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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nine Things to Think About on Election Night

Nine interesting things to think about as we await the election results:
  1. Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting this year than are Democrats. This contrasts  with 2008, in particular, when the opposite was true. Here’s how we ask the question: “Compared to previous elections, are you more enthusiastic than usual about voting, or less enthusiastic?” Here are the numbers: In 2008, Democrats (including leaners): 76% more enthusiastic; Republicans (including leaners): 61% more enthusiastic. Now, in 2012, Democrats (including leaners): 61% more enthusiastic; Republicans (including leaners): 73% more enthusiastic. We don't know the precise impact of these attitudes on actual voting behavior, particularly in a world in which there are massive get out the vote efforts. Such "mechanical" processes can override or supersede prospective voters' usual patterns. 
  2. Phone status is a modest predictor of vote choice. The majority of Americans have both landlines and cell phones. We interview roughly half of our respondents on landlines and half on cell phones. Likely voters we interview on a landline skew slightly to Romney 51% to 46%, which is not too far off the overall sample average for our final Nov. 1-4 poll (Romney 49%; Obama 48%). Voters we interview on a cell phone skew slightly toward Obama (Obama 50%; Romney 46%). Those we interview on a cell phone who tell us they don’t have a landline are slightly more likely to vote for Obama (55% to 40%). These differences are no surprise but raise significant issues with polling methodology that we and other firms have been dealing with for years now.
  3. Other than party identification and ideology, the American electorate is more divided by race/ethnicity than any other variable. In short, the nation is very politically polarized along racial lines. Among all voters who identify as non-white, the race is 78% for Obama; 19% for Romney - among likely voters. Among all voters who identify as white (non-Hispanic), the race is 39% for Obama; 57% for Romney.
  4. Other predictors of vote choice, which the exit polls will confirm after this election, are age (the older you are, the more likely you are to vote for Romney), education (the biggest distinction being those with post-graduate education who swing significantly to Obama), and of course gender (women would elect Obama; men would elect Romney).
  5. Swing state voters have received more “love” from the candidates’ campaigns this year.  Whether or not that is a good thing from these voters' perspectives is a different question.  In 12 swing states, 52% have been contacted by the Obama campaign and 50% by the Romney campaign. Around the nation, the total is smaller, down to 34% by the Obama campaign and 35% by the Romney campaign.   
  6. If we take voters at their word, 70% had their minds set for whom they would be voting before the conventions; another 12% decided after the conventions -- leaving 11% who decided this month and 10% who were still not totally certain at the time we interviewed them last Thursday and Friday.
  7. Among registered voters, 50% say Obama deserves to be re-elected, while 49% say that he does not. It doesn’t get more divided than this.
  8. Satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. is still not highly positive, but at 33%, it is now at its highest level since June 2009. Economic confidence is also still negative, but as my colleague Alyssa Brown outlines, it is more positive now than it has been since 2008. This higher confidence is fueled by the very positive attitudes of Democrats and also an uptick among independents. Republicans remain very negative about the economy.
  9. Romney and Obama now have the same favorable scores -- 52% among likely voters. Obama, however, has a higher score among all national adults -- 55% favorable compared to Romney's 46% favorable. At this juncture, both candidates are very well-known; 3% of national adults do not have an opinion of Obama, while 7% do not have an opinion of Romney. This wasn't always the case. When we first asked about Obama in December 2006, 47% did not have an opinion of him. When we first asked about Romney in December 2006, 69% did not have an opinion of him. I conducted an exercise where I re-calculated each candidate's favorable opinion based on the base of those who gave an opinion. Obama started out much more favorably, with 79% of those with an opinion saying it was favorable.  For Romney, it was 61% favorable among those who had an opinion in his first poll. Using this scale, Obama's lowest point came in October 2010 with a 48% favorable opinion among those who had an opinion. Romney's low point came in August 2007 with a 42% favorable rating among those who rated him.  

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