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How close is this race, really? AEI Political Report, September 2012

How close is this race, really? AEI Political Report, September 2012

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How close is this race, really?
AEI Political Report, September 2012

- Barack Obama is in a weaker position than most of his predecessors seeking re-election on some important indicators at this point in the campaign. Only 23 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, compared to 41 percent in September 2004.

- Americans have a pretty good track record of predicting election winners. Around six in ten say Obama will win in November.

- Do debates make a difference? The editors look at the historical poll evidence.

- The partisan gap on issues like abortion, government size and efficiency, and global warming is growing. These and other key issues are more sharply divided by political party than by race, education, income or gender.

- Initial reactions to Joe Biden in 2008 were more favorable than early reactions to Paul Ryan in 2012, though polls suggest the VP pick ultimately has little effect on the ticket overall.

- Democrats maintain their advantage on Medicare. Across six pollsters, Americans trust Obama over Romney to handle the issue.

- Approaching the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, around two in ten Americans identify with the movement or say they are supporters of it.

- Also, polls on educational attainment, Social Security, abortion and more.
How close is this race, really?
AEI Political Report, September 2012

- Barack Obama is in a weaker position than most of his predecessors seeking re-election on some important indicators at this point in the campaign. Only 23 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, compared to 41 percent in September 2004.

- Americans have a pretty good track record of predicting election winners. Around six in ten say Obama will win in November.

- Do debates make a difference? The editors look at the historical poll evidence.

- The partisan gap on issues like abortion, government size and efficiency, and global warming is growing. These and other key issues are more sharply divided by political party than by race, education, income or gender.

- Initial reactions to Joe Biden in 2008 were more favorable than early reactions to Paul Ryan in 2012, though polls suggest the VP pick ultimately has little effect on the ticket overall.

- Democrats maintain their advantage on Medicare. Across six pollsters, Americans trust Obama over Romney to handle the issue.

- Approaching the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, around two in ten Americans identify with the movement or say they are supporters of it.

- Also, polls on educational attainment, Social Security, abortion and more.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: American Enterprise Institute on Sep 13, 2012
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Volume 8, Issue 7 • September 2012
A M
O N T H L Y
P
O L L
C
O M P I L A T I O N
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 202.862.5800www.aei.org
President Obama and his Predecessors Approach Reelection
The chart below shows how incumbent presidents were faring in the late summer or early fall of their election years.Barack Obama is in a weaker position on some important indicators now than most of his predecessors seeking reelection.His approval rating is close to that of George W. Bush in September 2004 and much higher than George H.W. Bush in1992 and Jimmy Carter in 1980. At the same time, many people today aren’t satisfied with the way things are going anddon’t see the country as heading in the right direction. Those ratings are much lower than those facing George W. Bushin 2004, Bill Clinton in 1996, and Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Satisfied with the way things Country headingJob Consumerare going in the countryin the right directionapprovalconfidence
Obama201223%31% 49%73.6G.W. Bush20044141 5285.4Clinton19964141 6094.7G.H.W. Bush19924523 3975.6Reagan19844861 57100.9Carter1979/19801220 3773.7Nixon1972N/A35 5695.2
Note: Obama: “satisfied” Gallup, August 2012; “right direction” ABC/ 
Washington Post 
, August 2012; “job approval” Gallup, September2012; “consumer confidence” August 2012. George W. Bush: “satisfied” Gallup, September 2004; “right direction” CBS/ 
New York Times
,September 2004;”job approval” Gallup, September 2004. Clinton: “satisfied” Gallup, August–September 1996; “right direction” CBS News,September 1996; “job approval” Gallup, September 1996. G.H.W. Bush: “satisfied” Gallup/CNN/Knight-Ridder, August–September 1996;“right direction”
Los Angeles Times
, August 1992; “job approval” Gallup, September 1992. Reagan: “satisfied” Gallup, September–October1984; “right direction” Penn & Schoen, October 1984 (registered voters);“job approval” Gallup, September 1984. Carter: “satisfied” Gallup,July 1979; “right direction” Roper, February 1980; “job approval” Gallup, September 1980. Nixon: “right direction” Gallup, August 1972;“job approval” Gallup, June 1972; “consumer confidence” August 1972. All consumer confidence numbers taken from September of theelection year from University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment unless otherwise noted. All questions asked of national adults unlessotherwise noted.
 
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 202.862.5800www.aei.org
2
And the Winner Will Be?
The American public has a pretty good track record in forecasting the winner of presidential elections. In Gallup polls inJune and October 2008, Americans predicted that Barack Obama would be elected. In two of three Gallup polls conductedin 2004, people thought George W. Bush would win. In four of five of Gallup’s polls in 2000, Americans predicted Bushwould win. In the final question asked in mid-September 2000, they predicted an Al Gore victory. In August 1996, a largemajority (69 percent) predicted Bill Clinton would defeat Bob Dole (24 percent). In two recent polls, majorities have saidObama will win.
Debating Debate Impact
In September 2008, before the presidential debates that year, Lydia Saad, one of Gallup’s chief analysts, wrote that therewere “few instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes. The two exceptionsare 1960 and 2000, both very close elections in which even small changes could have determined who won. In two othercontests—1976 and 2004—public preferences moved quite a bit around the debates, but the debates did not appear toalter the likely outcome.”Gallup reported in October 2008 that the public believed Barack Obama had won all three debates. The editors notedthat polls conducted immediately after each debate or in the succeeding days since 1960 “have most often shown that theDemocratic candidate has been viewed as the winner over the Republican candidate.” That doesn’t mean the debate win-ner goes on to win the election. In 2004, the public believed John Kerry won all three debates.
Position of the election winner——before first debateafter last debate(Gap between winning candidate andhis opponent in percentage points)
1960 (Kennedy)-141976 (Carter)1551980 (Reagan)-331984 (Reagan)17171988 (GHW Bush)891992 (Clinton)18121996 (Clinton)19242000 (GW Bush)-842004 (GW Bush)1132008 (Obama)310
Note: There were no debates in 1964, 1968, and 1972. The 1980 post-debate results are likely voters. The numbers for 2008 are based onGallup’s three-day rolling averages.Source: The Gallup Organization, latest that of 2008.
Q: Regardless of whom you support, and trying to be asobjective as possible, who do you think . . . ?
Will win the election in November
Obama61%Romney36
Note: Sample is registered voters. In August, the responses were63 and 33 percent, respectively.Source: CNN/Opinion Research Corperation, September 2012.
Q: Just your best guess, who do you think . . . ?
Will win the presidential election
Obama59%Romney34
Note:In July, those responses were 58 and 34 percent, respec-tively. In January, when ABC and the
Post 
asked about Obama or“the Republican candidate,” 46 percent said Obama would win,and 49 percent the Republican.Source: ABC/ 
Washington Post 
, August 2012.
 
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 202.862.5800www.aei.org
3
The Sources of Partisan Polarization
In June, the Pew Research Center released a study examining how attitudes had changed on 48 separate items over thepast 25 years. The researchers noted that the way Americans think about things such as poverty, opportunity, business,unions, religion, civic duty, and foreign affairs is pretty much the same as it was in 1987. The “defining change,” Pew said,was not in overall beliefs, but in “how these beliefs are increasingly being sorted along partisan lines.” Partisans are moreconsistently liberal or conservative over a wide range of issues, especially those involving the role of government. Nearly all of the change in political values has occurred during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.The partisan gap on the questions Pew asked is larger than the gaps between blacks and whites, those with low andhigh levels of education and income, and males and females. Pew’s data, shown at the end of this section, finds large dif-ferences between Republicans and Democrats on abortion, but small differences between men and women. Pew alsonotes that “in contrast to the widening partisan gap, the new survey finds neither growing class differences in fundamentalpolitical values, nor increasing class resentment . . . There are no indications of increasing hostility toward the rich andsuccessful.” Other pollsters have been documenting these changes as well, and we report on some recent partisan cleav-ages and national results from a variety of pollsters below. Full question wording appears at the end of this section.
Government regulationGovernment is usuallyof business does more Favor smaller govt.wasteful and inefficient (1)harm than good (2)with fewer services (3)
Democrats41%41%30%Republicans 777680Natl. response595755
Source: Pew Research Center. Source: Pew Research Center. Source:
Washington Post 
 /Kaiser FamilyFoundation.
Agree, government People should take The government incontrols too much of responsibility for their own Washington should doour daily lives (4)lives and economic well-being everything possible toand not expect other people improve the standardto help (5)of living (6)
Democrats38%62%76%Republicans818626Natl.607552
Source:
Washington Post 
 /Kaiser Family Foundation.
Federal government shouldregulate the release of greenhouseMessage for the federal government (8)gases to reduce global warming (7) Lend me a handLeave me alone
Democrats87%59%Democrats27%Republicans6115Republicans80Natl. response7435Natl. response54
Source:
Washington Post 
 /Kaiser Family Foundation. Source: Fox News.
(continued on the next page)

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