Republican-leaning voting blocs are more enthusiastic to vote this November, which could be the deciding factor in a turnout election. As we head into the final campaign stretch, President Obama faces the unwelcoming reality that he must close the voter enthusiasm gap and improve his performance among key voting subgroups if he is to be successful in his bid for reelection.
When looking at those voters who say they are extremely enthusiastic to vote in the presidential election, Republicans hold a double-digit advantage over Democrats, 62 to 49 percent, and the subgroups most likely to support Governor Romney register higher enthusiasm than those backing President Obama, according to our most recent survey July 9-12.
Reliable Republican demographics, such as Protestants, Evangelicals, and white men, score above the median rate of those who are extremely enthusiastic to turnout and far out pace several traditional Democratic voting groups, including Hispanic voters, unmarried, and young voters (18-to-29-year-olds). African-American voters are the exception among Obama supporters and register enthusiasm on par with Republicans.
The higher enthusiasm among Republicans overall will help shrink the traditional Democratic identification advantage on Election Day, which stood at seven points during the 2008 wave election. As a result, national polling with a Democratic voter edge greater than the 2008 margin should be viewed with skepticism.
In addition to the enthusiasm gap, President Obama is underperforming among key members of his coalition. He holds 53 percent support on the ballot among voters with household income less than $50k, down seven points from 2008. President Obama swept young voters (18-to-29-year-olds) by 66 to 32 percent in 2008, but this margin has been nearly cut in half, 53 to 35 percent. Typically a swing voting bloc in presidential elections, Catholic voters are clearly up for grabs, 47 to 47 percent.
Among subgroups that President Obama is likely to lose, he’s doing so by a wider margin. The president trails among white men 61 to 30 percent, a 15 point swing compared to 2008 (57 to 41 percent). His support among white non-college educated voters is also down eight points.
It will be difficult for President Obama to close these gaps by winning the undecided voters outright. Nearly every poll puts the presidential contest in a statistical dead heat, with President Obama and Governor Romney battling to win a small percentage of undecided voters. Resurgent Republic’s most recent survey found only five percent of voters nationally are undecided on the presidential ballot, while that figure shrinks to three percent in the battleground states.
Conventional wisdom dictates that undecided voters do not split evenly, and the overwhelmingly negative political climate is a significant hurdle for President Obama in bucking this trend. Strong majorities of voters still believe the country is on the wrong track, and even more feel like the economy is stuck in a recession.
After four years of President Obama’s economic polices, undecided voters are receptive to the message that it’s time to try something else. So as of today, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where President Obama wins more of the undecided bloc than Governor Romney. It seems President Obama’s best outcome among these voters is to fight Governor Romney to a draw, or even hope they don’t vote, both of which heighten the importance of base turnout and the president’s enthusiasm deficit.
In addition, President Obama’s reelection campaign should not depend on Independent voters to make up the lost votes due to lack of enthusiasm and ballot underperformance. Swing voters voted for Republican candidates for Congress by an 18-point margin in 2010, delivering in the process an unequivocal rebuke of President Obama’s agenda. President Obama’s job approval, handling of the economy, personal approval and ballot support among swing voters are all stuck in the low 40’s. Having won a majority of Independents in 2008, President Obama now trails his previous performance by 12 points.