Forward? Voters Don't Think So Posted on August 27, 2012 | Polling Analysis

In his campaign messaging, President Obama claims the mantle of "Forward." But voters fundamentally disagree with that characterization of the country. Only 39 percent of likely voters today say the country is moving forward. That is one reason why the fundamentals of the 2012 election favor Republicans as they gather in Tampa for their quadrennial convention.

That is the conclusion of the latest Resurgent Republic national survey of 1000 likely voters conducted August 16-22, 2012. The survey polled 1000 likely voters nationally, including an oversample to reach a total of 462 voters in twelve battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The sample contains seven percentage points more Democrats than Republicans (Democrats 37 percent, Republicans 30 percent), consistent with other recent national polling.

Key Findings

  1. Economic issues continue to dominate the election, and more than two-thirds of the voters think we are still in a recession.
  2. By margins of at least two-to-one, likely voters think the country's economy, the federal government's financial situation, and the federal government's ability to solve problems are worse than when Obama took office.
  3. American voters favor conservative over liberal definitions of "fairness," and prefer government policies that promote conservative concepts of "opportunity" over liberal concepts of "fairness."
  4. The presidential race remains a dead heat, with 46 percent for Obama/Biden and 45 percent for Romney/Ryan. Romney leads by eight points among Independents (45 to 37 percent), while Obama leads by three points in the twelve battleground states (48 to 45 percent).
  5. President Obama's job approval is an exactly even split (49 approve, 49 disapprove), but a majority disapproves of his handling of the economy (46 approve/51 disapprove).
  6. Voters believe President Obama's economic plan is not working and it is time to try something else.
  7. President Obama's favorable/unfavorable matches his job approval almost exactly (48 favorable/49 unfavorable), and is better than Mitt Romney's (44 favorable/50 unfavorable). But, Romney now has a far better rating among Independents (45 favorable/46 unfavorable) than Obama (39 favorable/55 unfavorable).
  8. Paul Ryan has a net favorable rating, both overall (39 favorable/35 unfavorable) and among Independents (40 favorable/28 unfavorable). But Joe Biden has a net unfavorable overall (42 favorable/47 unfavorable) and among Independents (33 favorable/56 unfavorable).
  9. Ideologically Mitt Romney is viewed where the electorate is – as a center-right candidate. But Barack Obama is viewed as far more liberal than the electorate, outside the ideological mainstream.
  10. Health care reform remains a drag on Obama's reelection prospects, with almost twice as many voters thinking it will hurt rather than help the economy.
  11. A conservative message on protecting and preserving Medicare defeats a liberal message that Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it by five percentage points.
  12. By a large margin, likely voters think regulations have increased under Barack Obama, and that those regulations make it harder to create jobs.
  13. Voters overwhelmingly believe that any tax increase will affect not just the wealthy, but the middle class as well.
  14. Two-thirds of voters think the highest federal income tax rate for families earning more than $250,000 per year should be 30 percent or less – lower than the current rate of 35 percent and the even higher rates proposed by President Obama.
  15. They also think that new revenue from tax increases would go to more spending rather than reducing the deficit.

Forward? Not Really

  1. A majority of voters disagrees with the president's campaign assertion that he is moving the country forward. Fifty-four percent of voters say the country is not moving forward, compared to only 39 percent who say it is. Majorities of Independents (58 percent not moving forward) and battleground-state voters (54 percent not moving forward) disagree with the "Forward" characterization. Voters do not think the country is moving forward because. . .
  2. More than two-thirds of likely voters think the country is still in a recession. Sixty-eight percent say the country is still in a recession, while only 26 percent say it is not. Strong majorities of all partisan groups and battleground-state voters think the country is still in a recession: 85 to 11 percent among Republicans, 69 to 26 percent among Independents, 54 to 40 percent among Democrats, and 67 to 27 percent among battleground-state voters.
  3. Compared to January 2009 when President Obama took office, far more voters think the country is doing worse rather than better on the economy, the federal government's financial situation, the federal government's ability to solve problems, and America's standing in the world. Only on safety from terrorists do voters think we are better off.

    President Obama faces a strong headwind to be reelected in a country where more voters think we are worse off on four of five key measures of progress.

Perspectives on Fairness and Opportunity

As Resurgent Republic first demonstrated last May, voters' perspective on fairness and opportunity leans right rather than left. A message that directly engages the left on both fairness and opportunity will be very productive for center-right candidates and policies.

  1. By a 24-point margin, voters favor a conservative over a liberal definition of "fairness." Voters were asked to choose between two statements:

    Fairness is making sure the wealthy pay their fair share by increasing their taxes, eliminating loopholes, and giving up special deductions.

    Fairness is making sure everyone pays their fair share, and no one gets bailouts, preferential treatment, or special favors from political cronies.

    Voters choose the second definition by 58 to 34 percent. Overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Independents favor the second definition (67 to 24 percent and 58 to 32 percent, respectively). But in August, unlike May, even Democrats prefer the second definition, 49 to 46 percent. Republicans should welcome a debate over "fairness."

  2. By a 22-point margin, Americans want their government to promote a conservative definition of opportunity over a liberal definition of fairness. Voters were asked to choose between two statements:

    Government policies should promote fairness by narrowing the gap between rich and poor, making the rich pay their fair share, and reducing income inequality.

    Government policies should promote opportunity by fostering job growth, encouraging entrepreneurs, and allowing hardworking people to keep more of what they earn.

    As in May, voters choose conservative opportunity over liberal fairness, this month by 58 to 36 percent. Republicans prefer the conservative opportunity message by 77 to 17 percent, as do Independents by 61 to 34 percent. Democrats prefer liberal fairness by 52 to 40 percent. Expanding opportunity for all rather than mandating economic outcomes remains a winning message for center-right candidates.

Ballot Test and Name IDs

  1. The presidential race remains a dead heat, with 46 percent for Obama/Biden and 45 percent for Romney/Ryan. That compares to an Obama lead of 47 to 45 percent in our July survey. Romney has expanded his lead slightly among Independents from five points in July (45 to 40 percent) to eight points in August (45 to 37 percent). Among battleground-state voters the exact split in July (46 percent each) is now a three-point lead for Obama/Biden (48 to 45 percent). But these changes are margin-of-error shifts consistent with a dead heat race.
  2. By a 22-point margin, Independents think it is time to give someone else a chance to be President, while battleground-state voters split evenly. Only 35 percent of Independents think Obama deserves reelection, while 57 percent want to give someone else a chance. Battleground-state voters split at 48 percent deserves reelection and 47 percent time for someone else.
  3. President Obama's favorable/unfavorable rating matches his job approval almost exactly – the "personal likability" advantage has disappeared. His favorable/unfavorable rating is 48/49, virtually identical to his job approval of 49/49. Consistent with our July survey, the pattern of Obama scoring higher on his favorable rating than his job approval is gone.
  4. Mitt Romney's overal