Saturday, April 21, 2012

In the details

A new poll from Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has found that President Obama continues to have a lead over assumed Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. Much of the coverage has been about the ranking of issues, as shown in the Pew chart accompanying this post. The really interesting stuff, I think, is in the details.

The left-hand side the chart lists the percentage of voters who rank an issue as “Very Important”. That’s then broken down to show which candidate those voters prefer and who has the advantage.

Not surprisingly, most US voters rated the economy and jobs highly. In this poll, 86% rated “The Economy” as “Very Important”, and 84% said that about jobs. But when we look further, we see that President Obama has a 4-point advantage in candidate preference among those rated the economy as a very important issue (48% v. 44%), while on jobs Romney had a 1 point advantage (Obama is at 47%, Romney at 48%, a virtual tie). To me, this indicates volatility among voters on economic issues.

Republicans have indicated that they plan to make healthcare—well, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act—as one of the main centrepieces of their campaign. Yet among the 74% who rated healthcare as “Very Important”, President Obama has a whopping 15-point advantage. It would seem Republicans don’t quite have the right angle on this issue.

Republicans have also pledged to roll back environmental protections, but President Obama has a gigantic 39-point lead over Romney among those who rate the Environment as “Very Important”The only issues where Romney has such big advantages on are things related to traditional Republican issues.

Look also at the bottom of the list, where “social issues” sit. On the face of it, it would seem Republicans are being stupid to focus so much on these issues when, clearly, they don’t ignite voters: Abortion was rated “Very Important” by only 39% of voters, Birth Control by 34% and Gay Marriage by a mere 28%. Here, too, the numbers are interesting: Those who think that Abortion and Gay Marriage are very important give the advantage to Romney (by a measly 2 points on abortion and strong 7 point on gay marriage). However, those who think that Birth Control is “very important” favour President Obama by a whopping 19 points. Clearly, the Republican Party’s war on women is benefitting President Obama.

This is backed up by the demographic data in which President Obama holds a commanding 13-point lead among all women over the ex-governor, who only leads by 6 points among all men. The president also leads in all age brackets apart from 65+. The president has dramatic lead among Black voters (95 to 2) and 2-to-1 lead among Hispanic voters, but trails by 15 points among white voters. Clearly, this is not “post-racial” America.

This is reinforced when one looks at white voters alone: The president leads only among young voters (18-29), and by only 2 points (young voters are the least likely to vote). The president also leads by one point among those with a university education or better.

Add all this up, and it seems to me that if these numbers were to hold through to November (and they won’t), it will take a coalition much like that of 2008 for the president to win re-election. Most pundits think the state of the economy in November will determine the election. While that will be important, I think the bigger issue is demographics: Republicans at the state level have been engaged in massive voter suppression efforts since 2010 to make it harder for young people and minorities to vote. Those voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, which is why the Republicans are trying to prevent them from voting.

So, while the state of the economy will be important for the outcome of the elections in November, ultimately the result is in the details, not any one issue. The Democrats have a lot of work ahead of them.

Related: I recently blogged about verifying information and also about assuming nothing about what others say or even what we know. In that spirit, I’d like to point out that by following the link to the poll, one can download a PDF of the poll and related materials. I encourage everyone to do so and to draw independent conclusions. I first saw this poll reported on another site, and that’s exactly what I did.

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