The First Likely Voter Poll from Fox News Portends Mostly Good News

Friday, August 24th, 2012 by and is filed under Blog, Elections

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Earlier this afternoon Fox News posted their first likely voter poll of the campaign, which shows Mitt Romney leading Barack Obama 45%-44%.  Many of us were wondering how the polling would look once the pollsters switch to a likely voter screen – a model which is almost always more favorable to Republicans than a poll of registered voters.  This poll of 1,007 likely voters is a far cry from the last Fox News poll of 930 registered voters, which showed Obama with a 9 point lead.  Obviously, that poll was taken during the nadir of Romney’s campaign and before he got a boost from picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, but clearly the LV model makes a difference.  In this case, it gave Romney a 3-point bump (Obama is up 2 when including RVs).

The likely voter screen was comprised of 42% self-described Democrats 38% Republicans and 18% Independents.  Presumably, this does not reflect the actual affiliation of those surveyed because registered Independents comprise a greater share of the electorate than 18%.  I’m presuming that some of those tallied as Republicans or Democrats are registered Independents who lean decisively in one direction.

Almost every likely voter poll taken until now has shown Romney and Obama deadlocked, even while RV polls were showing Obama with a significant lead.  It will be interesting to see what happens when other RV pollsters switch over to an LV model.

Here are some of the key findings from the Fox News poll juxtaposed to some historical data.  It’s useful to become familiar with these data points as more LV polls begin to surface.

  • Demographics:
    • Party ID: Romney enjoys the support of 92% of Republicans, while Obama garners 88% of the Democrat vote.  Romney is winning the Independent vote 42-32%.  Obama won Independents by 8 points while he won by 5 points overall.
    • Gender: Romney leads Obama 48-40 among men; Obama leads 48-42 among women.
    • Race: Romney leads 53-36% among whites; Obama leads 73-17% among non-whites.  Bush won the white vote by an identical 17-point margin when he won overall by 2.5%.  On the other hand, whites might comprise a slightly smaller percentage of the electorate this year.  Whites accounted for 77% of the electorate in 2004; 74% in 2008.  If Obama has an exceptionally strong showing among Hispanics, Romney might need a few more points from white.
    • Age: Obama is winning the under-35 vote by 50-37; Romney is winning 65+ by 50-41%.  McCain won the over 65 vote by 8, so this is not stellar.  On the other hand, if younger voters turn out in more traditional numbers, Romney won’t need to win more seniors.  Bush only won them by 5%.
    • Marriage: Romney leads 51-38% among married voters.  McCain won the married vote by 5% in 2008; Bush won it by 15% in 2004.  So Romney’s 13-point lead tracks closely with a 50-50 election.
    • Income: Obama is winning those earning under $50k by 53-35 and Romney is winning those earning more than $50k by 50-41.  McCain lost the under 50k vote by 22 points while Bush lost it by 11 points in 2004.
  • Voter intensity: 47% of Democrats polled were “extremely interested” to vote in November, while 59% of Republicans felt the same way.  By far, self-described Tea Partiers were the most interested in voting (71%) of all sub-groups.  Also, only 27% of voters under the age of 35, a critical demographic for Obama, were extremely interested in voting; 58% of those over 65 fit into this category.
  • Approval:
    • Obama job approval: 46% approve and 50% disapprove of Obama’s job performance. The key data point is Independents; Obama is under water at 36-54%.  In terms of approval specifically on the economy, he is under water at 42-54 overall and 35-58 among Independents.  When Bush won reelection narrowly in 2004 his approval stood at 53-46.  His numbers on the economy were 49-51.  If Obama indeed continues to hover around the mid-40s in approval and low-40s on the economy, it’s hard to see how he wins.
    • Trust on jobs and economy: Romney leads by 45-43% on trust on jobs and economy.  He leads 40-30 among Independents.
  • Trust on Medicare: Overall, Obama enjoys only a 3 point lead over Romney in terms of trust on Medicare.  But Romney leads among Independents by 6.  And yes, Paul Ryan’s name is mentioned many times during the survey.  This is pretty dismal for an issue that is supposed to serve as Obama’s trump card.  It looks like Mediscare is headed to the Obamacare death panel.

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