Gallup is tracking a new measure in its polls this year — what it calls “intensity scores.” It’s a measure that editor in chief Frank Newport thinks could be crucial in predicting the results of the election.
And in its latest findings, Gallup shows that the polarization of political America is quite eye-opening.
On one hand, there is all-but-certain Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who has a 51-point gap in party intensity scores. Romney’s positive intensity score with Republicans is +21, meaning there is a 21-point gap between Republicans that view him strongly favourably vs. those who view him strongly unfavorably.
The Republican primary season, it appears, has strengthened Romney with the party base but has perhaps pushed more moderate Democrats away. Republicans began to rally around Romney after Rick Santorum dropped his bid for President. His positive intensity score has jumped eight points in a month.
On the other hand is Barack Obama. The polarization is even more stark here. With Republicans, it’s a -47 score. With Democrats, it’s +36.
From December to April, his rating has remained virtually unchanged among Republicans and those who lean Republican. But among Democrats, he appears to be evoking some more strong emotion — crucial for getting voters out to the polls in November.
Why are these numbers important? Newport explained last week:
“A lot of voting is instinctual, based on patterns, and it can be just related to one’s broad impression of the candidate,” he said.
That Obama inspires such varied strong emotions to his campaign could work both for and against him. On one hand, it could inspire his supporters to get out and vote. On another, it could inspire his opponents to go out and vote, regardless of their feelings for the opposing candidate.
“If you have strong negative emotion, it can drive your opponent’s voters to turn out,” Newport said. “It can work both ways. It’s a good insight. Barack Obama may have the ability to generate intense, strong emotions among his followers. But he also generates some strong negative emotions among people on the other side.”
Finally, a look at the consensus opinions of Americans about both candidates suggests that neither has a real edge this fall.
The Gallup daily tracking poll on Monday showed Obama with a 47 to 44 per cent lead over Romney if the election were held today. But that only shows the extreme unpredictability of polls this time of year. Last week, Romney led 47 to 45.
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