Republicans and Democrats are falling into line behind their candidates. Romney has some ways to go to generate the kind of trust and confidence a nominee should command from his party, but the polls show mirror images of the two groups. Nearly 90 percent of Democrats and Republicans say they will vote for their party’s candidate.
Independents are making up their minds. Romney leads among the group in a number of the most recent polls, but independents appear far from settled on their choice. They have swung back and forth in elections since 2006. But the report from the latest Pew Research Center survey cautioned that there are fewer swing voters this year than in 2008 — roughly a quarter of all voters and a third of independents. That’s about on par with 2004, another year in which an incumbent was running for reelection.
Demographic fault lines appear similar to those of 2008, when Obama assembled a coalition that depended on minorities, young people, women and better-educated whites. Four years ago, minorities made up 26 percent of the electorate, the highest in history. That percentage could be larger this year because of population growth and changes in the composition of the population. That is a small built-in advantage for Obama, given his coalition.
The gender gap is one of the defining elements of this and past elections. Romney has a sizable deficit among women and runs even-to-better odds against Obama among men. The white women’s vote is not monolithic. Drilling down into the numbers shows the real contours of the election’s gender wars.
The Post-ABC survey showed sharp differences among white women based on marital status and education. The president led Romney among white women with college educations by 60 to 40 percent. But among white women without college degrees, Romney led, 50 to 41 percent. Similarly, Obama led by about 20 points among white women who are not married. Among white women who are married, Romney led by a margin almost as large.
Obama appears to have slipped among voters with lower incomes and less education. Obama advisers hope to make Romney unattractive to working-class voters, using his wealth against him. But the president continues to struggle with this part of the electorate, as he has done throughout his time on the national stage.
Romney has a major problem with Hispanic voters. He trails by about 40 points in both the NBC-Wall Street Journal and Pew surveys. That’s untenable and will require considerable attention by the presumptive GOP nominee. Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008, to 31 percent for John McCain. In 2004, George W. Bush won just over 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.
The general election has begun with talk of who was or wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, a Twitter war over a strategist’s comments and other catnip for the political class. The polls are a reminder that fundamentals are at the heart of this election and that both Obama and Romney have work left to do.