President Obama is currently tied with a generic Republican for his 2012 re-election bid. When Gallup asked registered voters if they would vote for Obama or the Republican Party’s candidate, the public was split evenly, with 45 percent for each. Overall, the same demographic voting patterns we saw in 2008 have remained unchanged.
Women and nonwhites were important elements of Obama’s winning 2008 coalition. Today, a wide gulf in political preferences remains between whites and nonwhites, with the majority of the former favoring the Republican candidate and a larger majority of the latter favoring Obama. Women are five percentage points more likely to say they would vote for Obama than are men (47% vs. 42%), similar to the seven-point gender gap in support for Obama in Gallup’s final pre-election poll in 2008.
Younger voters are one element of Obama’s original coalition that may not be intact heading into 2012. Gallup’s 2008 pre-election poll found 63% of registered voters aged 18 to 34 choosing Obama, while 33% backed his Republican rival, John McCain. In addition, 53% of 35- to 54-year-old voters and 48% of those 55 and older supported Obama in that same poll. By contrast, today a bare majority of the 18- to 34-year-old group, 51%, and 43% of those 35 to 54 say they would vote to re-elect Obama.
The good news for Republicans is that the poll shows Obama is potentially vulnerable in 2012, although there is plenty of time for the political winds to change over the next year and a half.
On the other hand, Obama’s camp can take some solace in knowing that there is rarely ever an actual person that can live up to everyone’s preferred image of the generic Republican nominee, and that, in this cycle especially, the Republican front-runners are all fairly weak and/or flawed.