Ready for 2012

For nearly one in 10 likely voters, it’s not a week from Election Day, it’s four years and a week. Their work in 2008 is done.

Those are the 9 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll who say they’ve already voted, either by early in-person voting or absentee ballot. Their preference: Barack Obama over John McCain, by 60-39 percent.

That leaves 91 percent yet to vote, but more are coming. A total of 34 percent of likely voters intend to vote early, including those who’ve already done so and those who say they will in the next week. This overall early voting group favors Obama over McCain by 59-39 percent, essentially the same as it is among those who’ve gotten it done already.

It’s even more lopsided in the 16 battleground and eight toss-up states, as identified by our Political Unit. In the battlegrounds, those who say they’ve already voted report a 69-30 percent preference for Obama over McCain; it’s about the same, 66-32 percent, when we add in those who intend to vote in the next week.

In the eight toss-ups (Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia) these preferences are 74-25 percent (already voted) and 69-29 percent (including those who plan to do so). (Note, given our sample size there’s a 10-point error margin on this estimate.)

Preferences are far more lopsided than in the 2004 ABC/Post tracking poll: Fifteen percent reported voting early, splitting 52-46 percent in favor of George W. Bush over John Kerry (and at this stage, a week out, 4 percent said they’d already done so). Obama’s mounted a major early-voting effort this year, and it looks to be bearing fruit. (Actual early voting in 2004 was 22 percent, higher than the poll estimate.)

Early voting to date this year peaks among senior citizens – 17 percent say they’ve voted – and Westerners, 14 percent. These also are prominent when we include those who intend to vote early or absentee in the next week: Fifty-seven percent of Westerners, 47 percent of seniors, 41 percent of blacks, 41 percent of urbanites and 39 percent of single women. Apart from seniors, those are particularly strong groups for Obama.

The sharpest differences are regional. Just 8 percent in the Northeast say they either have voted early or plan to do so, jumping to 25 percent in the Midwest, 40 percent in the South and, as noted, 57 percent in the West, where voting rules in many states encourage early participation.

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