In this last Resurgent Republic survey before the election, taken October 23-25, Mitt Romney has caught up with President Obama, and now leads the national ballot by 48 to 47 percent. The Romney advance has been driven by Independent voters who have moved toward Romney in the wake of the three Presidential debates.
President Obama defeated Senator John McCain among Independent voters in 2008 by eight percentage points (52 to 44 percent), one of the main reasons Obama won the presidential election. But this survey shows Obama's support collapsing among Independents. Governor Mitt Romney leads Obama among Independents by 51 to 39 percent. If those numbers hold, that would mark a net 20-point turnaround for Obama among Independent voters in four years.
Problems with Independent voters are nothing new for Barack Obama. Since our first survey in April of 2009, Resurgent Republic has been pointing out Obama's weakness among Independents and their resistance to his fiscal and economic policies. But this is the first survey since Mitt Romney secured the Republican nomination to show Obama trailing among Independents by double digits.
A portion of the survey was conducted for NPR in conjunction with Democracy Corps. 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 four percentage points more Democrats than Republicans, 35 percent Democrat and 31 percent Republican. That is in the middle of the range of party balance in the last three presidential elections: according to exit polls Democrats outnumbered Republicans by four percentage points in 2000 (39 to 35 percent), the parties were even in 2004 (37 percent each), and Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 7 percentage points in 2008 (39 to 32 percent). Following are key highlights of the survey.
The Republican candidate says if Barack Obama is reelected, the next four years will be just like the last four. The middle class is getting crushed. Incomes are down by $4,300 per family, and health insurance premiums are up by $2,500. 23 million Americans are still out of work. He said he would cut the deficit in half, but instead he doubled it. Governor Romney has a plan to help the middle class and small businesses, and create 12 million new jobs. We just can't afford four more years of Barack Obama.
The Democratic candidate says we’re moving forward but we have much more to do to get jobs back and help the middle class. Governor Romney would take us back to policies that got us in trouble. So, here's my plan for the next four years: make education a national priority; build on our manufacturing boom, give tax breaks to companies that invest here; boost American-made energy; reduce the deficit responsibly AND ask the wealthy to pay a little more. And end the war in Afghanistan so we can do nation-building here at home.
Voters overall split between the two messages at 48 percent each, virtually identical to the 48 to 47 percent Rommey/Obama ballot. Independents prefer the Republican message by 51 to 42 percent, while battleground state voters prefer the Democratic message by 51 to 44 percent. The campaign messages without candidate names reflect the deep divisions in the country for the best way forward.
This Presidential election bears similarities to 1980 when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter. While Barack Obama is in a far stronger position now than Carter was then (Obama's job approval is 49 percent; Carter's was in the mid-30s), both elections feature an incumbent Democratic president trying to paint his Republican challenger as a dangerous right-winger. Both elections feature debates where the Republican challenger's performance undercut the opposition's argument, and led to a surge on the ballot. Since the Republican candidate became an acceptable alternative through the debates, the election devolved into a referendum on the incumbent and his record. Carter could not win that referendum. Next week we will see if Barack Obama can.
This survey of 1000 likely voters nationally, including an oversample to reach a total of 462 battleground-state voters, was conducted October 23-25, 2012. Respondents were selected randomly from a random-digit-dialing sample including both cellular and landline telephone numbers, and were contacted by live interviewers. All respondents confirmed that they are registered to vote in the county in which they live. Quotas were set for state, age, and race based on state registration and previous turnout. By party the sample is 35 percent Democrat, 33 percent Independent, and 31 percent Republican.
The margins of error for responses with an even split – 50 percent for one response and 50 percent for another response – are ±3.10 percent for the full sample, ±5.60 percent for Republicans (306 respondents), ±5.58 percent for Independents (309 respondents), ±5.09 percent for Democrats (370 respondents), and ±4.56 percent for battleground-state voters (462 respondents). The margin of error is smaller when one response receives a higher level of support. For example, the margin of error is ±2.68 percent when 75 percent of respondents in the full sample choose one response and 25 percent choose another response.