But an examination of the polling data among key subgroups that constitute Obama’s base makes clear that he has as much support from them as any modern president seeking a second term.
“There is one immutable fact about President Obama’s reelection chances: Nobody has a more solid 44 percent base than he does,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart wrote in a not-entirely-uncritical memo assessing the state of political affairs a year out from the election.
As evidence, Hart noted that in the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Obama takes 44 percent in a three-way race with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) running as an independent; has a 44 percent job approval rating; and has a 45 percent positive personal rating. In the same survey, 45 percent said they “probably” will vote for Obama in 2012.
At the heart of the president’s enduring strength among his base are African Americans who have never wavered in any meaningful way after 95 percent of black voters opted for the Illinois senator in 2008.
In Gallup’s latest weekly tracking polling, Obama’s job approval rating stands at 43 percent among the general public but is nearly double that — 84 percent —among African Americans. In the November NBC-WSJ poll, Obama’s approval rating among black voters stood at a stratospheric 91 percent.
Given that African Americans made up 13 percent of the overall electorate in 2008 — and, hence, a much larger chunk of the Democratic base vote — Obama’s continued support among that key demographic makes any sort of widespread base erosion in 2012 unlikely.
That’s a reality that even Republicans acknowledge.
“Anyone who thinks African Americans are not going to turn out and vote in numbers similar to 2008 are fooling themselves,” said Glen Bolger, a leading GOP pollster. “There is no way they are going to say, ‘Well, we didn’t get everything we wanted from making history, so let’s sit on our hands.’ ”
Although African Americans remain the base group most broadly supportive of Obama, liberals and Democrats are very much in his camp as well. In Gallup’s most recent data, Obama’s job approval rating stood at 78 percent among Democrats and 70 percent among liberals.
Those numbers are similar to where President Bill Clinton stood in November 1995, when 78 percent of Democrats in Gallup polling approved of the job he was doing. (Bush had the support of 87 percent of Republicans in the fall of 2003, but those numbers were the result of the boosts he received from the start of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.)