Romney’s favorability rating tops Obama’s

The Washington Examiner reports a milestone in the polls:

Late Thursday, the Pew Research Center, the poll that has been toughest on Romney’s favorability, released results showing that Romney is ahead of Obama by a point, 50 percent to 49 percent. That is a stunning turnaround from March, when Obama’s favorable rating in Pew was about twice Romney’s, 55 percent to 29 percent.

Gallup also has Romney beating Obama on the favorability rating, 52 percent to 51 percent.

Even the liberal DailyKos/SEIU/PPP poll has Romney beating Obama on the fave rating, 49 percent to 46 percent.

This surge in likability is attributed by Romney aides to the personal testimonials of people Romney has helped, delivered during the Republican convention, coupled with his commanding performance in the first presidential debate.

But favorability and likability ratings are so subjective that they might just as well be drawn along by a candidate’s performance in other metrics.  There probably aren’t many people who would profess themselves willing to vote for someone they truly “disliked” or “disapproved” of, entirely because they agree with his policies.  In the main, as they draw closer to casting their vote, most will tend towards saying they truly like the candidate they support.  There are lots of different ways to like a person, ranging from a sense of relaxed camaraderie (the “which candidate would you rather have a beer with?” metric) to deep respect for personal and professional achievements.  Voters will pick one, and get those favorable numbers up.

It also seems like swing voters judge favorability on a relative scale.  As they move toward supporting one candidate, they’re less likely to say they really like the other one.  Sometimes political strategists describe favorability as a leading indicator, particularly with regard to the incumbent – if people like him, they’re more inclined to re-elect him.  But maybe it’s more properly viewed as a trailing indicator, especially among the truly undecided.