The Washington Post

The Final Poll, Before More Polls

Polling in this presidential contest has shown Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tied up more often than Houdini. 

Tuesday will bring the only poll that counts, and for many citizens not a moment too soon.

The zigzagging polls may have reflected the ups and downs of the Obama and Romney candidacies this fall. They also may have been hopeful interpretations of a margin of error or varying calculations of likely voters.

Whatever, in its final pre-election tracking poll, The Washington Post and ABC reported a slight 50-47 Obama lead over Romney, which could be the combined product of Romney's campaign peaking too soon and Hurricane Sandy thrusting President Obama into a national leadership role.

Nate Silver, who writes a blog for The New York Times about polls, suggested Obama heads into Tuesday with a "very modest lead."  But Silver noted that of the 12 national polls published over the weekend, three called the race dead even.

As the polls on the popular vote tightened in the last few weeks, attention turned with a vengeance to speculation over the Electoral College, which many today view as an Eighteenth Century relic and a 21st Century calamity-waiting-to-happen.

Pundits wondered endlessly about whether one candidate winning the popular vote and the other the necessary 270 electoral votes to claim the presidency — a vagary that has occurred before in American history. More angst was spilled on the prospect — which colored interactive maps illustrated — of the candidates winding up with an Electoral College tie, throwing the election to the GOP-controlled House.

What may be more useful to explore after the election is settled — Tuesday night, Wednesday or whenever — is how Americans wound up voting. We already have a clear picture of the stark divide between red and blue states, but what other schisms will the election bear out?

Pre-election polling indicates Obama enjoys stronger support from women than Romney, while the reverse is true for male voters. Obama does better with minorities; Romney does best with whites.

The Political Consumer

Before each party's national convention, The Washington Post created a pair of graphs showing the consumer habits of Democrats and Republicans. Click on image to view larger version.Political point of view extends far beyond whether you support gay marriage or across-the-board tax cuts. That point of view apparently influences other parts of life, including consumption habits.

The Washington Post has developed a pair of visual graphs depicting Democratic and Republican consumers, relying on a Scarborough Research survey that sampled 200,000 U.S. adults.

Some of the findings are obvious enough — a lot more Republicans watch Fox News and eat at Chik-fil-A than Democrats; more Democrats contribute to environmental groups and shop at Kmart than Republicans. After that the findings get interesting and maybe even odd.

Click on image to view larger version. Image was created by The Washington Post.For example, more Democrats than Republicans buy organic products, while more Republicans are likely to eat at a steakhouse than Democrats. Almost three times more Republicans hunt compared to Democrats and Democratic Twitter users outnumber Republicans.

Twice as many Democrats than Republicans are very interested in the NBA. Three times as many Republicans than Democrats own a powerboat.

Almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans are covered by Medicare and do yoga. Republican dog owners outnumber their Democratic pup lovers, but more Democrats than Republicans frequent casinos.

One key piece of information from the survey — don't bug Republicans on college football Saturdays and don't interrupt Democrats during the Grammy Awards.

Read the graphs for more interesting comparisons and contrasts.

Americans Unhappy with Health Care Choices

However the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act, most Americans will be disappointed. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Americans dislike the health care reform law (52 percent) almost as much as they dislike the current health care system (56 percent).

Three-quarters of the respondents in a related poll conducted by AP-GfK favor starting over, an unlikely prospect between now and the November election and — depending on who wins the presidency and controls Congress next year— into the foreseeable future

The Washington Post story about the poll says voter views on health care are locked in, leaving President Obama, whose name and political reputation are affixed to the Affordable Care Act, in an awkward political position. But Mitt Romney and Republicans aren't much better off, with even higher discontent for the status quo and no real viable alternative in sight.

Romney and others argue that states should decide health care policy, with little federal interference. While some states might pursue that responsibility seriously, others may not, resulting in a patchwork health insurance and delivery system nationwide. For multi-state employers and people whose work takes them to different parts of the country, that isn't a very satisfying response.

On the other extreme, turning to a government-sponsored health care system doesn't seem like a good cultural fit for Americans. Few even acknowledge it as a credible option here, despite it working in many European countries.

Employers are the biggest non-government purchaser of health care benefits, but they face intensifying cost pressures, including from steeply rising health insurance premiums. Many employers simply don't offer health insurance to their workers; some that do wished they didn't. Each annual increase brings another excruciating round of cost-sharing with employees, who must pay higher co-payments for procedures and prescriptions.

Jobs Trump Deficits on Public Mind

More Americans, including recently graduating college and high school students, are worried about stimulating jobs than reducing federal deficits.Americans are worried about federal deficits, but according to the Pew Research Center they are more concerned about a stagnating economy and weak job market.

A survey by Pew and The Washington Post released last week "showed that the percentage saying that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority jumped from 53 percent in 2009 to 64 percent this year. But the deficit ranked far lower than the economy (87 percent) and jobs (84 percent) on the public’s 2011 agenda.

"Few disagree that the budget deficit is an urgent problem — in late May, 74 percent said it is a major problem the country must address now," Pew says. "But when asked which economic issue worried them most, more cited the job situation than the budget deficit (by 38 percent to 28 percent)."

Pew notes the public has taken only a modest interest in the partisan wrangling in Washington, D.C. over raising the debt ceiling and trimming federal deficits. Opinion is almost evenly divided over raising the debt ceiling. Pew says 66 percent of Republicans worry it would lead to more federal deficit spending, while 54 percent of Democrats fret over the fallout if the debt limit isn't raised.