ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
With Election Day fast approaching, candidates are furiously stumping. Airwaves are saturated with political ads and pollsters are polling to try to figure out who will vote and how.
Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center has come in to talk about his latest poll. Andy, welcome back.
Mr. ANDREW KOHUT (President, Pew Research Center): Happy to be here.
BLOCK: Your headline here: "Democrats Stirring but Are No Match for Energized Republicans." How do you measure that?
Mr. KOHUT: Well, we asked people a number of questions that determines whether they are going to go out and vote. Have they given the election a lot of thought? How are they following campaign news? And we see the Democrats more engaged than in September. Forty-one percent in September said they had given the election a lot of thought. That jumps all the way up to 49 percent. The percentage saying they're following campaign news is 65 percent, was 50 percent a month ago. So that's real progress.
The problem is they still can't match the supra-energized Republicans. For example, 64 percent of Republicans say they've given this election a lot of thought, which is the highest level for Republicans we've seen in all the midterms we've measured since 1994.
BLOCK: And if you're looking at the gap between voters, likely voters who say they will vote for a Republican versus a Democrat, you're looking at a pretty big gap.
Mr. KOHUT: You sure are, because when you base the results on all registered voters, you have a small Republican margin, 46 to 42. When you look at the most likely voters, being very generous in what the turnout ratios will be, you still get 10 percent margin, 50 to 40 percent.
BLOCK: This Democratic awakening that you're talking about, it sounds like what you're saying is it's too little and possibly too late, given how many of us are voting early. What are the numbers there?
Mr. KOHUT: Yeah, the voting early percentage is as high as 27 percent this year. The problem there for the Democrats is if there is a trend in their direction, some of these people may miss it, because they've already cast their ballot in the somewhat more in the Republican mood.
BLOCK: Some interesting numbers here too, Andy, about campaign ads. No surprise. I would think that about 90 percent of us say we have seen or heard an ad and most have seen many, many ads. But this is interesting. Nearly half of the people that you polled say it doesn't matter much who paid for the ad.
And, of course, there's been a lot of talk about this, given the Supreme Court decision case, Citizens United.
Mr. KOHUT: Yeah, that's a follow up answer to the question: Are you having trouble figuring who paid for these ads? And many people, if not most people, said yes. But people are kind divided over whether it was important. That was one of the surprising findings in this survey to me.
BLOCK: Surprising, why?
Mr. KOHUT: Well, I would have thought that there would have been a greater desire to know who put up these ads. Typically, people want to know and in this case they we're divided.
BLOCK: What are you seeing in your numbers, Andy, that indicate how we have been exposed to the campaigns? Who's getting knocks on the door? Who's getting literature, phone calls, that kind of thing?
Mr. KOHUT: Well, it is very extensive. Fifty-nine percent of the people that we interviewed said they had gotten a phone call. That's compared to 41 percent four years ago. Twenty-six percent say they've received email. So there's a lot of activity going there.
The problem from a Democratic point of view is that the Democrats don't seem likely to gain much of an advantage, because the Republicans are doing at least as well as the Democrats.
BLOCK: Any indication that people are getting sick over the exposure to the campaigns? Did you measure that?
Mr. KOHUT: Well, we asked people about these phone calls and they acknowledged that a goodly percentage of them are robo-calls. And then we said, well, do you listen? And they said no.
BLOCK: Yeah. Well, lesson learned there, right? What do you see, Andy, as the role that President Obama is playing in this election? According to your poll, is this essentially a referendum on his presidency or is it something other than that?
Mr. KOHUT: Well, President Obama's approval ratings remain pretty stable, 45 percent. Not terrible, but not very good. Very comparable to what we saw with Ronald Reagan in 1982. We find somewhat more people saying they will be voting against President Obama when they cast a ballot.
Thirty percent of them say they will be voting for him, 27 percent. That's not nearly as much of a negative vote against as we saw with President Bush four years ago.
BLOCK: Okay. Andy Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, thanks so much.
Mr. KOHUT: You're welcome.
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