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Thursday, March 15, 2012

GOP Enthusiasm Continues to be Weak

I've already touched on the latest Pew poll briefly, but it really bears a closer look. In my original post, I used Pew to shoot down the "Obama's crashing poll numbers" narrative that's currently popular on the right. After all, it -- like most other recent polling -- shows the President's numbers rising, not falling. A grand total of two polls have shown Obama's approval dropping and his lead in the general election drying up. All polling since then shows the opposite -- Pew included.

But the Pew poll also shows a trend continuing and, perhaps, worsening -- Republican voters still don't like their choices. And the stark differences between the candidates (as much as Romney pretends to be as far to the right as Santorum) is actually exacerbating the problem. Behold the damage:

Pew poll graphic

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press:

As voters look toward the fall election, Democrats express more enthusiasm for Obama than Republicans do for either of their party’s leading candidates. To be sure, however, this reflects the internal divisions within the party over who would be the best nominee, with each candidate receiving tepid support from those who would prefer to see the other candidate win.


If the general election is between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, 75% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say they would back Obama strongly, compared with 63% of Republicans and Republican leaners who say they would back Romney strongly.

If Santorum is the GOP nominee, 80% of Democratic voters say they would support Obama strongly, compared with 61% strongly backing Santorum among Republican voters.

Santorum backers rightly distrust Romney as a flip-flopping, finger-in-the-wind politician. And Romney backers rightly see Santorum as a doomed candidate (Pew shows he'd lose to Obama in a 57%-39% landslide). So each group sees the nomination of the other candidate as game over. Meanwhile, respondents who describe themselves as "strong" Obama supporters outnumber Romney's strong supporters in nearly every demographic. Not surprisingly, those numbers are highest for Obama among women and minorities -- demographic trends are rendering the GOP's southern strategy (a polite term for appealing to prejudice) obsolete. Romney wins only white men and ties with white women and people over 65. The white vote is simply not enough to give a candidate the presidency anymore. Thankfully, the effectiveness of racebaiting is in it's twilight -- if the sun hasn't already set on it.

Finally, there's a growing sense of inevitability to President Obama's reelection. "By a 59% to 32% margin, most Americans think Barack Obama will win the election if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee," Pew reports. "That margin [is] far wider if Rick Santorum is the GOP nominee: 68% think Obama would win, just 24% Santorum."

Further, this sense of inevitability is bolstering Democratic enthusiasm; we've already seen how Obama leads the "strong supporter" race. And the GOP's "who's crazier" contest isn't helping them any on that count, either. In their frantic search for some demographic to replace minorities in the southern strategy, they're pissing off pretty much everyone other than straight, white Evangelical males -- the woman vote being their latest casualty in that war. Since people are more likely to vote against something than for something, angry people are among the most motivated voters.

It's almost required that you point out that a lot can change between now and November when you write about polling. And that's true. But right now, things are looking very good for President Obama.

Now wonder the right is clinging to those two dissenting polls.


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