We have a winner: Data visualization predicts 2012 US presidential election

It’s been a hard fought battle. And while the campaigning began in earnest many, many months ago, two recent events will play decisive roles in deciding the fight for the 2012 US presidency.

Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, devoured the narrow lead of incumbent Barack Obama in the just-gone debate series, almost flooring the Hawaiian-born commander-in-chief. While Obama called for the trainer and rallied, reviving his hopes of completing a title defense with dogged victories in the final two stanzas, speculation shrouds the president’s ability to recover from the damage inflicted in the first round – despite Joe Biden’s free-swinging performance against his comparatively inexperienced opponent, Paul Ryan.

It also appears that hope has emerged from the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy – for the president if no one else. Early indications suggest that Obama’s responsive hands-on approach to Sandy’s aftermath may have pulled his campaign back from the brink. Despite the initial supposition that devastation to key democratic strongholds along the eastern seaboard would negatively impact the Obama-Biden re-election effort, new polls indicate that voters have been impressed by Obama’s show of leadership. Seventy-eight percent of respondents to a joint ABC News – Washington Post poll rated the president’s handling of the ‘Frankenstorm’ as “excellent” or “good”. Even New Jersey’s Republican Governor, Chris Christie, performed a dramatic about-face, slathering Obama with praise.

Further, New York City’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, took the opportunity to link the disaster to climate change policy, backing Barack and rubbishing Romney: “One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.”

So, with one vital victory apiece heading into the final days of politicking, who’s best positioned to taste triumph next Tuesday?

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Crucially, it appears that Obama still has the better ability to bridge the political divide, with 14 percent of registered Republicans planning to keep America’s first black president in the White House for another term. Conversely, only four percent of registered Democrats say they’ll vote for Romney on election day.

Although, lingering economic woes have clearly taken a toll on the current administration, with 58 percent of those voting for Romney doing so in spite of Obama.

Neck and neck

Whirlwind recent events have seen teams Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden fall in and out and into favor. HuffPost Pollster – a data visualization service created by The Huffington Post which actively collects and analyzes opinion poll data in near real-time – has both camps locked on 47 percent of the popular vote apiece.

Recent polls give Obama a slight advantage in electoral votes, with a 290 to 256 lead.

Who do you favor?

After collecting and collating some 16,293 opinion polls, it appears that the American people are deeply divided.

It seems that Obama’s charismatic side is just managing to keep his embattled persona at bay, with 49 percent of voters holding a favorable view of 44th and current president of the United States. While this latest data suggests that Obama might be on the comeback trail, it’s a staggering contrast to his honeymoon period in early 2009, where an ABC – Post poll bestowed a 79 percent favorability rating upon the president.

Romney’s knack for engendering a love – hate relationship between the public and his political façade is reflected in his favorability rating.

He has consistently split voter opinion since July 2009, and is once again locked in a stern battle with himself, his favorability and un-favorability ratings tied on 47 percent.

Do you approve of the government’s measures to improve America’s economic outlook?

The global financial crisis and its aftermath, triggered by shady dealings on Wall Street, have plagued Obama’s first term. And, consequently, fragile economic conditions remain at the forefront of the nation’s psyche and Washington’s political agenda.

Despite the drab financial outlook, Obama’s economic initiatives are beginning to impact voter sentiment, with around 45 percent approving of the government’s handling of the economy, up from a dismal 20 percent approval rating in the last quarter of the 2011 calendar year.

Is the US heading in the right or wrong direction?

Ultimately, voter behavior can be distilled down to one fundamental question: Is the nation heading in the right direction? Curiously, despite only 40 percent of American’s believing that the Obama – Biden government is leading the nation down the right track, this is one of the better approval ratings on strategic direction since the administration’s aforementioned honeymoon period in early 2009. Or, is this turn around in opinion due to peoples’ anticipation of a change in government?

Whatever the case, while 54 percent disagree with America’s current political pathway, an overwhelming 90 percent disagreed with the direction of the nation at the end of the second Bush administration, according to an ABC – Post poll.

Which party do American’s of voting age identify with?

In a fiercely contested race, deep-seated political bias and fundamental values – often rooted in family tradition – are likely to decide the outcome.

Importantly for the Obama administration, 33 percent of voters identify themselves as Democrats, while only 24 percent openly admit to a Republican allegiance.

However, with a mighty “independent” middle ground of 35 percent, both political machines will be firmly dumped into overdrive, canvassing their candidates’ credentials, leading up to and beyond the 11th hour of the 2012 presidential crusade.

And the winner is…

With the economic tide beginning to tentatively turn, combined with his willingness to pursue a bipartisan approach on integral issues and the historical advantage of a first term president, it seems likely that the American people will grant Obama the mandate he needs to pursue a second historic term.