AKA OBAMA'S SOUR 'APPLES TO APPLES', PART THREE: INDEPENDENTS AND MODERATES
In the last six weeks, Barack Obama has been losing support in virtually every key demographic category when matched against John McCain, while Hillary Clinton has gained support. Perhaps most disturbing is Obama’s decline among Independent voters: Between late February and mid-April, in 9 key states for Democrats
· Clinton has held her own among Independents during this period, and as a result Obama’s relative advantage over Clinton among Independents has been cut by two thirds.
But Independents are not the only category that Obama is doing poorly in. In February, when matched against McCain, Obama was doing better among Moderates and Liberals. In mid-April, Clinton was doing better. And Clinton has increased her relative advantage over Obama among Democrats.
These conclusions are drawn from an “apples to apples” comparison of Survey USA polling done April 11-13 in nine states (California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin) with similar polling done in late February as part the SUSA 50 state poll (conducted Feb. 26-28).
This is the third of a multipart series examining the polling data in these states. Part One provided an overview of the polling results, and showed how Clinton was doing better than Obama in 8 of those 9 states. Part Two provided an overview of key demographic categories, and took a close look at male and female voters. Part Three will examine the “Party Identification” and “Ideological” demographic breakdowns, with an emphasis on the “Independent” and “Moderate” subcategories.
INDPENDENT AND MODERATE VOTERS:
Moderate voters make up a much larger percentage (9 state average =39.8%) of the overall electorate than do Independent voters (9 state average = 23.7%). While “Independent” tells you nothing about an individual voter other than their “unaffiliated with either the Democratic or Republican” party” status, “Moderate” tells us what people’s political views are – i.e. Moderates are voters who consider themselves neither “Conservative” nor “Liberal”. In general, “Indepenndent” does not mean “Moderate” – while many Independents are “Moderates”, many are “Conservative” or “Liberal” as well.
Chart C-0 shows the demographic breakdown by party and ideology for each of the 9 states surveyed in April, along with the 9 state average. While “GOP” and “Conservative” percentages are pretty close in most states, “Liberal” is always considerably smaller than “Democratic”, and “Moderate” is always larger than “Independent”.
“Independent” is probably the single most volatile of all the major demographic categories. “Moderate” contains large percentages of people who consider themselves Democrats (and some Republicans as well), and is far less volatile as a result – but because of its size, relatively small changes in the Moderate vote can have a significant impact on overall margins.
In these nine states, Independents make up an average of 23.7% of registered voter. While the Obama campaign has been emphasizing how much better their candidate would do than Clinton among “Independent” (non-party affiliated) voters when matched against McCain, in the past six weeks Clinton’s independent support has increased while Obama’s has been falling.
In these nine states, Obama’s advantage over Clinton in support among Independents was cut by nearly two thirds. In February, Obama was able to attract an average 10.4% more Independent when matched against McCain than Clinton. In April, Obama’s advantage over Clinton had shrunk to 3.8%.
While Obama was losing support among Independents to McCain, McCain was also picking up new support from previously undecided Independent voters, resulting in major decreases in Obama’s margins against McCain in this category.
The overall average margin among Independents for Clinton remained unchanged, at –12.7%. At the same time, Obama’s average margin went from +7.0% to –4.4% against McCain. As a result, Obama’s relative margin advantage over Clinton fell by almost 60%, going from 19.8% to 8.3%.
INDEPENDENTS, CROSS-OVERVOTING, AND DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT
While Independents are considered a key demographic, strength among Democrats, and “cross over” voting – Republicans voting for Democrats, are also factors.. Here again, while the news for Clinton is mixed, the news for Obama is pretty bad.
Chart C-6 shows how Clinton and Obama did relative to each other against McCain within the “Party” demographics between late February and mid-April in these 9 states. Unlike the previous charts, this data is weighed to show the impact* of each Party on the overall (green bar) outcome.)
The picture is mixed for both Obama and Clinton as as far as Moderates are concerned. Clinton maintained her levels of support among Moderates, but her margin against McCain fell among Moderates as the percentage of undecided Moderates went down. Obama’s overall support among Moderates declined, and his margins among Moderates declined even more than Clintons.
In February in these nine states, Moderates supported Obama over McCain more than they did Clinton. Obana’s loss of moderate support means that now, more Moderates support Clinton than Obama when each is matched against McCain.
In terms of margins, both Clinton and Obama lost ground to McCain among moderates between late February and mid-April, but Obama did significantly worse than Clinton.
Clinton 9 state average margin among Moderates against McCain dropped by -2.3% (from +15.2% to +12.9%. Obama’s average dropped by -7.8%, from +20.2% to +12.4%. In February, Obama did better than Clinton against McCain among moderates by 5.0% overall. In April, Clinton is doing slightly better (0.5%) than Obama among Moderates.
MODERATES, CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS
While the moderate demographic is considered the “swing” Ideological category, changes in support also occur among Liberals and Conservatives that can have an impact on elections.
Chart C-12 shows how Clinton and Obama did relative to each other against McCain within the “Ideology” demographics between late February and mid-April in these 9 states. As with Chart C-6, this data is weighed to show the impact* of each Ideology on the overall (green bar) outcome.)
Obama’s supposed vastly superior appeal for Independents may turn out to be a myth, at least when it comes to a Presidential contest against John McCain. In six weeks, Clinton reduced Obama’s advantage among Independents by two thirds. Clinton’s Independent margins against McCain held firm, as previously undecided Independents split their votes between McCain and Clinton. But when considering an Obama v McCain match-up, previously undecided Independents chose McCain, while some of Obama’s Independent support from February had fallen away by April.
Obama still does better than Clinton among “Conservatives” and Republicans, but as with Independents, Clinton is holding her own in those categories while Obama’s margins deteriorate.
Moreover, in late February Obama’s margins against McCain among both “Moderates” and “Liberals” were better than Clinton’s, by mid-April that situation had been reversed. And Clinton expanded her advantage over Obama among Democrats during the six week period.
All this does not bode well for Obama’s electability, despite Clinton’s high negatives, she outperformed Obama against McCain over a six week period in 9 key states – states that a Democrat could/should win in 2008.
Data tables used for this post can be found at http://www.glcq.com/election08/apples/ap...
* Weighing is the process by which percentages within demographic groups are used to show the impact on overall totals. For instance, in April in California, where Independents made up 18% of voters, Obama received 43% of the Independent vote against McCain. By multiplying Obama’s 43% of Independents by that 18%, you find that Obama’s Independent support constitutes 7.7% of all voters. Rounding errors make these numbers imprecise, but they give a good approximation of how each demographic contributes to the overall totals. All data used for this table can be found at http://www.glcq.com/election08/apples/ap...
** The Party averages are weighed data. Overall, Clinton outperformed Obama among Democrats by 1.0% (0.5% of all voters), among Republicans by 6.8% (1.9% of all voters), and among Independents by 11.4% (1.7% of all voters).
*** The Ideological averages are weighed data. Overall, Clinton outperformed Obama among Liberals by 7.0% (1.3% of all voters), among Conservatives by 3.6% (08% of all voters), and among Independents by 5.4% (2.1% of all voters).