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Study: GOP Made Big Gains With Key Voters In 2012

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Despite a victory for Democrats in the 2012 election, important gains were made by Republicans with several key voting groups. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Despite a victory for Democrats in the 2012 election, important gains were made by Republicans with several key voting groups. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – New exit poll data and post-election analysis present good news for the Republican party’s future – the American electorate is not truly stacked against them.

GOP leaders and media pundits have stressed that Democratic-leaning voting blocs – African-American, Latinos and young people – will be a large challenge to sway over to Republican votes in the future. But data in a recent Pew Research Center and Wall Street Journal study show that this past election was more of a statement about Mitt Romney himself.

Romney’s personal image took a hard hit during the primary campaign and remained weak on Election Day. Just 47 percent of exit-poll respondents viewed him favorably, compared with 53 percent for Mr. Obama.

Throughout the course of the campaign, Romney’s favorable ratings were among the lowest recorded for a presidential candidate in the modern era, the study showed.

One large hurdle for Romney was connecting to voters on a personal level. By 53 percent to 43 percent, exit-poll respondents said that President Obama was more in touch than Mitt Romney with people like themselves. Mr. Romney was hurt by the perception—reinforced by Democratic attack ads and his secretly recorded comments about the “47 percent”—that he wasn’t for the average voter.

The Republicans themselves showed caution with their candidate, as well.

Mr. Romney was never fully embraced by Republicans themselves, which may have inhibited the expected strong Republican turnout. Pew’s election-weekend survey found Mr. Romney with fewer strong supporters (33 percent) than Mr. Obama (39 percent). Similarly, a much greater percentage of Obama supporters (80 percent) than Romney supporters (60 percent) told Pew that they were voting for their candidate rather than against his opponent.

But despite the issues with Mitt Romney in the past election, Republicans managed to make gains with some key demographic groups.

Compared with 2008, Republicans made gains among men (up four percentage points), whites (four points), younger voters (six points), white Catholics (seven points), and Jews (nine points).

Mr. Romney also carried the independent vote by five percentage points — 50 to 45 percent. Four years ago, independents voted for Mr. Obama 52 percent to 44 percent.

In addition, only 43 percent of voters this year said they wanted an activist government (compared with 52 percent in 2008), and 49 percent continued to disapprove of Mr. Obama’s health-care law, compared with 44 percent who approve.

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