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Presidential Politics: the Religious Voter

With the announcement that President Obama was giving his full support to gay marriage, there has been some speculation that he has damaged himself among black voters who oppose gay marriage (55 percent to 42). One Time contributor has said that Obama has made “a courageous bet that black voters won’t punish him.”

Except black voters have not been shown to vote on social issues, but rather on economic issues, particularly those related to poverty and low income.* As discussed previously on this blog when Gallup released their poll on religion and partisanship, the religiosity of black voters has little impact on their partisan voting behaviour, i.e., they will vote for the Democratic candidate regardless of whether they are very religious or non-religious. Indeed, black voters have voted in particularly high numbers for Democratic candidates since FDR, and exit polls in 2000, 2004 and 2008 showed black support for Gore at 90, Kerry at 88, and Obama at 95 percent.

On the other hand, evangelical voters are not wild about Romney - giving him less support (69 percent) than Bush (79) and McCain (73) - however, they support him more than Obama, and his support among evangelicals has increased from 40 percent in October 2011. You can read the results of that survey here.

Despite any distractions about religious voting demographics - whether it is black voters and gay marriage, or evangelicals and Romney - this election will turn on what is has turned since the Republican nomination began last year, and that is, the economy and the voter’s perception of it.

* I think some clarification is in order here. Voters at the lower end of the income spectrum make decisions based primarily on their economic situation. Since many black voters are unfortunately at the lower end of the income spectrum, their decisions, according to studies, are based on their situation, as with other low income voters.

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theyoungturks:

Will White Males Vote for Barack Obama in 2012?

Before we all go rushing off to expound on what this means, a little context: 41 percent of white males voted for Barack Obama in 2008 (compared to 57 for McCain). Thirty-seven percent of white males voted for Kerry in 2004 (compared to 62 for Bush). Thirty-six percent of white males voted for Gore in 2000 (compared to 60 for Bush).

theyoungturks:

Will White Males Vote for Barack Obama in 2012?

Before we all go rushing off to expound on what this means, a little context: 41 percent of white males voted for Barack Obama in 2008 (compared to 57 for McCain). Thirty-seven percent of white males voted for Kerry in 2004 (compared to 62 for Bush). Thirty-six percent of white males voted for Gore in 2000 (compared to 60 for Bush).

(Source: tytnetwork)

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Writing in the Washington Post, David Nakamura talks about the Obama campaign’s new messaging. One has to wonder whether some voters have become disillusioned, especially new voters, who were inspired by Obama’s candidacy, and whether or not those voters will stay home in 2012 (I don’t think one can assume they will vote Republican). Get out the vote efforts are incredibly important, i.e., getting your voters to turn out and hoping your opponent’s voters will stay home. As discussed in a previous post, independent voters may not be the deciding factor in the 2012 election, so can the President and his team get voters to turnout, because the GOP has demonstrated that is their focus. In that regard, the President has a significant factor in his corner: the ability to raise large sums of money which can be devoted to the GOTV effort. In 2008, Obama spent $899k specifically on GOTV (Source), and if his fundraising success continues, I think one can expect that to top $1 million in 2012 - not counting the spending of independent groups.

As an aside, Dallas Morning News columnist Wayne Slater thinks an Obama/Perry general would resemble Carter’s campaign against Reagan in 1980. I’m quite sure Governor Perry appreciates the comparison.

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Whither Independents Go, So Goes…?

Writing in GovExec, Charlie Cook - of the Cook Report - tells Republicans they will need independent voters to win. Or do they? The conventional wisdom is that candidates have to move to the center after sew up their nomination victory in order to not offend moderates/independents, and I admit to falling as victim to conventional wisdom as much as anyone else. But are Mr Cook’s concerns misplaced? Looking at the latest Gallup poll, they might be. The only GOP candidate (we’re only looking at the top 4) who did not beat the President among independent voters was Rep. Michelle Bachmann. Rick Perry, who has certainly been outspoken on a number of issues (the FED, evolution, climate change, etc.), is leading Obama among independents, which is more surprising than Romney or Paul leading in the same category. In my opinion, this is reflective of the increasing concern about the state of the economy. In other words, at this time, voters are willing to overlook comments which might otherwise concern them in favour of an appealing narrative on jobs, such as the example of Texas, which - regardless of how one believes the jobs have been created - has seen job growth. However, as the article cited above notes, these independent voters may be of little consequence. More important will be the turnout battle, and if the Wisconsin recalls are any indication, the GOP is not going to cede that battle to the Democrats (the recall elections had very high turnout, which would normally benefit the challengers, but the Republicans held onto 4 of their 6 seats, which was the result of a massive GOTV effort).

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The Gallup approval ratings numbers for the President have received a lot of attention recently, especially as the President’s approval rating recently dipped below 40 percent. According the Los Angeles Times analysis by David Lauter, the states in play are Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Georgia, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. This list is similar to that put together by Chris Cillizza last week (discussed here). You can read the full analysis from Gallup here, which includes a breakdown of the most Democratic and Republican states.

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Looking at Gallup’s approval rating numbers (here), Chris Cillizza looks at the key states which will be key in the 2012 general election. Of the states Mr Cillizza looks at, McCain won only one (Arizona). Those states are listed below with the 2008 results, as well the approval rating for Bush:

  1. Iowa - Barack Obama won 53 percent to 44 over McCain in 2008, Bush’s job approval rating in Iowa 29 percent at the time of the election;
  2. Pennsylvania - Obama won 54 percent to 44 percent (results), Bush’s approval rating was 25 percent;
  3. Florida - Obama won 50 to 48 (results), Bush’s approval rating 28;
  4. North Carolina - Obama won 49.7 to 49.38 (results), Bush’s approval rating 31;
  5. Virginia - Obama won 52 to 46 (results), Bush’s approval rating 27;
  6. New Mexico - Obama won 56 to 41 (results), Bush’s approval rating 26;
  7. Ohio - Obama won 51 to 46 (results), Bush’s approval rating 28;
  8. Nevada - Obama won 55 to 42 (results), Bush’s approval rating 27;
  9. Arizona - McCain won 53 to 44 (results), Bush’s approval rating 37;
  10. Colorado - Obama won 53 to 44 (results), Bush’s approval rating 30.

The approval ratings numbers between Bush and Obama are not analogous. Obama’s approval ratings are never going to be that low, but Bush’s numbers were a drag on McCain. Coupled with slow economic growth the approval ratings below 50 percent are going to make the 2012 race a tough one for the incumbent. To his benefit, the President has an amazing fundraising apparatus, which is well on the way to surpassing his 2008 records, so he’ll be able to compete in every state the campaign needs to seriously compete.

[Bush’s approval rating numbers are cited from How Barack Obama Won by Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser].

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Electoral College Math: The Rust Belt

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows a continuing trend for the President in the Rust Belt states (Sources: CNN, Washington Post). The Quinnipiac poll is of Pennsylvania, and no Republican has won in Pennsylvania since 1988 - so, that’s something to keep in mind - but the trend for Obama in Pennsylvania (and trends are important) has not been good. Rather, the trend seems to keep worsening (you can view other PA polls here). With Republicans seeing good numbers in N. Carolina, Florida, and Virginia (all of which Obama won in 2008), the addition of Pennsylvania - if the GOP candidate has the funds the compete there - to the battleground could (not will) tip the electoral math in the GOP’s favour. They might not win - and with all the variables in this equation, that’s a safe bet - but if they can tie up some of Obama’s money and resources in a state that should be safe, it’s beneficial for the GOP, since that’s fewer dollars the Obama campaign can use to take the battle to the GOP in their backyard. The GOP will need a candidate who can raise the funds to be competitive and who has demonstrated the ability to be in striking distance of the President. As with all things, remember that the general election is a long way off and subject to much change, so Republicans shouldn’t read this trend as a sure victory for the GOP, nor should Democrats be quick to dismiss it.