Battleground Blog: Independent and centrist voters breaking with precedent
November 5th, 2012
12:33 PM ET
1 year ago

Battleground Blog: Independent and centrist voters breaking with precedent

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN has sent dozens of reporters, producers, contributors and correspondents to the key battleground states to cover the final days of the 2012 election. Here is a take on the numbers in the final polls by John Avlon, CNN contributor and senior political columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast..

(CNN) - The final polls are out and behind the national horserace is a fascinating dynamic – Mitt Romney is narrowly winning independent voters while President Obama is winning centrist voters by a nearly 20-point margin.

For example, here in the must-win battleground state of Ohio, the final CNN/ORC poll showed Romney edging Obama among independent voters by two points, 48% to 46%. But among moderate voters, Obama is crushing Romney by 21 points – 57% to 36%.

This is significant because in past elections independents and centrist voters have been largely synonymous–overlapping cohorts, reflecting the belief of many independents that the two parties are too polarized and disproportionately dominated by their respective special interests. But what I think we're seeing this year is the extended impact of the tea party – a growth in the number of independent conservatives that has moved the overall independent voting block slightly to the right. In turn, centrist voters are more likely to vote for Obama precisely because of the polarizing impact of the tea party and the intransigence of many conservative congressmen when it came to working in a good faith spirit of principled compromise with the Obama administration.

National polls also bear this dynamic out. In the final Pew poll of this election, Romney is winning independent voters by a three point margin, 44% to 41%. But Obama is winning centrist voters by a 21-point margin – 56% to 25%. One reason for this split can also be found in the poll – the least popular group in Washington is congressional Republicans who have just a 28% approval rating. This makes the case for possibly giving Republicans unified control of Washington again a tougher sell to swing voters.

This split is one reason the election is so close – and it might also account for why Obama has a narrow lead in many swing states. Romney's surge after his strong performance in the first debate was due to reassuring moderate voters that he was one of them – not a "severe conservative" but a centrist Republican governor of a blue state with a commitment to bipartisanship. But in the wake of his leadership in Superstorm Sandy – earning the praise of Republican governor Chris Christie and the endorsement of independent New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg along with Colin Powell – Obama has been able to regain his momentum among moderates in the polls.

Independent voters have swung between Democrats and Republicans in recent elections – but the 16-point edge they gave Republicans in the tea party election of 2010 reflected the narrow but intense turnout that occurs during midterms. A presidential election brings out a more representative sample of the electorate – less hardcore partisan and therefore less polarized.

Romney's narrow edge among independents reflects this broader voter cohort as does Obama large lead among centrist voters. Make no mistake, this is a tight election – and both campaigns have pursued play to the base strategies until the final weeks. But in the end, it is swing voters in swing states who decide who is president. Looking to independents and centrists provides perhaps the biggest clue to who will prevail in this very tight race on Election Day.


Filed under: 2012 • Battleground Blog • Polls
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. yuri

    Romney's lies are flyin' aorund like house flies. Obama ain't adequately explaining the Benghazi fiasco, but seems less unbelievable. One will have to see which way the tide turns tomorrow, or in a few days, or weeks, or even months, depending on the vote counts.

    November 5, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. BetterDaysAhead

    And in the final throws of the campaign Springsteen has re-made an old classic in honor of Obama...BLUNDER ROAD!

    ROMNEY/RYAN 2012!

    November 5, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  3. Dave Jaipersaud

    Romney is the most dishonest person ever to run for President. Romney has no morals and is a man with no core. He cheated many decent folks out of their retirement and their jobs in order to stuff his pocket while at Bain. He will lie, cheat, steal and change his position in a heartbeat to sound reasonable and con people to vote for him and then he will change back to the most unreasonable person that he truly is. DON"T FALL FOR IT. He is the worst of the worst con artist. Romney and the Republicans would let the States fend for themselves even if they are hit by a natural disaster. The Republican agenda is everyone is for themselves and to hell with everyone else. That is not the American way and we MUST not fall for what the Republicans are selling. Remember the last time we bought what they were selling? It was not that long ago. And remember what happened? We almost lost everything. We MUST never forget. DO NOT BUY WHAT THEY ARE SELLING.

    Romney has changed is position on almost everything that he had a position on. Have you forgotten how many times he changed his positions on taxes, abortion, assault weapons, equal pay for women, regulations, immigration, debt, spending, role of government, jobs, foreign policy. One day he supports something and the next day he is opposed to that same something. This shows that the man has no ethics, no integrity, no sense of honesty. Are these the qualities we should aspire too? I think not

    November 5, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  4. Dave Jaipersaud

    Romney has no clue. He has no core, he has no sense of how we are all in this American Experience together and in America we always help those in need.

    Here is a good example of how Romney has no clue. On the campaign trail Romney said

    "every time you have an occasion to take something including disaster relief from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

    Are you kidding me. He wants to put the private sector in charge of disaster relief. This man has no moral compass.
    He also said in response to federal aid regarding the deadly Joplin, Missouri, tornado, Romney said

    "We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all."

    I guess Romney thinks that worrying about the future of our kids is more important than saving the lives of those same kids when a natural disaster strikes. As you can see, this man will put money ahead of anything. ANYTHING! Even helping those suffering and dying from natural disasters. Is this the kind of heartless President we deserve? I think not
    At a recent campaign event in Ohio, Romney ignored questions by reporters on whether he supported the Federal Emergency Management Agency's role in disaster relief. I guess he doesn’t thing the average Americans deserve the help of the federal government but rich folks like him does through tax breaks.

    Even guys like the outspoken Republican governor of New Jersey knows that the State or the Private Sector cannot provide the help that will be needed in an natural disaster and that is why Christie declared a state of emergency and seek federal help for widespread devastation. Christie even said in an Interview Tuesday on NBC, Christie described Obama's response as "outstanding," and he told CNN that the president had been "incredibly supportive and helpful to our state."

    The choice is clear. Do we want to go back to the exact same policies (Romney/Ryan current policies) that brought America to its knees or do we want to continue to build on the recovery.

    November 5, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  5. TP

    I am from Canada and just cant believe Mitt will ever be President.He is niether a severely conservative nor a centrist, he is a opportunist.He just wants to be President for his family legacy.America should learn from the other businessman who was President for 8years.Most countries who elect business men as their leaders turn into fiasco's.Dont believe look at ITALY AND THEIR OR OTHERS.We need a strong America and the Mitt is definately not it.Re-elect Pres Obama for the good of America and the world.Go Usa

    November 5, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. truth hurts

    For example, here in the must-win battleground state of Ohio, the final CNN/ORC poll showed Romney edging Obama among independent voters by two points, 48% to 46%. But among moderate voters, Obama is crushing Romney by 21 points – 57% to 36%.
    ============================================================================================

    Except just about every other poll has Romney cleaning up on independent voters by BIG margins. And who the heck knows what a centrist is anyways when being polled? Leftist loons in here call themselves centrists! A total farce! Nice try though CNN to muddy the waters with a totally bogus poll.

    November 5, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. joel

    is this another poll where CNN somehow works in Democrats +11 & calls them "centrists" in order not to have to report that independents are breaking hard for Romney

    November 5, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  8. TomInRochNY

    Man! Obama's hair is grey. Bush's hair wasn't that grey when he left office. It's a conscience thing, I guess.

    November 5, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. NEVER to VOTE REPUBLICAN again

    Obama wins 306 electoral votes according to 538!
    FORWARD AMERICA not back to the 1950's!

    November 5, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. kattie

    The Benghazi Marine who held the terrorist at bay and did not get help from the top tells me I am voting for Mitt Romney.

    November 5, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. Anne

    CNN is trying so hard to put Obama in a favorable light. Now they changed the story from independents to centrists. Who are the centrists? is this another sort of classification?

    November 5, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. Wire Palladin, S. F

    Colin Powell endorsed Obama, and Jeff Foxworthy endorsed Mittens, the lying Mormon. Seems that the GOP is going the way of the wooly mammoth.

    November 5, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. Wire Palladin, S. F

    The lower life form running for VP of the GOP, said Obama does not have Judeo-Christian values. Than coming from a disciple of Ayn Rand? Ryan was afraid to meet with the "Nuns on the Bus." That says more about his Christian upbringing.

    November 5, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. truth hurts

    Anne
    CNN is trying so hard to put Obama in a favorable light. Now they changed the story from independents to centrists. Who are the centrists? is this another sort of classification?
    ===========================================================================================
    Of course, because all polls show Romney winning independents by a large margin, so the lefties need to throw out some smoke and mirrors with a poll of "centrists", which NOBODY truly is. But this is a standard leftist manuever, to change the name of something to confuse people. No more "liberals" or Leftists, they are all "progressives". Same deal here.

    November 5, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  15. Active Duty Soldier

    I love how the media always slants a story to the left. The truth is, that I voted for Clinton, gore, bush, Obama, and now Romney. If Obama was my employee(which he is) I would not retain him(which I am not). He has failed at every endeavor. Not only did he not do what he said that he would, he never tried. Where is my budget? Where is immigration reform? Where is my social security(I am 40), it will be gone when I am of retirement age, because he hasn't done anything about it. Kick the can down the road. Thank you sir.

    November 5, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  16. BetterDaysAhead

    It's a little late to save Obama! If you believe his recent promises have any more credibility than his initial promises you are truly fooled.

    ROMNEY/RYAN 2012!

    November 5, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. The Situation

    Romney is doomed if this is true! All the recent polls from Ohio, including CNN has Obama leading by a point to 6 points. He needs to have a overwhelming space between himself and the President in regards to the independent vote. He's not winning the vote among independents, thus he will lose Ohio and effective lose the presidency!

    November 5, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  18. BPinNC

    Yuo forgot Romney's favorite scapegoat – Asbury Park (Sandy)

    November 5, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. gcbruce

    I am as well Canadian , I really worry for you Americans if Mitt Romney wins for President. Other Countries do not want Mit Romney to win, he is not well liked at all. He is a liar/flip flopper!! Obama 2012

    November 5, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. lolo

    @ Truth Hurts you can believe any poll you want, but Romneyhood the tax cheat, liar and flip flopper is going down and guess what the house will be next. Cantor, McConnell, Ryan and Boehner better have their resumes ready.

    November 5, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. Sorry Charlie

    18,000 show up for Spingsteen, nearly 50,000 less than when Kerry was a candidate. Sorry O, the time is a tickin

    November 5, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. lolo

    Further more the GOP moto is if you can't win fair and square we will have to cheat them out of it. Tell Queen Ann she can stop with the crocodile tears also. She is a kept woman who can not even express herself. I have not seen here or her husband out on the trail with common folk. If they were they made sure that they did not get to close to them. Such Hypocrits!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  23. The Situation

    Here's the funny thing. Obama is exactly 0.2 over the lead on the eve of the election in Ohio 2008 as per RCP! Obama did win by over 4.6 in 2008, expect the same results again in 2012!

    November 5, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  24. truth hurts

    Joe Biden was right when he said..... the middle class has been HAMMERED the last 4 years. Of course Obama and Biden have been the ones doing the hammering. Poor clueless Crazy Joe. He doesn't even realize he's been part of the problem.

    So if you want some more hammering of the middle class, just keep Obama/Biden in there because you'll get the hammering of a lifetime! But if you want to TRULY start moving the country forward, then Romney/Ryan is the cure for Obama/Biden incompetence. So America, it is now time to HAMMER Obama at the polls!

    November 5, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. Marilyn

    WAKE UP AMERICA, Romeney lies to suit whatever crowd he is in front of. Not once has he made a statement and stuck with it–if it upset"s the masses then he changes to suit them. He's a rich man and there is nothing for him to achive in his life now he wants the power of the President's Office..

    November 5, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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