A review of recent public polling confirms the main findings of our 2012 focus groups: this election features a Democratic President with some of his strongest ratings in national security. This is extraordinary after four decades of Republican dominance on security issues.
Set forth below are the most pertinent findings of recent, publicly available, polling data on national security issues. We offer results for Registered Voters (RV) and, where available, for Likely Voters (LV), Independent (IND) and moderate (MOD) voters.
Here’s a flavor:
International Affairs: Independents trust Obama over Romney on international affairs by 9 points.
Afghanistan: 58% of Independents support the President’s troop withdrawal plan.
Libya: 40% of Independents disapprove of the President’s handling of Libya.
Fighting Terrorism: 51% of Independents trust Obama over Romney on handling terrorism.
Did you happen to notice how, at both conventions, speaker after speaker talked about how much the party’s candidate would do for “the middle class”? “Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class,” Mitt Romney said. President Obama promised “a future where we reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class.”
What exactly do Americans mean when they call themselves middle class? Just this: neither rich nor poor. That’s why middle class Americans support tax hikes for the rich. If they’re for the rich, I won’t have to pay them. That’s also why middle class Americans are suspicious of government programs to help the poor. If they’re for the poor, they won’t do me any good (and I may have to pay for them).
The Pew poll asked Americans what it takes to be in the middle class today. The top answer by far: a secure job. That’s why jobs are the number one issue this year. Without a secure job, you can’t be in the middle class. Fewer than half of Americans now say you have to own your own home to be in the middle class. The figure was much higher (70%) in 1991, when a similar question was asked. The collapse of home prices since 2006 has had a devastating impact. Owning a home is no longer seen as a guarantee of security.
Only one contender, President Obama, has been expanding his populist appeal during this year’s campaign (against Romney, it isn’t that hard). Two post-convention polls show Obama far ahead of Romney as the candidate more “in touch with the problems facing middle class Americans” and better for “advancing the interests of the middle class.”
2012 is the first election year on record in which neither party got a bounce out of its political convention. According to the Gallup poll, which has been measuring convention bounces for nearly 50 years, President Obama gained a negligible one point in support from the Democratic convention in Charlotte, while Mitt Romney actually went down a point after the Republican convention in Tampa.
Only twice before have conventions produced such a small bounce. John Kerry lost a point after the 2004 Democratic convention and George McGovern got zero bounce from the 1972 Democratic convention, where he delivered his acceptance speech at three o’clock in the morning. Even the chaotic 1968 Democratic convention produced a two-point bounce for Hubert Humphrey.
What happened this year?
The polls have been in a statistical dead heat since February, when it became clear that Romney would be the Republican nominee. Neither candidate has been able to sustain any momentum.
Voters appear to be dug in. It’s all about President Obama, and voters seem to have firm opinions for or against the President. The number of truly undecided voters ranges between 5% and 8% in most polls. One quarter of Americans live in battleground states. Which means the entire campaign is targeted at between 1.5 and 3 million swing voters in battleground states. Some enterprising political consultant probably has their names and addresses. Maybe Mitt Romney will send each of them a check.
Wondering what the public is thinking on national security issues? Third Way’s newest memo, The Politics of National Security, gives you the latest round-up of public opinion polling on a wide range of national security issues. In this memo we bring you the data behind:
President Obama’s strength on national security issues, which does not stick to Democrats;
The public’s gut opposition to defense cuts and how to overcome it;
The public’s wariness about present and future military interventions.
To re-read our earlier focus group work on national security, click here.
2008 Exit Poll Quick Fact: Obama Independents felt a connection to their candidate.
Obama Independents felt a strong connection to Obama, while McCain Independents were distant from McCain. When asked “which candidate is in touch with people like you?” Obama Independents overwhelmingly chose President Obama (75%) in 2008. By contrast, just 49% of McCain Independents chose McCain.
New Voter Registration Numbers: Independents Surge in Battleground States
Beyond New Hampshire there is a significant political story unfolding – a surge in Independent voter registration.
Since November 2008, in the eight battleground states that have partisan voter registration:
Independent enrollment is up by 320,657 voters, or plus 3.4%;
Democratic enrollment is down 834,197 voters, or minus 5.6%; and,
Republican enrollment is down 334,608, or minus 2.9%
Over the past 2 months, since Third Way’s initial November 2011 report, Independents are continuing to surge while Democratic voter registration is faltering. Republican registration could be making a comeback. Since our November 2011 report:
The number of Independents is up 59,239,
Democrats have dropped 8,491, and
Republicans have increased 44,227.
In the last 4 months of 2011, first in the nation New Hampshire added 3,468 Independent voters and lost 1,658 Democrats and 406 Republicans.
Read our last memo for all the updated state-by-state numbers—including detailed information from New Hampshire. In these battlegrounds, Independents are going to be the deciders in 2012, and the candidate that woos them will win.
“The votes that President Obama needs to cobble together are going to be made up more of independents than they were last time. This time, it’s going to be much, much closer, and in a closer race those independents are going to put him over the top.”
Third Way’s Lanae Erickson in USA Today on the importance of Independent voters in the upcoming 2012 election.