Obama on voters’ minds

A reader passed along an obituary this week for a man who died last month in Rome, Ga. Donald Unsworth was 78 — husband, father, grandfather, veteran, former police officer, safety director of the Floyd County Police Department and owner of both Rome Driver’s Training School and Carter’s Hardware and Auto Parts. The obituary said Unsworth would “always be remembered for his generosity and his willingness to help needy families and friends,” and suggested donations to the American Cancer Society. Additionally, Unsworth asked to be remembered in two years, requesting that contributions be made in his name to “whoever is running against President Barack Obama in 2012.”

While Republicans planning to challenge Obama in 2012 are seeking to capitalize on the energy of voters angry at the president, there is new evidence that disapproval of Obama may play a significant role in deciding the upcoming midterm elections this November, according to The Hill/ANGA poll published this week.

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In surveys of 12 districts represented by freshman Democrats elected to office in 2008 along with President Obama, strong majorities of voters in districts that could determine which party controls the House of Representatives said their opinion of Obama was important to their consideration of a candidate.

In the poll, conducted by the firm of Penn Schoen Berland, voters in the 12 districts largely supported Republicans and divided government. Most respondents disapproved of the job Obama and Congress are doing, and the survey showed that Republicans are far more motivated to cast votes than Democrats. A majority of the likely voters sampled, including some Democrats, favored a repeal of healthcare reform. But as vulnerable freshmen, even those who didn’t support all of Obama’s agenda, defend their records back home, they will run up against a powerful Obama effect, The Hill/ANGA poll shows: Two-thirds of respondents said they would consider the president while choosing how to vote on Nov. 2.

“The old adage is that ‘All politics is local.’ That may not be holding true this year,” said pollster Mark Penn of Penn Schoen Berland.

In the 12 districts included in The Hill/ANGA poll — Mich.-7, Ariz.-1, Ill.-11, Md.-1, N.M.-2, Nev.-3, Ohio-15 and -16, Va.-2 and -5, Colo.-4 and Pa.-3 — sentiment against Obama is high. To the question “When you think about your vote in this November’s congressional election, how important in your decision is your feeling about President Obama?” 11 of 12 districts showed voters most likely to vote registering higher than 60 percent, and often more than 70 percent, in an “important/unimportant” response. Those voting blocs are Republicans, independents, males, females and voters 55 and older. In Rep. Frank Kratovil’s (D-Md.) district, voters 55 and older said the Obama factor was 80/20 “important/unimportant.” In the district of Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), who is 18 points behind her opponent, voters 55 and older answered 81/15 about the importance of their consideration of the president, while independents answered 74/25 to the same question. The only district where the answers to that question were lower overall is the 7th district of Michigan, which shows the only tied race of the poll, a rematch between Democratic Rep. Mark Schauer and former Rep. Tim Walberg (R).

Other recent polls have indicated the voter groups that maintain the highest approval of President Obama — namely, African-Americans and young people — have the least interest in voting in November’s midterm elections. Without Obama on the ticket, those voters aren’t planning to turn up at the polls. The problem for Democrats in those races is that an imaginary Obama will be on the ticket for many of those voters who do show up.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.