Polls Show Electorate Could Go Either Way in 2012

Republicans are more enthusiastic, Hispanics could be key.

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A new wave of survey research is providing valuable insight into the political climate and the prospects for President Obama holding onto his job in next year's election.

Here is a summary of five surveys from the past week that I consider among the most important, including my analysis of what it all means:

1. There's an opening for the eventual Republican presidential nominee to do very well next year with Hispanic voters, who normally vote Democratic. Fifty-seven percent of Hispanics still consider themselves Democrats, 19 percent consider themselves Republicans and 15 percent are independents, according to a poll for Univision by Democrat Mark Mellman and Republican Dave Sackett. But by another measure, the Republicans should do well. Forty-three percent of the Hispanics polled call themselves conservative, 37 percent say they are liberal and 20 percent are moderate.

[Read: Can Perry, Bachmann, or Romney Save the GOP Brand?]

2. The Hispanic population is growing fast, a sign that the Hispanic vote could be one of the most important in 2012. A state-by-state analysis is particularly revealing. In Florida, the voting-age Hispanic population grew by nearly 250,000 between 2008 ad 2010, according the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the white voting-age population in Florida increased by only 30,400. In New Mexico, the number of voting-age Hispanics rose by more than 30,000 while the population growth among whites was about 19,000. In Nevada, there were 44,000 more voting-age Hispanics during the same time frame while the number of voting-age whites increased by only 18,000. [Read: Obama is Finding it Tough to Engage Core Constituencies.]

3. An "excitement gap" favors the Republicans. Democrats' morale is low, a bad sign for Obama, who is trying to energize his base. About 44 percent of Democrats say they are less enthusiastic about casting their ballots for president in 2012 than in the past, while 45 percent say they are more enthusiastic than usual. Among Republican voters, 58 percent say they are more enthusiastic about voting than they have been in the past. All this is from a USA Today/Gallup Poll,

4. The presidential race is a dead heat in the key swing state of Ohio, between Obama and either Mitt Romney or Rick Perry, the two front runners, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. Obama would win 44 percent to Romney's 42, and defeat Perry, 44-41. Clearly, Ohio is up for grabs and it could be the most pivotal state of all. [See 10 reasons Obama should be re-elected.]

5. Fifty-two per cent of Americans say that if Obama were president of a major U.S. company, he would have been fired by now, according to a Fox News poll, and only 38 percent say he wouldn't have been fired. The subtext of this poll is competence, and fewer Americans think Obama has it.

  • See a slideshow of the 2012 GOP contenders
  • Vote Now: Who is your pick in the Republican race?
  • See cartoons about the primary.