Nationally, Obama’s Endorsement Hurts More Than it Helps.

As discussed here and here, the enthusiasm gap for the upcoming elections is as wide as we have ever witnessed. Two-thirds (66{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Republicans say they are very interested voters (self-described 9-10 on a 1-10 scale of interest) in November’s elections, compared to just 44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats. So what are voters most enthusiastic about in their candidates? Our latest NBC/WSJ poll* has some interesting data.

We read respondents a list of potential attributes a candidate for Congress in 2010 might have and asked them to rate whether they would be (A) enthusiastic about the candidate having this attribute, (B) comfortable with it, (C) have some reservations about it, (D) very uncomfortable with it, or (E) it makes no difference. Overall, the most appealing attributes were support for cutting federal spending, favoring financial reform of Wall Street, favoring the new law in Arizona on immigration, and supporting repeal of the health care reform law.

Summary Table of Candidate Attributes among Registered Voters
Total Enthusiastic/ Comfortable Total Reservations/ Very Uncomfortable
Supports cutting federal spending 6 23
Favors financial reform of Wall Street 53 30
Supports repealing the health care reform law 48 41
Favors the new law in Arizona on immigration 47 37
Is a woman 46 6
Is running as an independent candidate and is not affiliated with either political party 46 24
Is running for political office for the first time 45 21
Favors continuing oil drilling off the U.S. coast 43 46
Voted for the economic stimulus package 37 48
Voted for the health care reform law 37 52
Is endorsed by Barack Obama 35 44
Is a Tea Party supporter 31 39
Has served in Congress for more than ten years 25 47
Is endorsed by Sarah Palin 25 52
Supports abolishing some federal agencies, including the Department of Education 26 66
Supports phasing out Social Security and instead supports allowing workers to invest their Social Security contributions in the stock market 25 66
Supported the economic policies of George W. Bush 23 62

Nationally just 10{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of registered voters say they would be ‘enthusiastic’ about an Obama endorsement and 25{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} say they would be ‘comfortable’ while 13{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} have ‘some reservations’ and 31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} would be ‘very uncomfortable’ with it.

To put that in perspective, more national voters say they would be very uncomfortable with a candidate endorsed by Obama than if their candidate had voted for the economic stimulus package (27{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very uncomfortable) or supported continued oil drilling off the U.S. Coast (25{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very uncomfortable) and this survey was completed before BP capped the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Uneasiness about an Obama endorsement is higher in the South (34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}), Midwest (35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) and Gulf Coast (35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) regions. In fact, the only region that doesn’t seem to get their back up is the Northeast (18{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}), though we’ve seen how much difference an Obama endorsement made in New Jersey and Massachusetts when he still had a net favorable image nationally.

But I digress, looking again nationally, among those groups that are most likely to vote in an off-year election, 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of very interested voters in November’s elections, 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of seniors (age 65+), and 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of those who voted in both 2006 and 2008 say they would be ‘very uncomfortable’ with a candidate who was endorsed by our President.

Importantly, an Obama endorsement is less off-putting than a candidate who supported the economic policies of George W. Bush (35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very uncomfortable). This seems to be motivating the White House to raise the Bush specter, as Obama did in Nevada while stumping for Harry Reid.  But Congressional Democrats may not be able to get much mileage out of the road-worn Bush boogeyman argument this cycle, especially since they have 4 years of Congressional control to defend. Four years that also saw a housing crisis, a financial crisis, the highest unemployment in a generation, an unrelenting economic recession, and record deficits from multi-trillion dollar bailouts and new entitlement spending.

As this election becomes more nationalized, Obama’s presence on the stump may do more harm than good.  But, hey every district and state is different.  So, get out there Mr. President and give those troubled Democrats your seal of approval!

*NBC/WSJ national survey conducted June 17-21, 2010 among 1,000 adults. The sample included 879 reg voters overall with margin of error of +/- 3.3

(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)

Public Opinion Strategies