Last November on election day McLaughlin & Associates completed our post-election poll.
As we all know President Obama was re-elected by as decisive a margin as George W. Bush received in 2004. It was an election where President Obama won the Democratic vote 92% to 7%. Governor Romney won the Republican vote 92% to 7% and the independent vote 51% to 44%. The difference was that more Democrats turned out than Republicans. Our post-election internals showed the real partisan divide.
However, President Obama’s win surprised many media poll watchers. Were the polls wrong? Or did Governor Romney lose the race at the very end?
The post-election data seems to indicate that major problems with the Romney campaign’s messages, turnout operation, and technology all combined for a massive collapse at the very end.
The Real Clear Politics website tracked major polls that were released for the presidential race. The dramatic graph that they constructed shows that at some point in September, after the Democratic convention, President Obama built a very strong and decisive lead over Mitt Romney. Much of that was built on the effects of a spring and summer of blistering negative attacks on Gov. Romney in both the paid and earned media. However, one event sparked a resurgence of Mitt Romney. The first presidential debate had an audience as big as the 1980 Carter/Reagan debate. Over 60 million Americans watched Mitt Romney eviscerate President Obama in style and substance. The subsequent polls in the media, not just Republican polls, steadily reported a resurgent and new Romney lead.
On October 7 Pew Research reported Romney leading Obama by four points. On October 9 Fox News had Romney ahead by point. So did Survey USA on the next day. Politico’s October 18 poll showed Romney up 2. On October 21 Survey USA showed Romney up three. Two days later the Associated Press showed Romney up two.
In the third debate Romney agreed with President Obama on many foreign policy and security issues. Romney dropped the ball on Benghazi. He agreed with Obama on China. Romney moderated and showed no serious security issue advantage. Whatever lead Romney had from the first debate started to disappear. Still as late as November 1, the Politico Poll showed a tie. The November 4 Survey USA showed a tie, and on November 4 CNN showed the race tied. These are not the polls from Conservative Republican firms, they are media polls.
The latest polls showed that Romney had lost his lead and Obama had regained his lead or was in a statistical tie. Investors Business Daily survey showed Obama up one on November 5.
Romney had blown the lead at the very end.
Complicating the poll trends was the fact that the early voter turnout wasn’t quite as bad for the Republicans as it was in 2008. Among the 32 million voters nationally who cast early ballots the Democratic advantage declined. The Democratic advantage in Florida went down from 8% in 2008 to 4% in 2012. In North Carolina the Democratic early voting was down 4% and Republican early voting was up 2%. In Colorado four years before the Democrats had a 2% registration edge among early voters. It was now a Republican edge 36% to 34%. In Iowa there was an eight point improvement from an 18% Democratic advantage in 2008 to only 10% in 2012. So the early voting in 2012, which was mostly cast after the first debate before the final debate, said the Republicans weren’t doing as badly as they did in 2008. It was deceiving.
Our post-election poll showed that among the two thirds of voters who made up their mind before Labor Day, they were evenly split between Romney and Obama at 49% each. In September, after the Democratic convention, those voters went for Obama 57% to 43%. Among those who made up their mind in the first two weeks of October Romney led 54% to 45%, but then came the collapse.
If they decided their vote in the last 2 weeks of October, they voted for Obama 50% to 41%. If they made up their mind in the last week they went for Obama 55% to 42%. This is more evidence that the Romney campaign collapsed after the third and final debate and really in the last weekend of the election.
The final week of the campaign was the equivalent of the New York Jets, our favorite team here at M&A, going into a 4th quarter prevent defense against the Patriots.
Statistics from the United States Election Project of George Mason University show that out of the 219 million eligible voters only 130 million voters actually cast ballots. Almost 66 million voted for Obama and 61 million voted for Romney. Voter turnout was down 1 million from four years ago. President Obama received three and a half-million fewer votes than in 2008 and Mitt Romney received only 1 million more votes than John McCain.
In a slightly lower turnout Barack Obama had lost millions of votes, but he had won re-election with a laser-like turnout of the right voters. No one knows for sure yet, but it would be amazing not to believe that out of the 90 million people who were eligible to vote and, who decided not to vote, that there were not millions more Republicans or millions more conservatives who stayed home. Whether it was the negative attacks on Mitt Romney, or the lack of message by the Romney campaign, or even a tactical failure of mechanics, there had to be millions of conservatives and Republicans who didn’t care, didn’t like Mitt Romney and didn’t even bother to vote.
Although Barack Obama was a polarized President, for virtually three years, holding an equal number of people who like and dislike him, on election day among those who actually came out to vote Obama’s favorable was 55% to 43% unfavorable.
Part of the problem was that Republicans lost their message. Two years ago on election day the majority of voters said that the country was off on the wrong track 62% to 29%. However on this election day, a bare majority of 51% to 46% said things were off on the wrong track. The Democrats and Obama’s allies in the media were convincing America we were on our way back. The Republicans did not make the case that things were still really bad or getting worse.
So among those who turned out on election day, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 40% to 35%.
The number of Americans who favored smaller government with fewer services dropped from 2010 of 64% to 54%, and of those who favored larger government with many services rose from 24% to 29% Republicans were losing the intellectual battle.
Ideologically compared to 2010 the number of conservatives fell from 49% to 42%, while moderates rose from 20% to 30% and liberals rose from 21% to 23%.
Pro-choicers outnumbered Pro-lifers 49% to 45%.
The most important reasons they voted for Mitt Romney were: the economy 30%, those who disliked Obama 16%, abortion 6%, change 6%, and good views/positions 5%
In contrast the most important reasons they voted for Barack Obama were: that they disliked Romney 14%, thought he did a good job 13%, good views/positions 11%, economy 7%, and healthcare 6%.
Lost in the post-election discussion is the contrarian fact that Republicans held the House. Romney lost decisively, but House Republicans ran virtually even with Democrats. House Republicans maintained their own brand and maintained the majority.
It was basically a message that they would oppose President Obama. The majority of Americans want their Republican Congress to be a check and balance on Obama.
Unlike the top of the ticket House Republicans were able to run even with the Democrats among those who decided in the very last week. Republican congressional candidates won 52% to 37% among ticket splitters.
The House Republicans in Congress who kept their majority need to remember this as President Obama and his allies take aim at their majority in 2014.
As far as the technological edge we found that 9 in 10 voters, 89%, almost universally use the internet. Among them, Romney lost 49% to 48%. The 11% who never use the internet voted for Obama 56% to 44%.
Those voters who use the internet had an average age of 47. Those who don’t averaged at an age of 62 years old. Those who use the internet had double the household income of those who don’t.
Those voters who use Facebook account for almost 6 in 10 voters, 57%. They voted for President Obama 52% to 45%. Among those who use Facebook 4 hours or more a day they voted for President Obama 53% to 38%. While those who never use Facebook supported Governor Romney 56% to 44%.
The failure was the lack of dialogue in social media.
Basically the Presidential loss for Republicans was a combination of message, turnout and technology.
We need to repair this for 2014 and 2016. The Campaign is on. It’s time to play offense again – and stay on offense right up until the time the polls close.