Levitt Post-Election Poll Shows Partisan Divide Persists

Despite the hope that President Obama’s clear victory last November might lead to a reduction in partisan polarization, the results of a new survey conducted by the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center at Hamilton College indicate that American are as divided as ever. Full poll results were released on Tuesday, May 21, at 10:30 a.m. at www.hamilton.edu/PostElectionPoll; a webcast of the presentation can be viewed online.


Key Findings:

Republicans believe voter fraud played a big role in the 2012 election. 

Going into the 2012 election, both Democrats and Republicans expressed concerns about the fairness of the election. Only 15 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats were very confident that the election would be decided fairly.

After the election, fears about voter fraud abated among Democrats but skyrocketed among Republicans, with 58 percent of Republicans not confident at all about the fairness of the election.

Republicans are particularly concerned about voter fraud and intimidation in big urban areas, with 32 percent of them believing that it had a big impact on the election, 49 percent believing it had some impact, and only 19 percent believing it had no impact.


Racial Attitudes Are Crucial to Political Divisions

Running for president in 2008, Barack Obama talked about the possibility of healing the nation’s racial and ethnic divisions.  But rather than seeing a post-racial age, Americans today are even more divided by racial attitudes than they were four years ago. 

To gauge these racial attitudes, the survey included four questions commonly used by social science researchers to measure what is known as racial resentment.  These questions are:

“Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.”

“Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.”

“Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.”

“It's really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.”

Respondents were then asked if they agreed strongly, agreed somewhat, disagreed strongly, or disagreed somewhat with each statement.  Reponses were then compiled into an index of racial resentment, ranging from the most to least resentful.

The results of our survey show that racial resentment significantly influenced the presidential vote in 2012, with Obama winning overwhelmingly among the approximately one-third of voters with the least amount of racial resentment, running about even among those with moderate levels of resentment, and losing in a landslide among those with the highest levels of racial resentment.


Birtherism is alive and well.

Since before he was elected, President Barack Obama has been dogged by rumors that he was born outside of the United States and, therefore, ineligible to serve as President.  Despite releasing his long-form birth certificate in 2011, these rumors have persisted.  In particular, between 40 and 70 percent of Republicans still believe that President Obama may have been born outside of the United States.

Furthermore, most of those who question President Obama’s place of birth are not just expressing negative views toward him without considering the implications.  When asked in a follow-up question about whether they thought being born outside of the U.S. would make Barack Obama “ineligible under the U.S. Constitution to be president,” 72 percent of those who thought the President might have been born outside of the U.S. believed that he would be ineligible to be president.

These results suggest that a substantial portion of Republicans is inclined to accept the worst about President Obama, regardless of facts, and believe that he is not a legitimate president, making it extremely difficult for him to overcome partisan polarization. 


Parties Divided Over Who Has Benefited From Obama’s Policies


We asked respondents whether they think President Obama’s policies have helped or hurt a variety of different groups.  Republicans and Democrats disagree strongly on the impact of President Obama’s policies, particularly when it comes to whether or not they benefit different racial groups.  Republicans believe that only Blacks and Latinos have benefited from President Obama’s policies.  On the other hand, Democrats think that everyone (White, Blacks, Latinos, the middle class) have benefited from President Obama’s policies.  Given the huge gap in partisan divisions on the beneficiaries of Obama’s policies, along with the racialized nature of these perceptions, it seems unsurprising that partisan gridlock continues to dominate American politics.


Survey Information


These results are from a survey conducted by the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center at Hamilton College as part of the Cooperative Congressional Elections Study(CCES).  More information on the CCES is available at http://projects.iq.harvard.edu/cces.

The CCES survey was conducted as on online survey by YouGov/Polimetrix in two waves: pre and post-election. All questions in the Hamilton component were designed by the undergraduate students in Government Professor Philip Klinkner’s Fall 2012 Political Parties and Elections course. 

The Hamilton component of the pre-election wave surveyed 1,000 people between Oct. 1 and Nov. 5, 2012.  The post-election wave surveyed 837 of the pre-election respondents between November 7 and December 9, 2012.  Margin of error for the pre-election wave is approximately +/- 3.1 percent and for the post-election wave approximately +/- 3.4 percent.

Analysis of the survey results was conducted by Hamilton students Nick Anastasi, Jack Cartwright, Matthew Creeden, Will Rusche, Jesse Stinebring, and Hashem Zikry under the supervision of Klinkner.

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