Mitt Romney pulls ahead on shift of support from white voters

As he did in 2008, Obama gets overwhelming support from non-whites, who made up a record high proportion of the overall electorate four years ago. In that contest, 80 percent of all non-whites supported Obama, including 95 percent of black voters, according to the exit poll.

The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Barack Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago.

At this stage in 2008, Obama trailed Republican John McCain by 7 percentage points among white voters. Even in victory, Obama ended up losing white voters by 12 percentage points, according to that year’s exit poll.

But now, Obama has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney 60 percent to 37 percent among whites, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC national tracking poll. That presents a significant hurdle for the president — and suggests he will need to achieve even larger margins of victory among women and minorities, two important parts of the Democratic base, in order to win reelection.

Overall, Romney has edged ahead in the presidential contest, winning 50 percent of likely voters for the first time in the campaign, according to The Post-ABC poll. As Romney hits 50 percent, the president stands at 47 percent, his lowest tally since before the national party conventions.

The three-point edge gives Romney his first apparent — but not statistically significant — advantage in the national popular vote. The challenger has a clear, nine-point lead when it comes to whom voters trust to handle the economy, which has long been the central issue of the contest. He has also effectively neutralized what has been a consistent fallback for Obama: economic empathy.

Romney’s momentum in these areas comes from improvements against the president among white voters.


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