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Michigan: President Tied With Generic Republican

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

As President Obama seeks re-election, a couple of traditionally Democratic states may be more competitive than usual.

In 2008, the president won Michigan’s Electoral College votes by sixteen percentage points but most Michigan voters now disapprove of the way he’s handled his tenure in the White House. Just 47% of Likely Voters in the state approve of the way that the president is performing his job, while 52% disapprove, according to new Rasmussen Reports polling data. Those figures are very similar to the numbers in another must win state for the president—nearby Pennsylvania.

The totals in Michigan include 25% who Strongly Approve and 36% who Strongly Disapprove, giving the president an Approval Index rating of -11. Those numbers are a bit better than Obama's national job approval ratings, suggesting Michigan might be a bit more friendly to the incumbent than some other potential swing states for 2012.  (To see survey question wording, click here.)  

However, Michigan voters are evenly divided and give the president just 46% of the vote when matched against a Generic Republican candidate who also earns 46% support.. Three percent (3%) prefer a third option, while six percent (6%) are undecided. These results are also a bit better for the president than some other swing states including Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. In 2010, Michigan elected a Republican Governor.

Michael Barone has written frequently about the fact that voters used to move towards Democrats during times of economic distress but not this time. In one recent column, he noted that most Americans are not looking for a personal government bailout because they Americans prefer to “see themselves as doers rather than victims.”

Scott Rasmussen has explained that “the most important demographic in the nation to watch are white working class Democrats. They voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries, for President Obama in the general election and for Republicans in 2010.” Some in this demographic now see themselves as unaffiliated voters as the number of Democrats in the nation has declined since the fall of 2008.  The president trails by 19 points among white voters in Michigan.

White working class Democrats are a key constituency throughout the heartland from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin.

While a tie with a Generic Republican is not good news for the White House, it must be noted that while the president typically trails a generic Republican candidate in national polls. However, he generally leads all named Republicans except Mitt Romney in early matchup polling. At the same time, most of those who remain undecided in those matchup polls disapprove of the president’s performance.

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The survey of 500 Likely Voters in Michigan was derived from nightly presidential tracking poll surveys conducted October 21-November 15, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology

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