Are Public Opinion Polls Skewed Against Mitt Romney?

Republicans say Romney is behind President Barack Obama in public opinion polls because pollsters are interviewing too many Democrats.

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Ahead of the first presidential debate on Wednesday, President Barack Obama has been polling ahead of Republican candidate Mitt Romney both nationally and in several key swing states. Republicans say this is because polls are biased against Romney, while Democrats maintain it reflects a real increase in support for Obama.

The presidential race has remained extremely close until the last few weeks, when Obama began to show his first marked lead. Obama received a slight polling bounce after the Democratic National Convention, while Romney didn't receive much in the way of a bounce from either his vice presidential selection announcement or the Republican National Convention. Romney now trails the president in polling numbers up to 7 points, but Republicans say this is because the polling sample is too heavily Democratic.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

U.S. News's Ford O'Connell says, "Years from now, we'll look back on this election as the one where we learned fact-checkers can't be relied on to fact check objectively and pollsters can't be relied on not to skew their results for their favored candidates."

Republicans also argue that media bias has prevented undecided voters from receiving much attention. U.S. News's Mary Kate Cary says poll numbers actually show Romney up with this group:

There's not much news about horse-race numbers among independent voters, at least not in the last few months. I think if Obama were leading among independents, we'd be hearing all about them. Instead, we're hearing a lot of crickets chirping. 

You have to look hard to find mentions of independents at all. If you dug deep into a CNN poll taken earlier this month of both registered and likely voters—which showed an overall lead of 52 percent for Obama to 46 percent for Romney—you'd find that Romney led Obama among likely independent voters by a whopping 14 points, 54 to 40 percent.  

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Democrats say Obama is polling higher than Romney because voters prefer the president to his Republican challenger. Romney's campaign has also struggled lately, with the release of the "47 percent" video and his hasty remarks politicizing the diplomatic murders in Libya. He is also trailing in several key swing states, which are necessary for victory. U.S. News's Robert Schlesinger discusses the importance of this shift:

Ohio is slipping away from Mitt Romney. That's the judgment of the top political handicappers—Real Clear Politics, The Cook Political Report, The Rothenberg Political Report, Sabato's Crystal Ball, and the New York Times's Nate Silverwho have all now moved the Buckeye State from the toss-up category into the lean Obama category. And as you've probably heard—no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.

Indeed, while all the cautionary provisos should still be deployed—there are weeks and weeks left before the election and the debates could still shake up the race (though history shows that they rarely do), Romney's path to the White House is diminishing into nothingness.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

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