North Carolina voters’ opposition to health care reform and their souring opinion of President Barack Obama are the driving forces behind voting behavior and voter expectations for the fall elections.
According to Civitas’ April statewide poll, among voters who say they are “definitely voting” this fall, Republicans hold an eight-point generic ballot lead over the Democrats for state Legislature. (For more on the generic ballot and why it matters, see this article from a few weeks ago.) Among all voters, regardless of likelihood to vote, Democrats hold a one-point lead. But this turn to Republicans among likely voters is by and large a 180-degree flip from where the electorate was in the weeks before the 2008 election.
The driving force behind this change is voter opposition to the health care bill and their growing unfavorable opinion on Obama. Not only is voter opposition growing, but also those voters are more likely to vote. They are more excited to vote this year than those who are favorable to Obama and the health care bill.
In this month’s poll, voter support of the health care reform bill fell to its lowest level – only 37 percent of voters say they support the bill. Fifty-three percent of voters were opposed.
Emerging from the polling is a direct correlation between a voter’s feelings on health care and Obama. Two key elements for 2010: how likely they are to vote and which party they are supporting for state Legislature.
Of the 37 percent of voters who support the health care bill, 79 percent of them say they are voting Democratic for state Legislature. Only six percent say they are voting Republican. Conversely, of the 53 percent of voters who oppose the health care reform bill 63 percent say they are voting Republican, only eight percent are voting generically for the Democratic candidate.
When looking at voters’ opinions of Obama, the numbers are even more polarizing. Voters having a favorable opinion of Obama say they are voting Democratic for state Legislature by an 84 percent to seven percent margin. Similarly, voters having an unfavorable opinion of Obama are voting Republican by an almost exactly inverse 85 percent to eight percent margin.
There is very little cross-over voting occurring. Basically, however you feel about Obama and health care is driving how you are voting.
As Obama’s favorability rating in North Carolina has declined and his unfavorable rating has increased, (now about an even 44 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable), the environment has become even more favorable for Republican candidates.
There is also a growing intensity gap for voters and their feelings on Obama. If you are unfavorable to Obama, the more excited you are about voting this year and the more likely you are to vote. If you are pleased with Obama, the opposite is true.
Of the 32 percent of voters who say they are more interested in voting this year, 62 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Obama. Conversely, of the 25 percent of voters who say they are less interested in voting this year, 60 percent have a favorable opinion of Obama. Voter enthusiasm is being driven by their opinion of Obama.
It is often speculated that mid-term elections are referendums on the President’s job performance. So far in 2010, that conventional wisdom is being confirmed through Civitas polling – whether these trends hold for the next six months until the election remains to be seen.
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