Last weekend I joined with a number of folks with Organizing for America to canvass voters at a local street fair in support of the President. And because much is made of approval ratings and questions of the President's popularity, I thought I might chime in with some unofficial and unscientific observations of my interactions with real live people.
It was a nice day – not too hot and not too cold. The event wasn't political, and the are generally is conservative. Though in 2008 my city went two-to-one for President Obama, the county squeaked out a tiny victory for him. The region – West Michigan – is to the right of most of Idaho.
I think I talked to about 50 people. And besides the 4 or 5 people who ignored my pitch or politely said "no thanks" without engaging me, I would lump the respondents into three main categories. I should note that the goal wasn't to solicit opinions or ideas but to identify supporters and sign them up.
First, there were the undecideds. My estimate is that about 10 or 12 people fell into this category, or 20 to 25 percent of the total. Typically, people who I categorize as undecided said something like, "I am not sure right now" and "It depends on who the Republican is" and "I am almost there, but I am waiting a little longer to see what happens" – or some version of those comments. This group included an even number of men and women, African Americans and whites.
My gut impression is that they were leaning toward the President and they didn't want a hard-right or irresponsible Republican candidate in the mix (like Palin, Bachmann, or some of the other GOP whackos). Also, I got the sense the they were waiting for something more from the President, though no one specified what that might be (the obvious choice would be on the economy, but again no one gave voice to that issue, and I wasn't actually surveying people for opinions).
The second grouping included those who were staunchly opposed to the President. The responded with clever comments like "you're barking up the wrong tree" and "nobama." I estimate this group at the same size as the undecideds (20 to 25 percent of the whole sample). They were, too the person, white. Also, they were typically older – fifties and older.
The third, and largest, group included supporters of the President. If you do the math, this group totaled about 20 people, maybe more, or about 40 to 50 percent of the sample. A couple declined signing up, citing a desire to avoid a lot of phone calls and mail. Most signed up; most expressed enthusiasm or an understanding of the stakes in the election.
So that was my experience. It is mostly impressionistic, but I think when you interact with people, even briefly, you do get a sense of broader views.