The bounce has officially dissipated. A new AP/GfK national poll of likely voters shows Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in a virtual tie, with Obama having a 1-point edge at 47/46. The internals, noted by the Washington Post, show a demographic divide that should surprise no one paying attention to the race, but one that obviously balances out and doesn’t help the incumbent:
President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney stand about even among likely voters, with 47 percent backing Obama and 46 percent Romney. But there are sharp demographic divides driving each candidate’s support.
Women broadly back the president (55 percent for Obama vs. 39 percent for Romney) while men favor the GOP ticket (53 percent for Romney to 40 percent for Obama). The gender gap tightens some in the suburbs, where women tilt Obama by a narrower 51 percent to 45 percent margin, while suburban men favor Romney, 54 percent to 40 percent.
White voters without college degrees favor Romney by more than 30 points over Obama (63 percent back Romney compared with 30 percent behind Obama), a steeper split than the 18-point margin John McCain held over Obama among the group in 2008. White voters with college degrees are about evenly split (50 percent Obama to 48 percent Romney), about on par with 2008.
Younger voters are less apt to be likely voters than their elder counterparts, hinting at the turnout battle to come, but voters under age 45 remain solidly in Obama’s camp, 54 percent to 41 percent. Senior citizens, on the other hand, lean Romney, 52 percent to 41 percent for Obama.
Let’s compare these demographics to 2008. Obama won women by 13 in his last election but also edged McCain by one among men for a total gender-gap advantage of +14. The AP/GfK poll has him at a +3. The age demographics don’t exactly match up with 2008’s exit polls, but Obama won the 18-29YO vote by 34 points (66/32) and 30-44YOs by six, 52/46. Obama has lost ground here, and that’s before we talk about turnout and enthusiasm. Also, Obama only lost seniors by eight in 2008, and he’s performing slightly worse in 2012, down 11.
What about the sample? It looks surprisingly fair, at least among likely voters. The D/R/I without leaners is 31/30/30 (with 8% refusing to identify), an undersampling of both Democrats and Republicans. That was a big improvement from the 31/22/40 from the overall sample, which produced a ridiculous 52/37 Obama lead among all adults.
The rest of the likely-voter results are mixed news for an incumbent. The right/wrong direction is upside down, 41/52, but not as bad as the LV result just before the 2010 midterms, 39/59. Obama does have a positive job-approval rating at 52/47, which is an outlier even from Gallup’s registered-voter tracking polls, and suggests that Obama will underperform his approval rating among likely voters. On the economy, Obama gets a 47/52, a 35/56 on gas prices. However, Obama ends up leading on most of the other issues, albeit narrowly at times.
The bottom line from this poll is that we have an incumbent who can’t get to 50% even in a sample where likely voters approve of his job performance, and where demographic support has significantly eroded from 2008. That’s not good news for Team Obama, and the events of last week will likely push this even lower.