A new Quinnipiac University poll released early Wednesday shows a significant bump over the past month for President Obama and his party, while businessman Herman Cain leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Republican primary, with most of the interviews conducted prior to revelations that some of Cain's former employees received settlements after alleging Cain sexually harassed them.
Obama's approval rating is up to 47 percent in the poll, compared to a woeful 41 percent in early October.
Obama "seems to be improving in voters' eyes almost across-the-board," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "He scores big gains among the groups with whom he has had the most problems -- whites and men. Women also shift from a five-point negative to a four-point positive."
In addition to his improved approval rating, Obama also leads Romney, his closest GOP challenger, by five points, 47 percent to 42 percent, turning around a four-point deficit a month ago. Obama posts double-digit leads -- and clears the crucial 50-percent threshold -- over Cain (50 percent to 40 percent), Gingrich (52 percent to 37 percent) and Perry (52 percent to 36 percent).
Still, there are indications that the poll could just be a blip. The sample of voters to whom Quinnipiac talked in the new poll is significantly more Democratic -- and less Republican -- than the early October survey. In the current poll, 35 percent of respondents identified as Democrats, 22 percent as Republicans and 36 percent as independents, according to data provided to National Journal Wednesday morning. In the early October poll, 31 percent of respondents were Democrats, 28 percent were Republicans and 33 percent were independents.
(For reference: In 2008, according to exit polls, 39 percent of voters identified as Democrats, 32 percent identified as Republicans and 29 percent identified as independents. In the 2010 midterm elections; the percentages of Democrats and Republicans were equal; midterm elections typically feature higher Republican turnout.)
In a phone interview Wednesday morning, Quinnipiac Poll director Doug Schwartz said his organization does not weight by party identification, and the poll's large sample size guards against over-sampling or under-sampling a certain subgroup. A review of other demographic data from the two polls shows that there were not significant discrepancies in the breakdowns by age, gender, geographical region or race across the surveys.
"We're very comfortable with the results," said Schwartz.
Democrats also lead the GOP on the House generic ballot by eight points, 42 percent to 34 percent, with 22 percent saying they were undecided or would vote for another candidate. The two parties were tied just a month ago.
In the Republican primary, Cain holds a small-but-significant lead over Romney, 30 percent to 23 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was third, at 10 percent, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, at 8 percent. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was fourth at 7 percent, trailed by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., at 4 percent. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman garnered 2 percent, and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was at 1 percent. Sixteen percent of Republicans were undecided.
The poll was conducted Oct. 25-31, meaning that there was only one day of interviews after Politico first published their story about alleged settlements at the National Restaurant Association during Cain's tenure as chief executive officer.
Two-thirds of Republicans say they have watched at least one of the GOP debates, and among those who have watched, Gingrich (25 percent), Romney (24 percent) and Cain (22 percent) scored highest when respondents were asked who did the best job. Asked who did worst, 37 percent chose Perry, easily the highest of any candidate.
The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 2,294 registered voters, for a margin of error of +/- 2.1 percent. The Republican primary includes 869 voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent.