Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama Lags in Democratic Backing

Gallup reports that while more voters identify as Democratic, Democrats are less likely to support Barack Obama than are Republicans to support John McCain:

As the national political conventions are poised to start, the party orientation of U.S. voters clearly favors the Democratic Party, similar to the pattern seen for the past five months. Among all national registered voters interviewed thus far in August for the Gallup Poll Daily tracking survey, 35% identify as Democrats compared with 28% who identify as Republicans. An additional 36% are independents.

The current 7-point Democratic advantage in party ID expands to 10 points when the party leanings of independents are taken into account. Fifty percent of U.S. registered voters identify with or lean to the Democratic Party and 40% are Republican or lean Republican.

This Democratic advantage contrasts with the close nature of the presidential contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain in monthly averages of the Obama vs. McCain horse race since March....

The reasons this is not translating into a stronger lead for Obama are twofold:

1. Although Democrats outnumber Republicans in the electorate, McCain receives the support of a greater share of his party base than does Obama.

Whereas 84% of Republicans polled from Aug. 11-17 say they will vote for McCain in November, only 79% of Democrats say they will vote for Obama. A similar gap in party loyalty has been seen each week since Obama clinched the Democratic nomination in early June. Over this period, Obama's Democratic support has ranged from 78% to 82% while McCain's Republican support has ranged from 83% to 85%.

2. The race has been extremely close among the roughly 36% of voters who call themselves political independents.

Since early June, Obama and McCain have swapped the lead among independents, with neither ever achieving a very large lead. Overall, Obama has averaged just a 1-point lead over McCain among independents, and in interviews conducted Aug. 11-17, the two were tied at 42%....
If each candidate were supported equally by his partisans, and independents split equally, that would translate into a 7- to 10-point lead for Obama over McCain in the race for president. But the race has been closer than that, primarily because a greater proportion of Republicans than Democrats are backing their own party's candidate for president.

Going into the convention period, it thus appears that a crucial test for Obama will be winning over heretofore reluctant Democrats to his candidacy, and the challenge for McCain will be retaining his Republican base. The vice presidential selections could be key factors in both cases. At the same time, both candidates will face the challenge of attracting more independents to their candidacies. In a close race, even a slight swing in the preferences of this group could be decisive.
In other words, Obama should be much farther ahead in public opinion polls, not just in terms of voter indentification trends, but also in what's ostensibly a Democratic year with public approval ratings for George W. Bush in the low 30 percent range.

For a variety of factors, the Democrats will likely see a historically small polling bounce for Obama coming out of Denver,
if he gets one at all.

As more and more revelations of the Illinois Senator's radicalism and secretism come to light, Obama's numbers may well continue their collapse. At this rate, a Michael Dukakis-style debacle in November looks increasingly possible.