Ever since the Massachusetts Senate election, we have frequently heard that the public is recoiling from Obama and his agenda. The story of the horrified independent voter fleeing to into the Republican embrace has been told and re-told many times in the last two months. Last week Lexington offered a variation on this theme with his emphasis on Obama’s alleged alienation of white voters. After I had written a response to that article, I wanted to identify which voters Obama actually did seem to be alienating far more than others.
When we look at Gallup’s approval numbers and compare them with the presidential exit poll from 2008, we can begin to identify which demographic groups have disproportionately gone from being Obama voters to disapproving of his performance. By far, most of the largest slippage between November 2008 and now has come among core Democratic constituencies: women, liberals, and unmarried and secular voters.
Obama won 56% of women, and now receives just 51% approval, which is more than twice the decline among men. Obama won 89% of liberal voters, and has 79% approval from liberals now. The decline among moderates is negligible (60% of the vote vs. 58% approval). More self-described conservatives now approve of Obama (26%) than voted for him (20%). Fit that into the narrative of the “single greatest pushback in American history” if you can. We have heard a lot about the flight of independent voters, and there may be some truth to this (52% of the vote vs. 44% approval), but what this cannot tell us is why those independents are fleeing. 67% of people who say they never attend church voted for Obama, and now just 57% approve. Obama has also lost more ground with occasional church-goers (57% of the vote vs. 51% approval) than he has with weekly attendees (43% vs. 39%). Obama has lost some support among married voters (47% vs. 43%), but far more among unmarried (65% vs. 58%). Of course, there are small declines in practically every demographic, but the largest drops come among core Democratic constituencies.
All of this seems to confirm the story that some Democrats tried to advance in the wake of Virginia and Massachusetts: disaffection and disillusionment of their core supporters were major factors in the lopsided defeat in Virginia and the remarkable loss in Massachusetts. Most would acknowledge that Creigh Deeds ran an abysmal campaign, and at every setback he redoubled his emphasis on centrism and pandering to the middle that left a lot of Democratic voters cold and unmotivated. What is true at the state level also seems to be true nationally. The administration has been Creigh Deedsing its party to death.