Elections, Fall 2011 Articles, Politics

Obama in Peril

Obama in Peril: NCSU Students prefer an unnamed Republican to the President in 2012

In 2008, President Obama received his highest levels of support from young and first time voters. He also won North Carolina’s 15 electoral college votes, becoming the first Democrat to do so since Jimmy Carter won here in 1976. That may all change if State students’ opinions are representative of young voters’ opinions in 2012.

The Pack Poll finds that State students preferred a generic, unnamed Republican Party candidate to Obama, 45% to 33%, with 22% unsure about their choice at this time. Students were also asked students about their preference between Obama and either Herman Cain or Mitt Romney, who are currently described by most media outlets as the frontrunners for the Republican nomination.  To reduce the pressure on respondents to answer consistently across all three trial heat questions, we randomly assigned students to only one version of this question. For the one-third of students asked about Romney, he would defeat Obama 39% to 33% if the election were held today. The President, however, polls about evenly when matched up again Herman Cain (35% to 36%), perhaps because of Cain’s lower name recognition than Romney, or because of the recent allegations of his sexual misconduct that have dominated the recent news cycle.

If the 2012 Election Were Held Today

State students’ preferences are comparable but slightly different than national survey data. According to the most recent nationally representative polls, Obama runs a little ahead of a generic Republican candidate (Gallup Poll. Nov. 3-6, 2011). Until recently, the unnamed Republican candidate has shown a consistent edge against Obama, leading by as much with as 12 percentage points.

“Thinking about the presidential election in November 2012, are you more likely to vote for Barack Obama or for the Republican Party’s candidate for president?”

National Results

NCSU Results














Can Obama win again?

The President recently came to State to put pressure on Congress to pass his proposed jobs plan. Doing so might also activate his supporters. About a quarter of respondents (27%) said they attended his speech, and 83% of them agreed it was worthwhile to have gone (just 9% disagreed).

Do you agree or disagree that it was worthwhile for you to go hear President Obama’s speech?


Strongly agree








Strongly Disagree


Too Early to Tell

An important caveat to these findings is that the election is still about one year away, and a lot can change. Often, polling this far out from the actual election is not very predictive of the final results. Similarly, a large number of students had no opinion at this time, even though they were prodded to give one. Between 22% and 29% of students did not express an opinion in the head-to-head vote choice questions. In addition, Obama polls better with registered voters at State than with unregistered voters.

If the 2012 election for President between President Obama and any Republican nominee were held today



Barack Obama



The Republican Nominee



No Opinion



Note on Methodology: The Pack Poll at NC State University was fielded between Nov. 1 –  Nov. 8, 2011. Responses came from 1108 partial and 970 completed interviews with NCSU undergraduates.  A random sample of 5,000 students’ email was used to contact potential respondents, who were invited to take the on-line survey using a software program called Qualtrics. The survey has a margin of sampling error of approximately plus or minus 3 percentage points.  For smaller subsamples within the survey, the margin of sampling error is larger. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls.

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