Barack Obama's Re-Election Numbers Are Strong; How Much of That's Due to Non-White Voters?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 23 2011 11:43 AM

Barack Obama's Re-Election Numbers Are Strong; How Much of That's Due to Non-White Voters?

Via Taeggan Goddard, Pew has Barack Obama looking better for re-election than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton did at this point in their presidencies.

Nearly half (47%) of registered voters say they would like to see Barack Obama reelected, while 37% say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win the 2012 election, according to the survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducted March 8-14 among 1,525 adults. In April 2003, 48% of registered voters said they would like to see Bush reelected in 2004; 34% said they would prefer to see a Democrat win.

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Meanwhile, the Field poll in California has Obama outperforming Bush and Clinton, at this point in their presidencies, on the re-elect. The comparison captures Bush at his last big surge of support, during the start of the Iraq War, so it's impressive. Look down at the Pew internals, though. Ninety-two percent of black voters want to re-elect Obama, as do 66 percent of Hispanics. Only one percent of blacks (!) and 16 percent of Hispanics want to vote against Obama. That's the source of the positive re-elect number -- break it down to white voters, and only 36 percent of them want to re-elect him. For comparison, 37 percent of white voters went Democratic in 2010.

This gets at something Byron York has said for a while -- the rock-solid support for Obama among non-whites is responsible for his numbers staying above water. (Bill Clinton, in his weaker moments, lost substantial black and Hispanic support.) There are two conclusions to draw.

- Obama starts 2012 with a voter base that makes Virginia, Colorado, and other states with minority populations of at least 30 percent more winnable than some traditional swing states.

- There's a big white electorate that's cold on Obama but know nothing about the lackluster 2012 GOP crop, and Democrats know that many of these voters will head over to the eventual nominee and slash at the re-elect number.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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