The 2012 election marks the year when the inexorable march of demographic change caught up with the Republican Party. While multiple factors led to President Obama's reelection, none was as important as rapidly increasing demographic change in the American electorate. Mitt Romney won white voters by a landslide, 59 to 39 percent, in the process achieving the highest percentage of the white vote of any Republican challenging an incumbent president in the history of exit polling. Yet that was not enough to craft a majority of the popular vote.
Resurgent Republic's 2012 post-election survey polled 1000 likely voters nationally, starting on the night of the election, November 6, and concluding on Thursday, November 8. The results were weighted to conform to the popular vote outcome of 50 percent for Obama and 48 percent for Romney. Following are key highlights of the survey.
The following table ranks various characteristics from those most associated with Romney to those most associated with Obama:
The following table ranks various issues according to the percentage of voters who gave each issue a five (extremely important) on a one to five scale:
Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan has proposed making significant reforms to Medicare. Under Ryan’s plan, Americans under 55 years of age would receive premium support from the government, which would allow them to receive traditional Medicare or could be used to pay for part or all of a private insurance plan. Meanwhile, Medicare would remain the same for Americans 55 and older. Which of the following comes closer to your opinion?
Paul Ryan's Medicare plan would preserve and protect this program, saving us trillions of dollars over the long run and keeping Medicare from going bankrupt while giving seniors more choices and control over their own health care.
Paul Ryan's plan would end Medicare as we know it, leaving senior citizens at the mercy of greedy insurance companies and forcing them to pay for part of their own health insurance which could lead to cuts in life-saving medical treatment.
Voters say the Ryan Medicare plan would preserve and protect by a 52 to 35 percent margin, including a 50 to 34 percent margin among Independent voters (Republicans agree by a 79 to 13 percent margin, while Democrats disagree by a 31 to 56 percent margin).
Seniors are persuaded that the Ryan plan would preserve and protect Medicare along with younger voters, by a 51 to 31 percent margin among those 65 and older, a 54 to 35 percent margin among voters between the ages of 30 to 64, and a 46 to 41 percent margin among voters under 30.
There are also cautionary signs when looking at key cohorts of President Obama’s winning coalition. Women voters favor the conservative opportunity message (53 to 42 percent), and suburban women do so by a slightly wider margin (55 to 41 percent). The opportunity theme also garners majority support among young voters 18-29 (52 to 44 percent), and Hispanic voters split evenly (tied at 47 percent).
Once again, there are signs that conservatives can make inroads with President Obama’s winning coalition over the debate of the proper role of government. Women voters overall slightly favor the conservative message (48 to 46 percent), and a majority of suburban women do so as well (52 to 44 percent). Majorities of young voters 18-29 and Hispanic voters side with the more liberal statement, but do so at a smaller margin than their support of President Obama (55 to 42 percent and 62 to 32 percent, respectively).
Just 43 percent of the voters were not contacted by either campaign. That drops to just 23 percent among battleground voters. Nationally, 21 percent were contacted by both campaigns, 14 percent were contacted by Romney but not Obama, and 18 percent were contacted by Obama but not Romney. In the battleground states, 37 percent were contacted by both campaigns, 5 percent were contacted by the Romney campaign but not Obama, and 19 percent were contacted by Obama but not Romney.
Mitt Romney did a superb job of winning the support of white voters, sweeping almost every white demographic group and rolling up a landslide margin among whites. But that was not enough to win a presidential election in the America of 2012. While many other factors affected the outcome – the Obama campaign's tactical superiority in turnout in battleground states, strong turnout among young voters, a gradually improving economy, Hurricane Sandy's assist for Obama among late deciders, unfortunate comments from some candidates that offended many women – nothing was as important as the shifting demographics of the electorate. Romney's performance among white voters would have been sufficient to put him in the White House in any election before 2008.
The handwriting is on the wall. Until Republican candidates figure out how to perform better among non-white voters, especially Hispanics and Asians, Republican presidential contenders will have an extraordinarily difficult time winning presidential elections from this point forward.
This post-election survey of one thousand 2012 voters nationally was conducted November 6-8, 2012. Respondents were selected randomly from a random-digit-dialing sample including both cellular and landline telephone numbers, and were contacted by live interviewers. Thirty percent of respondents were reached using the cellular sample; of all respondents, including those reached on both cellular and landline telephones, 20 percent of respondents say they receive all their personal telephone calls on a cell phone, 17 percent receive almost all their calls on a cell phone, 29 percent split their calls between cell phones and landline phones, 13 percent receive almost all their calls on a landline phone, and 18 percent receive all their calls on a landline phone.
All respondents confirmed that they are registered to vote in the county in which they live. Quotas were set for state, age, and race based on state registration and previous turnout. Results were weighted to reflect the election results of 50 percent Obama and 48 percent Romney.
The margins of error for responses with an even split – 50 percent for one response and 50 percent for another response – are ±3.10 percent for the full sample, ±5.71 percent for Republicans (295 respondents), ±5.39 percent for Independents (330 respondents), ±5.19 percent for Democrats (357 respondents). The margin of error is smaller when one response receives a higher level of support. For example, the margin of error is ±2.68 percent when 75 percent of respondents in the full sample choose one response and 25 percent choose another response.