The Exit Poll Results You May Have Missed

Jeff Alworth

I finally got around to looking at the exits--delaying because they seem to have been so widely covered elsewhere. Most of the findings are unsurprising and typical of exits in previous years. But one of the veins that runs through this year's batch involves voter attitudes toward the candidates and illustrates how badly team Romney misread the polls before the election.

Recall that enthusiasm was one of the main reasons the Romney folks thought they were going to win. Romney was drawing large crowds and it was a given that the GOP had the mo' on their side. Not so much.


When exit pollsters asked whether voters "strongly favor my candidate" or "like my candidate but with reservations" this is what they found:

Strongly favor: Obama 54%, Romney 45%
Support with reservations: Obama 42%, Romney 57%

This is the problem with echo chambers and media bubbles--you never notice a deviation between your cohorts' views and those of the larger society. (The 2004 election, when I made the mistake in reverse, is seared on my memory.)

Similarly, inside the conservative bubble, it's an unchallenged data point that America hates Obama. Again, not so much.

Opinion of Obama

When pollsters asked voters what they thought of the Obama administration, 49% (divided evenly) were either enthusiastic or satisfied, while 30% were dissatisfied. Only 19% were "angry" (and which news channel do you imagine they watch). Additionally, they approved of Obama 54-45% and had a favorable view of him, 53-46% (Romney was underwater 47-50%). This is a sharply different view than the one many conservatives believe Americans hold of their president. Obama is a generally well-liked guy who is doing, on balance, a decent job. (Which is why he was re-elected.)

Sandy's Impact

In a little counter-deprograming, it's worth noting that the GOP argument about Sandy appears to be true. While the storm's affect wasn't obviously perceptible in the polling, according to voters, it had quite a large impact on their vote.

Forty-two percent of voters called Obama's response to Sandy an important factor in their decision, and by a huge margin (68-31%), they voted Obama. Beyond that, nearly two-thirds considered it at least a factor in the way they voted--and again, they broke to Obama as a result. Chris Christie's role in this thing? We'll never know--the pollsters didn't ask.

(Dems shouldn't try to spin this, because it was a case-study in their governing philosophy. It wasn't "unlucky" that Katrina happened to Bush any more than it was "lucky" it happened to Obama. Their response reflected serious policy differences, and there's no reason voters shouldn't have taken it into account when they entered the voting both.)

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    As a poll watcher it is notable to me that what the media called the Romney "surge" in Oct. was actually the switch to "likely voters" from registered voters. The RV numbers didn't change much at all. It's the "likely voter" screens that were flawed and called the Obama voters as "Unlikely." Gallup was totally out in left field using a likely voter screen using demographic data from 2000 and 2004. They assumed that minorities and the young don't vote. Their voter screen assumed that minorities would constitute 22% of the electorate when in fact they constituted 28%. Their last poll had Obama up +3 with RVs, pretty close to the actual result. Turns out the Obama voters were "enthusiastic" more so than Romney's.

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