The results broke fairly predictably along party lines with 86 percent of Republicans saying they would vote for someone else and 77 percent of Democrats reporting they’d vote to keep Obama in office. Among independents, the story’s a bit more troubling for Obama — just 33 percent in that group said they would vote to reelect him, while 54 percent said they’d opt for the alternative to-be-named.
Now, this clearly isn’t great news for the Obama camp, but the outcome isn’t nearly as damning as it appears at first glance.
The results may have been as dim as they are in large part because the question pitted Obama against an unnamed opponent from an unspecified party. Although pollsters often use this type of generic question, it tends to yield the worst imaginable outcome for incumbents, since respondents are free to picture the anonymous opponent any way they like.
“It’s going to tend to be a worst case scenario, because it allows you to imagine whoever you want,” Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal says. “If you’re an unhappy progressive, you may be imagining a primary challenger, even though you might be voting for a Democrat in a general election. If you’re a Republican, you may be thinking of your ideal candidate. It may be different if the Republican candidate is Sarah Palin or someone else you’re less happy with.” Continue reading →