ELECTIONATE JULY 18, 2012
This afternoon, PPP released a New Mexico survey with surprising results, showing Obama’s lead in the state collapsing, as the president fell from a 14 point advantage to just a 5 point edge. So is this a sign that New Mexico is returning to its competitive roots? If I were Romney, I wouldn't get too excited yet. A closer look at the numbers reveals that Obama is probably still holding up well in the Land of Enchantment.
There's a reason that New Mexico is a blue state. A diverse coalition of Latinos, Native Americans, and college educated whites provided Obama with a 15 point win four years ago. Other polls, including PPP’s prior poll, show Obama with a double digit advantage. And while the state has occasionally received a few thousand dollars of advertising, neither the Obama nor the Romney campaign has invested in the state.
But if Obama has a comfortable lead in New Mexico, what's with the latest PPP poll? How did PPP find a close race? According to PPP, only 56 percent of New Mexico’s Hispanics support Obama—down from 67 percent in their last poll and 69 percent in the 2008 exit polls. Did Hispanic voters abandon Obama en masse since April? There isn’t much data to support that conclusion, although Latino voters are so hard to poll that this possibility can’t be completely discounted.
There's a better explanation, though: PPP surveyed a disproportionately McCain-friendly electorate. The PPP sample voted for Obama by just 8 points in 2008—51-to-43—even though Obama won by 15 percent in 2008. The cross-tabs confirm that Obama’s weakness isn’t due to a wave of disenchanted Obama voters; just 6 percent of Obama '08 voters have flipped to Romney while the same number flipped from McCain to Obama.
So the PPP poll does not appear to have detected a major shift in New Mexico’s perceptions of Obama. Instead, PPP surveyed an electorate that voted for Obama by just 8 percentage points, rather than his actual 15 percent margin. Since the poll confirms that Obama voters haven’t abandoned the President and most polls continue to show the President performing well among Latino voters, the recent poll should not be taken as strong evidence that New Mexico is competitive.