Battleground Blog: Independent and centrist voters breaking with precedent
November 5th, 2012
12:33 PM ET
10 years 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. FactCheck

    Of course, because all polls show Romney winning independents by a large margin

    It doesn't matter how much he is winning by in places like Mississippi, Texas or Alabama. In the swing states, his lead with independent is dwindling down to low single digits. I know you hate facts and stuff so spare yourself the disappointment.

    November 5, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are proven failures!

    @yuri: The investigation into Benghazi isn't complete; ask anyone who's ever worked in intel and they will tell you it takes awhile to get all the facts.

    And ask yourself this: If all President Obama cared about was scoring political points, then wouldn't it have been much better for him to STOP the Benghazi attack and NO Americans die?!?

    November 5, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. honestuck

    One thing we know for sure is that the author of this spin article about the difference between independent and centrist voters failed high school arithmetic,. Here is an example of his quantitative skill:

    "But Obama is winning centrist voters by a 21-point margin – 56% to 25%."

    The difference between 56 and 25 is 31. I fear for the future generations if we continue to elect Republicans who will implement an education policy that breeds liars and functionally illiterate journalists and spinners. Good luck tomorrow my country men, I hope the majority makes the right choice.

    November 5, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are proven failures!

    I don't believe Independents are going for Mittens. I'm married to one and he just laughs at the way Mittens not only changes his views more often than most people change their socks, Mittens lies through his teeth.

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice

    November 5, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are proven failures!

    @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."

    No, President Obama's hair is graying because he has actually been WORKING, as opposed to Bush who spent more time on vacation than any other president.

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice

    November 5, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. ronvan

    HA, HA, HA: Just wanted to get that out, IN CASE Mittens gets elected! IF he does, then folks, be prepared!! Here are MY predictions under M. R... ALL progress, yes many show we are heading in the right direction, but, progress will STOP. Why, because M. R. will start implementing HIS policies & plans, you know, the ones he has not explained, and states, our government, all of us, will be scrambling with the changes! The rich will be protected, under a bunch of political gobbley goop, that we cannot understand, and the middle class will pick up the difference! Health care, Obamacare, will STOP, and go back to what we had before! Those millions that benefitted under Obamacare, will have to reorganize their finances to meet the expences, or TRY to find someone that will cover them! Under M. .R. our environment will loose! The term "Drill baby Drill" will be like the wild west and oil companies will love it, except when they screw up and spill millions / billions of gal. of oil! Obama has and continues to bring our troops back home. Not so under M. R.. It will be an ABOUT FACE, and lets get ready to go into more two bit countries that HE will term is in our "national interests"? NO MORE drawdown is Afganistan, hold what we have or bring in more troops! Does anyone really beleive that our Magnificent Military has done MORE than any other conflict/war? WE wonder why so many are taking their own lives? BECAUSE you cannot remain human, and sane, with multiple tours, 5+ for many! And then there is our allies/friends! How will China react if M. R. declares them as a money manipulator? YES, probably true, but if you slap or hurt me, there will be some kind of retaliation! What about Iran & Isreal? There is a scary thought!

    November 5, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  7. ghostriter

    Truth hurts, centrists not with standing, Mitt is leading independents by a few points. Hardly the large margin. At least per this article. But that is what conservatives do. Try and change the "facts" to fit their ideology. Because if Romney doesn't have a huge margin with independents, then there is no need for liberals to change the name of anything.

    Same thing with the unemployment numbers. Conservatives have been trying to push this "real" unemployment figure as it makes it look way worse. Yet all we have been looking at since we started paying attention was the unemployment numbers posted. Only conservatives can do things like this and have it make sense to themselves. We just laugh at you guys.

    November 5, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. ken

    Republicans for Obama! Say no to Tea Party this year!!!

    November 5, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. I Voted Early In NC

    Romney has already given up you can see it in his face. It is better to lose with dignity than to lose lying which Romney is doing. All weekend the Republicans have tried to swiftboat President Obama. The republicans also are using Governor Christie and the hurricane as an excuse as to why Romney is not leading in the polls. The truth is Americans are just not that into Romney and our vote is not for sale. Romney this is not a third world country you can not buy our vote. We will never let a minority of millionaires and billionaires control our country.

    November 5, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. Ray E. (Georgia)

    For my Foreign Friends,
    Trade with other countries is a big part of your economy. If jobs don't come back there will be less money to by the many products that we import. Clearly Romney is the better choice for jobs to come back. Obama Care has effectively killed Small Business from hiring.

    November 5, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Let's do the math: Romney has already stated 47% of voters support Obama which leaves 53% of voters, there's no way Romney can carry 53% of voters. Romney's prediction of that 47% clearly makes President Obama the winner and the electoral college agrees with him.

    November 5, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
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