Southern Voters: A Snapshot

Winthrop has a poll out today of 866 respondents in 11 Southern states--Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia--and what we can glean from it is: independents in the South disapprove of President Obama, Southerners as a whole don't like Democratic health care reforms, and they are generally ambivalent about the stimulus package.

Independents disapprove of Obama 46.3 percent to 43.4 percent, while Southerners overall give him a decent rating, approving of him more than they disapprove, 47.4 percent to 42.2 percent, despite eight of the 11 states having voted for John McCain in 2008.

When it comes to the two issues singled out by Winthrop's pollsters--health care and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--Southerners as a whole, independents included, were even more critical of the president: on his handling of health care policy, Southerners disapprove of Obama 50.9 percent to 37 percent (independents disapprove 50.6 percent to 36.1 percent); on his handling of the two wars, Southerners as a whole disapprove of the president 47.9 percent to 38 percent (independents disapprove 54.5 percent to 34.3 percent).

That fits, more or less, with the national trend: according to CNN's most recent poll, released last week, Americans disapprove of Obama 57-42 on health care policy and 56-42 on Afghanistan, while approving of his overall performance 54-45.

Obama scores well with Southerners on personal characteristics, but there appear to be two chinks in his armor: a third of Southerners (36.2 percent) say the president is untrustworthy (vs. 54.4 percent who say he's trustworthy), and he scores much lower with white males on whether or not he "cares about people like me"--white males think he does by a margin of 51.3-43.3, while Southerners overall say he does by a margin of 61.5-30.6.

Southerners also oppose Democratic health care reforms by a margin of 42.2 percent to 31.5 percent, with 25.2 percent expressing no opinion. That seems to be more disapproving than the rest of the country, which, on average, opposes Democratic health reforms 50.4-45.7, though it's tough to compare, given Winthrop's high return of undecideds (many other polls try to force respondents to pick a side).

And, while the Obama administration's stimulus package has been a prime complaint of conservatives this year, Southerners appear to be ambivalent on it: 35 percent said it made the economy better, 37.9 percent said it had no effect, and 20.6 percent said it made things worse.

34.7 percent blame the administration a "great deal" or a "good amount" for not doing enough to turn the economy around, while Southerners are more likely to blame large corporations and the Bush administration.

If we try to glean any information about the 2010 elections, Winthrop's numbers don't give us a whole lot: Southerners say, 44.5 percent to 39.6 percent, that they "would rather have a Republican-controlled Congress to serve as a check on President Obama's agenda" vs. "a Democratic-controlled Congress to help with President Obama's agenda." Independents break for the GOP, on that question, 42.1 to 36.8.

But those states voiced a pretty strong preference for the GOP in 2008: thanks in part to Texas's strong GOP congressional delegation, the total congressional seats in the 11 states polled are held by 72 Republicans and 59 Democrats.

So it may be hard to take an accurate pulse for 2010, but, if anything, the trend among independents doesn't look great for Democrats.