Midwest, West Most Competitive Regions in 2012 U.S. Election

Midwest, West Most Competitive Regions in 2012 U.S. Election

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Obama leads in East, Romney in South

PRINCETON, NJ -- Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are fairly evenly matched in the Midwestern and Western regions of the United States in terms of the 2012 presidential vote. Obama enjoys a decisive advantage in the East and Romney has a lead in the South.

2012 Presidential Vote Preferences by Region, June 1-July 9, 2012

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking data from June 1-July 9, with a total of more than 17,000 registered voters nationwide and at least 3,400 in each region. Overall, in these data, 46% of U.S. registered voters said they would vote for Obama if the election were held today and 45% would vote for Romney.

Vote preferences by region have been fairly stable since Gallup began tracking the presidential election in mid-April. Obama has maintained a lead in the East, getting 50% or more of the vote there in all but one three-week reporting period. Meanwhile, Romney has consistently been at or above 50% among Southern voters. The two candidates have been competitive in the Midwest and West since Gallup tracking began, with Obama tending to have at least a slight advantage in the Midwest and more often than not holding a slight edge in the West.

Regional voting patterns this year are similar to what they have been in recent in U.S. presidential elections, according to Gallup's historical final pre-election polls:

  • The Democratic candidate has won in the East in each election since 1988.
  • The Republican has prevailed in the South in most elections since 1980, though Obama and John McCain tied in that region in 2008.
  • The West has tended to be more Democratic in recent elections, with the Democrat winning there each year since 1992 aside from 2004. Prior to 1992, Republicans generally won in the West.
  • The Midwest has generally been the most competitive and most likely to switch party allegiances, backing the Democrat in 1992, 1996, and 2008, and the Republican in 1988, 2000, and 2004. Thus, the Midwest has backed the electoral vote winner in each of the last six elections and the popular vote winner in five of the last six.

Racial Differences Drive Regional Differences

In each region, nonwhites show an overwhelming preference for Obama. Thus, the vote preferences of whites largely determine each region's overall preference. Southern whites show the strongest preference for Romney, 65% to 28%. Midwestern and Western whites also favor Romney, but by much smaller margins of 8 and 10 points, respectively. Whites living in the East, however, are divided evenly between Romney and Obama.

2012 Presidential Vote Preferences by Region and Race, June-July 2012

Nonwhite voters' preferences are fairly consistent in the East, Midwest, and South, with Obama near 80% support and Romney near 10%. While nonwhites in the West still heavily favor Obama, their support, 66% to 26%, is less than is found in other regions.

That largely is a result of the fact that blacks -- one of Obama's most loyal subgroups -- make up the majority of the nonwhite electorate in the East, Midwest, and South, but only about 25% in the West. The majority of nonwhite voters in the West are Hispanics, who still largely back Obama, but to a smaller degree than blacks do.

Implications

With traditional presidential voting patterns prevailing in the 2012 campaign so far, the outcome of this year's election is likely to be determined by voters in the Midwest and West. The Midwest has typically been the most competitive region and usually backs the eventual winner. Obama has enjoyed at least a slight edge there since June, consistent with his overall slight national lead.

The West has also been fairly competitive in recent elections, but has generally tilted Democratic. Romney's ties to the region and his Mormon faith may increase his appeal there, though he currently trails Obama in the West.

Despite the heavy candidate leanings in the Southern and Eastern regions, the candidates are not going to ignore them completely, as each contains states -- Pennsylvania and New Hampshire in the East, and Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida in the South -- whose electoral votes will be crucial to winning.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking June 1-July 9, 2012, with a random sample of 17,046 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of registered voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

For results based on the total samples of 3,428 registered voters in the east, 4,011 registered voters in the Midwest, 5,626 registered voters in the south, and 3,981 registered voters in the West, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Gallup's regional definitions are as follows:

  • East -- Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia
  • South -- Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas
  • Midwest -- Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas
  • West -- Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for each night on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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