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Poll: Pawlenty does better against Obama among those who don’t know him

WASHINGTON — An interesting note out of today’s Public Policy Polling survey, which tested Tim Pawlenty directly against President Obama in a hypothetical head-to-head.

Though Obama tops him nationally right now, Pawlenty actually does better (losing 31-38) with people who don’t know enough about him to form an opinion than those who do (down 36-58), according to PPP, a Democratic-leaning North Carolina-based polling firm, which has been rated among the most accurate pollsters in the U.S. by FiveThirtyEight and the Wall Street Journal.

PPP did not poll Michele Bachmann in this survey.

While Republican voters are getting to know Pawlenty (and as we noted Tuesday, when they do they like what they see), Democrats are becoming more familiar with him quicker, and their opposition is driving his trend.

The analysis of his own numbers on T-Paw from Tom Jensen at PPP:

This is the first time we’ve included Pawlenty on a national poll since December of 2009. His name recognition has improved from 36% to 48% in the last 15 months. The bad news for him is that his favorability has just gone from 12% to 15% while his unfavorabilty has gone from 24% to 33%. That’s because his negatives with Democrats have risen at a much higher rate (from 32% to 48%) than his positives with Republicans have improved (from 16% to 23%.) So basically Democrats are developing a negative opinion of him at 2X the rate Republicans are developing a positive opinion of him. 

And here’s a fact that doesn’t bode well for Pawlenty as he becomes better known. With voters who have no opinion about him, he trails Obama only 38-31. With voters who do feel like they know enough about him to have an opinion he trails the President 58-36. So if he becomes the GOP nominee by attrition, well, Democrats are probably fine with that. But these numbers don’t really suggest that Republican voters will turn toward Pawlenty as they get to know him better either, so I’m not sure about the ‘default’ theory, although it’s as plausible as anything else out there in this highly unsettled field.

Jensen’s full analysis, including how Pawlenty can make up part of his gap with Obama by becoming better known among GOP voters, is here.

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