A new ABC/Washington Post poll shows that only 37% of Americans expect Barack Obama to be re-elected:
Just 37 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say they expect Obama to win re-election in November 2012; 55 percent instead expect the eventual Republican nominee to win. ABC's George Stephanopoulos is asking the president about that result in an interview today.
It's a challenging finding for the president because expectations can fuel voter enthusiasm - precisely the ingredient that led the GOP to its broad success in the 2010 midterms, when charged-up conservatives turned out while dispirited Democrats stayed home.
Democrats do expect Obama to win, but they say so only by 58-33 percent - a comparatively tepid vote of confidence within his own party. Republicans, by contrast, smell victory by a vast 83-13 percent. And independents - the linchpin of national politics - by 54-36 percent expect the Republican candidate to beat Obama.
This poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that the divisions among ideological groups tell a similar story. Conservatives are far more confident about the Republican nominee than are liberals about Obama, and moderates, albeit narrowly, are more likely to expect the challenger to win.
There is, though, a difference by education groups - a less-bad outlook for Obama on the off-chance that schooling leads to more precise punditry. Americans who lack a college degree think, by 57-35 points, that the Republican nominee will beat Obama. Those with a college degree think so too, but by a narrower 49-41 percent.
This poll didn't use registered voters or likely voters as respondents so its results should be viewed in that light.
What I found most remarkable was the lack of belief in Obama's reelection from Democrats. That is surely a straw in the wind as far as enthusiasm for their candidate going into the campaign season. Republicans and Independents at this point should be confident that Obama will be beaten; he hasn't given anything to voters that would make them think otherwise. But loyal Democrats appear to be about the only group that still believes he has a chance - and not many of those are sure.
The idea that "expectations can fuel voter enthusiasm" will only increase those expectations once people start paying attention to the race next year.