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National Suburban Poll Finds Suburban Voters Deeply Dissatisfied with Obama; Independents Favor Romney by Large Margin

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Four of Five Suburbanites Unhappy With Direction of Country

Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY – A majority of independent voters in the suburbs disapprove of President Obama’s job performance and favor Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney by a large margin in a head-to-head race with the Democratic incumbent, according to a new National Suburban Poll [PDF].

The fifth poll for the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University® found that 58 percent of suburban independents – the critical swing vote that helped Obama win the White House – are unhappy with his job performance, compared to 44 percent in 2010. Sentiment among suburban Democrats and Republicans remains largely unchanged from a year ago.

Suburban voters overall – and especially suburban independents – would back former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney over Obama in a head-to-head race, the poll found. Among all suburban voters, Romney beats Obama 48 percent to 40 percent in a head-to-head race. Among suburban independent voters, the margin for Romney is even larger, 54 percent to 29 percent.

“When we asked independents questions about policy, they often fell midway between the Democrats and Republicans,” said Dr. Christopher Niedt, Academic Director of the NCSS. “But they seem to have little faith in Obama, Congress, and the federal government to steer the country in the right direction, and may be poised to reject both the President and their representatives in 2012.”

The poll results, and the role that suburban voters will play in the presidential election, will be the subject of a panel discussion at 9:35 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2011 sponsored by the NCSS and Hofstra’s Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency. The panel, “Decision 2012: What Matters to Suburban Swing Voters?”, is free and open to the public. It will be held at the Student Center Theater in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center, North Campus.

The NCSS poll also shows that suburbanites have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of the country, and their frustration appears driven primarily by personal finances. Eighty percent of suburban voters are unhappy with the direction of the nation, compared to 67 percent in 2010. During the same period, the number of suburbanites who had a positive view of their personal financial situation dropped to 39 percent, down from 46 percent a year ago.

“The suburbs are hurting — that much is clear from the pained responses from across the country,” said Lawrence Levy, Executive Dean of the NCSS. “But the suburbs remain the pivotal voting bloc in national elections. And how this extended economic pain plays out in the voting booth — despite Obama’s weak numbers — is far from certain.”

The fifth National Suburban Poll oversampled adults living in suburban areas of the country, and was designed and executed for the NCSS by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The previous surveys were conducted in September 2008, October 2008, October 2009 and September 2010. The poll is based on phone interviews in English and Spanish with 1,517 adults from Oct. 20 to Nov. 8 2011. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus four percentage points. For results reflecting suburbanites, the margin is plus or minus four percentage points, and for urban and rural residents it is plus or minus six percentage points.

“It is still early in the 2012 election campaign: suburban voters haven’t focused on the race and made firm choices,” said Evans Witt, CEO and principal of PSRAI. “As of now, Romney is the Republican starting from a good position in the suburbs. Conversely, Obama has a lot of work to do.”

Among the other findings:

  • More than half of suburbanites – 51 percent ­ – now fear they will not have enough money to live on when they retire. That is an increase of eight percentage points since 2008.
  • Republicans in the suburbs (50 percent) are more likely to say they are personally worse off financially than they were in 2008, compared with 32 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of independents.
  • Even suburbanites who say they feel comfortable with their financial situation are not inclined to give President Obama credit for that. Suburban voters who have a positive view of their finances favor Romney over Obama 50 percent to 40 percent.
  • Suburban voters hold contradictory views about taxes. Fifty-nine percent support raising taxes on the wealthy, but 57 percent also support cutting everyone’s taxes.
  • Two in five suburbanites (40%) say they live paycheck to paycheck always or most of the time.

The National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University® is a non-partisan research institution dedicated to promoting objective, academically rigorous study of suburbia’s problems and promise. Rooted in the laboratory of Long Island’s diverse and aging suburbs, the National Center studies a broad range of local and national issues. The suburbs have emerged as the nexus of dynamic demographic, social, economic and environmental change. The tasks of identifying, analyzing and solving the problems of suburbia are key to the health of the country – and central to the Center’s mission.

Hofstra University is a dynamic private institution where students can choose from more than 150 undergraduate and 160 graduate programs in liberal arts and sciences, business, communication, education and allied health services and honor studies, as well as a School of Law and the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

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