Indiana has been a traditionally “Red State” over the past 40 years for presidential elections. Before the 2008 presidential election, Indiana had always voted for the Republican presidential candidate since 1968. Although some of the elections had a closer margin than others, most featured the Republican candidate winning by 5% or more of the vote. This completely changed when Barack Obama won the state by a narrow margin of 1%. After breaking the Republican winning streak in Indiana, the Democrats have turned Indiana into a battleground state for the 2012 election.
With 11 electoral votes up for grabs, Indiana initially looked to be a great battleground state for the two parties. However, in recent polls, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has an impressive lead over President Barack Obama. In the latest Rasmussen poll of likely voters on August 1, Mitt Romney was picking up 51% of the vote, while Barack Obama was only earning 35% of the vote. With these results, it may seem almost certain that Mitt Romney will win the state.
The Problem with Polls
Indiana is one of two states that prohibit the use of automated surveys (the other is North Dakota). Since most polling organizations use automated surveys, they rarely cover these two states with polls. Rasmussen tried to work around this by using live interviews and online surveys, but using different polling techniques can produce different results than normal. For this reason, Mitt Romney may not have as high of a lead as the polls indicate. However, it is still safe to say that the state is heavily learning towards Romney.
Another potential problem with the polls is that there are still close to 50 days left until the election. Public opinion can drastically change in the next few weeks for any number of reasons. We are still waiting to see what “October surprises” may be in store for the candidates next month. Issues that surface in the next coming weeks could have the ability to drastically alter the polls in favor of either candidate. That being said, it would prove very difficult to change the minds of so many voters in Indiana to swing the vote to Obama.
Age may play a partial influence in the 2012 election. In Indiana, around 14% of the population is between the ages of 20-29. Younger voters, especially those that are college students, became more likely to vote and volunteer on campaigns in the 2008 election. Barack Obama mobilized the young voters in 2008, adding many people under 30 to his campaign staff. With a significant number of young voters in Indiana, it is possible to mobilize them to vote and work for campaigns. If Barack Obama spends resources to mobilize this group, he may be able to somewhat close the gap between him and Mitt Romney.
Another demographic group that tends to be crucial in many states is minorities. In states like Florida, the minority vote will play a key role in the outcome of the election. In Indiana, however, almost 87% of the population is Caucasian. Since minorities only make up 18% of the population in this state, they will play less of a role in the general election.
Finally, the working middle class will be a huge influence on the vote in Indiana. Manufacturing jobs account for almost 14% of the total jobs in the state. Only 23% of the population makes more than $50,000 per year, meaning the majority of the state is middle class or lower-middle class. Since this is such a high majority of the population, the candidate that can effectively appeal to them will likely carry the state.
Many of the key issues in Indiana relate to jobs and the economy, as do most of the issues across the United States. One major issue in Indiana is agriculture since almost 20% of the population works in the industry. Many farmers are concerned about international trade affecting the prices of their crops. Any candidate will need to address this issue to win a substantial number of voters in the state.
Unemployment is also going to be a major issue for Indiana, as it will be for the country as a whole. Unemployment is currently at 8.2% in Indiana, which is close to the current U.S. average. Lowering unemployment numbers by creating jobs will be important to many voters in the state, even to those who are currently employed. Whichever candidate can prove they can create jobs and economic growth may win over many voters in Indiana.
Although Indiana voted for Barack Obama in 2008, the state will almost assuredly go to Mitt Romney in 2012. The only way this would change is if something happened in the next month that changes the entire electorate’s view of Mitt Romney. Stay tuned to my blogs about Indiana, as the next will focus on the important races within the state.