As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney prepare for their first debate on Oct. 3, 2012, the issues at the top of the voters’ agenda have changed little since 2008, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Conducted Sept. 12-16 among 3,019 adults, including 2,424 registered voters, the results show that 87% of registered voters say that the economy will be very important to their vote, while 83% say jobs will be very important to their vote.
If you’ve had the feeling that fewer people are satisfied with our presidential candidates than in recent memory, there are surveys to back that up too. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted Sept. 20-23, 2012, finds that just more than half (54%) say they are either very or fairly satisfied with the presidential choices this year, while 40% say they are not too or not at all satisfied. Republicans are less satisfied than Democrats. The percentage expressing satisfaction with the candidates is now lower than it has been in any election since 1992.
The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. The center conducts public opinion polling, demographic studies, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research. It does not take positions on policy issues. The polls and reports done by the center, through its seven projects, are highly regarded and serve as valuable information resources for political leaders, journalists, scholars, and citizens. As a journalist and librarian, I have closely followed for years the interesting findings from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
This year, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has a special website devoted to Campaign 2012. It provides data and analysis about voters, issues, and more from across the Pew Research Center projects. For example, its graphs and statistics mapping Latinos as a percent of eligible voters is drawn from the research done by the Pew Hispanic Center project. The data on trends in voter preferences among religious groups comes from The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life project.
I found the most fascinating feature on the Campaign 2012 site to be The Political Party Quiz. The questions it asked probed my thinking on the environment, government debt, healthcare, religion, social issues, and more.
Do your views align more with Republicans, Democrats, or Independents? Answer 12 questions in our new politics quiz, built in partnership with PBS NewsHour, and we'll tell you where you fit on the political spectrum. See how you compare to other Americans by age, gender, race, and religion.
Another interactive feature you might find interesting is to test your own News IQ. It presents 11 questions about the candidates and the election that were asked in a national poll. When you finish, you will be able to compare your News IQ with the average American, as well as with the scores of college graduates and those who didn’t attend college; with men and women; and with people your age as well as other ages.
There are some interesting and stark assessments about America’s middle class—the group seen as most critical for both presidential candidates. As the 2012 presidential candidates prepare their closing arguments to America’s middle class, “they are courting a group that has endured a lost decade for economic well-being. Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.”
According to surveys and the center’s analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the findings indicate the following:
Fully 85% of self-described middle-class adults say it is more difficult now than it was a decade ago for middle-class people to maintain their standard of living. Of those who feel this way, 62% say “a lot” of the blame lies with Congress, while 54% say the same about banks and financial institutions, 47% about large corporations, 44% about the Bush administration, 39% about foreign competition, and 34% about the Obama administration. Just 8% blame the middle class itself a lot.
One disturbing finding relates to young voters. According to Pew’s research:
Young voters are significantly less engaged in this year’s election than at a comparable point in 2008 and now lag far behind older voters in interest in the campaign and intention to vote. The share of voters younger than 30 who are following campaign news very closely is roughly half what it was at this point 4 years ago (18%, down from 35%). Just 63% of young registered voters say they definitely plan to vote this year, down from 72% 4 years ago.
As of Sept. 19, 2012, Pew reported that Obama was leading Romney in its latest poll. “With an eight-point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters, Obama holds a bigger September lead than the last three candidates who went on to win in November, including Obama four years ago.” And, here’s an interesting finding: “Roughly half of Romney’s supporters say they are voting against Obama rather than for the Republican nominee. With the exception of Bill Clinton in 1992, candidates lacking mostly positive backing have lost in November.”
But, the debates are yet to com ... and there’s still 36 days until the election.
Follow @pewresearch on Twitter to get a live stream of its reports, data, and analysis during the presidential domestic policy debate on Wed. Oct. 3. Sign up to receive the Pew Research Center newsletter, a regular email update with new analysis on politics, the media and more.
The schedule for the three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate is available here.