Economy & Budget

Poll raises question: How is this election even close?

Poll raises question: How is this election even close?

Here’s a new Washington Post-ABC New poll — with a sample favoring Democrats by 9 points — that shows Mitt Romney leading Barack Obama by 47-46 percent among registered voters.

Once you begin to look more deeply at these national polls, you have to wonder: how is this thing even close? Obviously, there are cultural, geographical, religious and … well, endless reasons why people vote the way they do. But, beyond the political debate, if you simply focus on the perceptions and opinions of the people being polled, it’s difficult to understand how we get to a national tie.

For instance:

Q: Generally speaking, would you say you favor (smaller government with fewer services), or (larger government with more services)?

56 percent says “yes,” while 33 percent say no.

Most voters say they want smaller government and most voters believe — whether it’s true or not — that Mitt Romney wants smaller government, as well. Remember, the case against the GOP is that they’re slashing government. This fact is supposed to upset people.

More tangibly, Romney leads 50-43 on handling the economy and 51-43 on handling the deficit. And despite all the feigned excitement from Democrats about the supposedly disastrous pick of Paul Ryan, Romney still leads 45-42 on the issue of Medicare. (Though, it’s fair to say this isn’t driven by Americans clamoring for reform, but rather a clamoring to get rid of Obamacare. Good enough.)

Romney also leads 48-43 on the issue of taxes. I’ve noticed a barrage of ads on my television accusing the GOP nominee of plotting to raise taxes on the middle class (this is based on broad assumptions made via an “independent” study conducted by liberal Tax Policy Center and authored by a former Obama aide.) How effective are ads accusing Republicans of raising taxes? Independents might accept that the GOP spends too much or cuts too much for the wealthy … but raising taxes? Doesn’t seem to be working.

Also, I’ve seen TV spots highlighting Romney’s refusal to release more tax returns and others moaning about the unfairness of his supposedly low tax rates. The Washington Post finds that “just 20 percent see Romney’s handling of his tax returns as very important to their vote.”

Ads I haven’t seen:

How wonderful the president’s signature achievement, health care reform, has been for America.

How a trillion-dollar stimulus plan kept unemployment under 6 percent, as promised.

Another question that caught my eye:

Q: (IF SUPPORT OBAMA) Regardless of your support, how do you feel about how Obama would perform as president for the next four years?

Fifty-seven percent of people who are going to vote for Obama answered that they would be very anxious or somewhat anxious about his presidency.

But for Republicans, the key takeaway from this poll, and many others,  is this:

“The Post-ABC survey highlights the dominance of the economy as an issue in the 2012 election. Seventy-two percent of voters say the president’s handling of the economy will be a ‘major factor’ in their vote this November.” And polls show Obama struggling on the issue that matters most — and rightfully so. This is why his camp might be feeling positive heading into the convention.

It needs to be noted that voters don’t have to make logical sense of their votes — and often they don’t.  They certainly don’t have to be ideologically consistent. But it seems indisputable that voters, though, are telegraphing that they want, or, at the very least, are open to a change of direction.

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