Source: Gallup Swing State Poll, March 20-26, 2012
The data in Table 1 show that compared with voters supporting a candidate, swing voters were disproportionately white and female. They were also much more likely to describe themselves as completely independent and much less likely to describe themselves as Democrats or independents leaning toward the Democratic Party. But the most dramatic differences between swing voters and voters supporting a candidate involved their opinions about President Obama and their enthusiasm about voting in 2012.
Swing voters had much more negative opinions of President Obama’s job performance than other voters. In fact, their opinions were almost as negative as those of Romney supporters. Only 11% of swing voters approved of Obama’s job performance compared with 6% of Romney voters. In contrast, 92% of Obama voters approved of the president’s job performance.
But while swing voters were similar to Romney voters in their evaluation of President Obama’s job performance, they were much less enthusiastic about voting. Only 19% of swing voters described themselves as extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in 2012 compared with 47% of Romney supporters and 50% of Obama supporters. And 58% of swing voters described themselves as not too enthusiastic or not at all enthusiastic about voting compared with only 27% of Romney supporters and 21% of Obama supporters.
These findings suggest two different conclusions about the likely results of efforts by the Obama and Romney campaigns to persuade swing voters to support their candidate. From the standpoint of the Obama campaign, efforts at persuading swing voters are likely to be unproductive and could even backfire. These voters have a decidedly negative view of the president and are very unlikely to vote for him. The best the Obama campaign can hope for is that most of these swing voters will not bother to turn out in November.
In contrast, the Romney campaign would appear to have a good chance of winning most of these swing voters over to their side by November based on their negative opinions about President Obama’s job performance. Such opinions are typically a very strong predictor of presidential voting decisions, especially when an incumbent president is running for reelection. The greater challenge for the Romney campaign may be getting these discontented swing voters to turn out given their very low enthusiasm about voting. This suggests that a strategy combining persuasion and mobilization may be needed.