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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 01:54 PM ET, 10/13/2011

#pollwatch: Cain ahead in GOP race? Obama’s jobs bill potentially popular; OWS, death penalty and ‘Jersey Shore’

A new poll shows Cain outpacing Romney, but is his lead real? President Obama’s jobs bill wins heavy support on specifics but less enthusiasm (and awareness) on the whole. The Occupy Wall Street movement draws positive initial reviews, but few are paying attention. Support for the death penalty hits lowest mark in decades, and New Jersey voters are fed up with “Jersey Shore.”

Cain and Romney tussle over GOP horse race lead – Two new polls, from Ipsos-Reuters and NBC-Wall Street Journal, depict a close race between Mitt Romney and Herman Cain for the GOP nomination. Romney wins 23 percent support in each poll, but Herman Cain scores eight points higher in the NBC-WSJ poll than in the Ipsos-Reuters survey, 19 and 27 percent, respectively, a difference that is statistically significant.

Which is “right” about Cain’s standing? Both surveys employ high-quality random digit dial sampling, calling cellphones and landlines. NBC polled registered voters who said they would vote in the Republican primary, while the Ipsos results are among Republicans overall. Ipsos kindly ran their numbers filtered on registered voters, and Herman Cain’s mark edges up from 19 to 23 percent. Among comparable groups, the two polls find Romney’s support at 23 and 25 percent (NBC and Ipsos, respectively) and Cain’s at 27 and 23 percent, numbers that are not statistically different (we ran the tests).

The takeaway from these polls is that while Romney’s support is very well known and remarkably consistent across polls, Cain’s are less consistent but roughly on par with Romney’s.

Obama jobs ideas popular, but largely unknown - Even though Obama has pitched his new jobs bill at stops around the country and before a joint session in Congress, 44 percent of Americans have no opinion on whether Congress should pass the measure, according to the NBC-WSJ poll. Some 30 percent say it should be passed, while 22 percent oppose it. When the plan is described in a follow-up question, though, the public supports it by almost 2 to 1 (63 to 32 percent).

The dichotomy between tepid support for the bill in general but larger support for the specific components mirrors findings from other recent polls. A 52 percent majority supported Obama’s bill in a Post-ABC poll in early October, but heavy majorities supported most of the individual measures in a mid-September Gallup poll. As The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza pointed out, it may be a matter of branding: With two in five Americans strongly approving of the president, attaching his name to anything is asking for trouble. 

Wall Street protests draw partisan reactions, but low attention - Americans split 38 to 24 percent favorable-unfavorable when rating the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in an Ipsos-Reuters poll released Wednesday. Democrats rate the movement positively by a 5 to 1 margin, while Republicans oppose it by 2 to 1. More than twice as many political independents are favorable to the movement as are unfavorable, though almost half are undecided.

A poll by Time Magazine finds a higher 54 percent favorable rating for Wall Street protestors. The poll describes the demonstrators as opposing “the government’s bank bailout” and “the influence of money in our political system,” two sentiments that enjoy wide public agreement.

Despite the positive reviews, few Americans are following the protests closely. Just 7 percent of all Americans named it as the top news story they followed last week in Pew's News Interest survey, half as many as cited the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs. 

Support for death penalty ticks down – Support for the death penalty is at its lowest level in more than two decades according to three recent national polls. Confirming a trend first caught by the CBS/New York Times poll, just over six in 10 Americans (61 percent) favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder in a Gallup poll released Thursday. That result is numerically lower than 64 percent in 2010 and at its lowest point since 1972. Fully half of adults chose life imprisonment over the death penalty for murder convicts in a CNN poll released Wednesday, the highest in polls since 1985.

Why the change? While partisan and gender differences persist in polls on the death penalty, both CNN and Gallup find 25-plus point gaps in support for the death penalty between whites and non-whites. It’s possible that the changing poll results are just as much a reflection of recent population trends (fewer whites, more non-whites) as they are individual attitude changes.

Jersey NOT smitten with Snooki – Fully two-thirds of New Jersey voters say the MTV show “Jersey Shore” is bad for the state, and seven in 10 back Republican Gov. Chris Christie's move to block tax breaks for the show, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday. Overwhelming majorities of voters from every political background, age group and region see the show negatively, and ratings have worsened in the past year. In 2010, 51 percent had an unfavorable view of the show, but that’s grown to 69 percent in the new poll.   

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By  |  01:54 PM ET, 10/13/2011

Categories:  GOP nomination, Barack Obama, Economy

 
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