NBC NEWS/WALL STREET JOURNAL

In the latest NBC-WSJ poll conducted July 18-22 among 1,000 registered voters we find an electorate in July that on the surface is mostly unchanged since June despite a campaign dialogue that has gone negative earlier than in past presidential contests. The internals of the poll suggest undercurrents in favor of Romney and Republicans.

Overall, the Presidential ballot (43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney / 49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama) is within margin of error compared to June (44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney / 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama). In July, “high interest” voters (i.e., those rating their interest as  a 9 or 10 on a scale of 1-10) prefer Romney to Obama by 2{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} – 48{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney / 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama, still functionally tied as it was in June (46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney / 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama) among these “high interest” voters.

Republican voter interest is 6{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} higher than Democrat voters in this poll. Republicans are 4{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} more “high interest” today than at this time in 2008, while Dems are 10{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} less “high interest” today and independents are 8{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} less “high interest”

High Interest by Party
2008 2012 Diff.
Republicans 70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 74{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} +4{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}
Independents 63{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} -8{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}
Democrats 78{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 68{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} -10{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}

Romney had a strong showing among 65+ voters in July (54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney / 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama) while 18-34 year olds continue to be Obama’s strongest age cohort (34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney / 55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama). The interest gap between the youngest and oldest voters continues to be a potential leverage point for Romney (interest among 65+ is 84{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, interest among 18-34 is 49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

The information people are hearing from both campaigns are making people “more negative” about both candidates in roughly equal measure. Overall, 44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of voters say what they are hearing has given them a less favorable opinion of Obama and 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} say the same about Romney. Among White independents, the impression is much worse for Obama, 37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of White Independents are less favorable on Romney, 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} are less favorable on Obama. Obama is also seen as running a negative campaign more than Romney (22{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama / 12{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney / 34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} both).

There are five findings in this data that suggest the existence of undercurrents in the electorate that should worry Obama’s campaign:

  1. As the American economy continues to struggle, the percentage of voters who say the economy will improve in the next 12 months dropped to 27{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} from 35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} last month and is now at the lowest point recorded in 2012. For an incumbent, economic performance and outlook is an important measure in voters’ decisions and this drop in confidence about the economy poses a challenge for Team Obama.
  2. Independent voters in this poll flipped to +3 on the ballot overall in July. This is the first time independent voters have been a net positive for Romney on the ballot since Nov 2011 which was the last time “economy will get better” was below 30{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.
  3. Obama’s image rating is 32{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} “very negative”, his highest “very negative” in the history of the poll surpassing his previous high of 30{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}“very negative” in Aug 2011.
  4. Romney continues to lead on who has good ideas on how to improve the economy (43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney / 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama) and disapproval in Obama’s handling of the economy remains at 53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.
  5. Looking at Undecided voters across the polling conducted in 2012, it’s clear they lean Republican. Fully 60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove of Obama’s overall job performance, 69{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, and they prefer for a Republican-controlled Congress in 2012 by 10 points.

NBC News / Wall Street Journal — July 18-22, 2012 (PDF Format)

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