Two new polls show Obama’s vulnerability

by Ryan Streeter on February 23, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Two interesting polls out today show that the public may not be responding to events the way commentators in the media keep telling us they will.

First, a new Quinnipiac poll shows that, first, people think the economy is markedly better, but second, they don’t credit Obama. Not yet anyway. Respondents have shifted 51 points since September 1, 2011 in their view that the economy is in recovery. ┬áBut their negative views of Obama persist: “Voters say 50 – 45 percent that President Obama does not deserve reelection, compared to 48 – 45 percent saying no in November.”

Obvious caveat: there’s time for this to change, and depending on the course of the campaign, an improving economy could give Obama the boost he’s hoping for.

Still, the foregone conclusion among the chattering classes that the economy will boost Obama is not so foregone in voters’ minds.

Second, a new Gallup poll shows Santorum in a statistical tie with Obama. Romney has moved out ahead of Obama, 50-46, among people asked who they’d vote for if the election were held today. He has been in a statistical tie with Obama for awhile, but today’s poll is the best Gallup news he’s gotten so far. Santorum has made even bigger gains in the past month. Just three weeks ago, Obama led him 51-43, but today, the spread is 49-48 – an in-the-margin-of-error tie.

Obvious caveat: the poll was held after Santorum’s February 7 victories in MN, MO, and CO, but before his latest round of comments on Satan and contraception, as well as his debate performance last night that most commentators seem to agree was sub-par.

But even considering these caveats, one thing that seems clear from these two polls: Obama is clearly vulnerable. The economy is not linked with approval in a one-to-one way. And it’s not like Santorum’s latest round of comments exposed his strong convictions on such matters to voters for the first time. His rise against Obama still came after Americans have had a chance to get to know him.