It’s widely acknowledged by political observers that the country’s demographic change in the last four years—particularly the increase in minority voters and decline of white non-college voters—favors President Obama’s re-election bid. What’s less obvious is exactly how much these changes favor Obama—especially in the swing states that loom so large in this coming election. These data can be hard to come by.
Many commentators responded with incredulity when the Obama campaign announced its intention to win Arizona this year, and with good reason. After all, this was a state that Obama lost by 8.5 points in 2008. In an election projected to be as close as this year’s, it seems highly unlikely that Obama can flip a solid loss into a victory. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the most likely outcome would be the President losing by an even greater margin. But Obama campaign’s commitment to Arizona is more than a bluff.
Will Obama’s Wednesday embrace of same-sex marriage equality hurt him in November? The short answer is: possible, but not likely. First, as a general proposition, it seems unlikely that there are large numbers of socially conservative voters who lean Obama today but will be transformed into opponents simply by his declared support for marriage equality. Obama’s backing for equality for gays has, after all, been apparent throughout his administration, most famously in ending the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military.
With the GOP primary now all but officially over—congratulations, Mr. Romney—we can safely declare it swing voter season. As the general election campaign heats up, ever more attention is going to shift to that special class of voters who we presume will be responsible for picking our next President. But there’s good reason to believe that the vast majority of Americans, including professional journalists and campaign operatives, wouldn’t recognize a typical swing voter if they met one. Indeed, the application of the term “swing voter” deserves a lot more scrutiny than it generally earns.
Judging from recent headlines, things are looking up for President Obama. The Republican presidential nominees have been serially embarrassing themselves; the White House communications department has successfully focused its messaging on jobs and economic fairness; and consumers are feeling ever more confident about the economy. But it's not just anecdotal evidence that suggests Obama’s re-election chances have improved—most of the polling data suggests the same.
Hispanics, who were responsible for most of U.S. population growth in the last decade, have been a more important part of the electorate each election. Now the largest minority group in the United States, they are poised to play a potentially decisive role in this year’s contest between President Obama and his GOP opponent. This has been cause for concern by some Democrats, who worry that Obama’s record on immigration may depress his turnout and support within the Hispanic community; the data suggest, however, that they are worrying more than they should. Consider first the national level.
Americans are polarized like never before as we head into the 2012 presidential campaign, and the greatest dividing line of all seems to be age. Indeed, President Obama has astoundingly consistent support from Americans less than 30 years old, the so-called Millennial generation. In a recent Pew survey, this cohort favored Obama over Romney by 24 points, 61-37. The generation least likely to support Obama, on the other hand, is the "Silent generation"—the generational group slighter older than Baby Boomers, and the group now dominant among the ranks of seniors.