Genuine Support vs. Support by Default

Genuine Support vs. Support by Default
Genuine Support vs. Support by Default

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll is chock full of interesting data, and though there are results both sides will be glad to see, on balance, the news is better for President Obama than Mitt Romney.

In a head-to-head match-up, Obama’s lead is only three points nationwide, 47% to 44%, which is largely unchanged from the last few months. But among voters in battleground states – Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin – Obama’s lead is eight points, 50% to 42%.

Just as importantly, Romney’s favorable numbers are dropping: the number of voters with a favorable impression of the Republican is down to just 33% nationwide, and 30% in swing states.

Of particular interest to me, though, was a question pollsters don’t often ask: are you voting for your preferred candidate or against the rival candidate? I put a chart together noting Obama’s edge on this question:

It’s really not close. While nearly three out of four Obama backers are motivated by their support for the president (what I call “genuine support”), more than half of Romney’s backers are driven by their opposition to Obama (what I call “support by default”). In other words, even those who intend to vote for Romney for president don’t really like him; they’re just prepared to settle for him because he’s not the other guy. The Republican isn’t inspiring admiration; he’s counting on the incumbent inspiring hatred.

In recent elections, this hasn’t been a recipe for success.

Other observations from the poll:

* Constituencies: Obama is running strongest with women, minorities and young voters. Romney, meanwhile, is consolidating support with the Republican base, enjoying the support of Tea Partiers and white men.

* Likeability: Putting aside policies, Obama remains personally popular, while Romney, though not as well known, still has a net-negative on favorable-unfavorable rating

* Bain Capital: In battleground states, only 18% say they’ve heard about Romney’s private-sector background and it gives them a more positive impression of the candidate. A third of swing-state voters see Romney’s work at Bain Capital as a negative.

* Economy: Americans remain pessimistic about the economy and disapprove of Obama’s handling of it, but 60% believe Obama inherited the current economic conditions.