medicare, Obama/Biden led by 48% to 40%.

One other cautionary note: A big bounce caused by picking a running mate would not necessarily be a good sign for a candidate, nor is its absence necessarily a problem. In Gallup surveys, neither Obama nor John McCain received a significant bounce from their running mate picks in 2008. In the 1996-2004 campaigns, the two picks that generated the biggest boost in the polls were Bob Dole’s choice of Rep. Jack Kemp in 1996 and Al Gore’s choice of Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2000 being the most successful. Both of those tickets, of course, lost.

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