(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
First lady Michelle Obama gets some pointers as she watches the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., Nov. 20, 2011.

Obama opens up lead over Romney with NASCAR voters: Another straw the wind?

A new poll shows 49 percent of NASCAR fans would vote for Barack Obama. Does this mean a core conservative constituency has shifted away from Mitt Romney? Not really.

Remember back in November when Michelle Obama was booed at a NASCAR race?

Well, a new poll shows NASCAR fans are now moving into the Obama camp.

An online survey of of 860 likely voters nationwide – taken Sept. 21 and 22 –  shows President Barack Obama with an 7-point lead over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, according to a new Zogby Poll [PDF] with JZ Analytics.

The question posed: "If the election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?" The answer: Forty-nine percent of NASCAR fans would vote for Obama. 42 percent said Romney.

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But if you think that NASCAR fans are conservative Southern rednecks, then you'd probably be drawing the wrong conclusion from this poll. Wal-Mart shoppers, Christian conservatives, and white men are still in the Romney camp.

In fact, the NASCAR voting preferences almost exactly match the Zogby results from all likely American voters: Obama now leads 49 percent to 41 percent.

But the trend in both cases is heading away from Romney. Just two weeks ago, a Zogby/JZ Analytics poll showed the two almost tied among motorsports fans. Obama had 44 percent of NASCAR voters, Romney had 43 percent. The margin of error was 3.5 percent.

"I won’t say that things are spinning out of control for Romney, but I can say that things are not spinning in control. He is off message, losing ground, not connecting with his own base, being severely chastised (and even dismissed) by GOP pundits who should be his friends. There are ups and downs in presidential campaigns. For Romney, this is a real down," writes pollster John Zogby.

Who are NASCAR voters? Well, the stereotype of conservative Southern rednecks is a bit outdated.

Forty percent are women. More than half make $50,000 or less per year. Yes, they tend to be a bit older than the general population, according to a 2010 NASCAR report (PDF).  But as an article by S.E. Cupp, featured on the NASCAR site, notes, NASCAR fans four years ago tended to just lean conservative: 35 percent Republican vs. 28 percent Democrat. 

Beyond NASCAR voters, support for Mitt Romney hasn't shifted core traditional Republican voter groups. For example, among weekly Wal-Mart shoppers, Romney still has a 3-point lead over Obama, which is the same gap as the last similar Zogby poll on Sept. 11-12.

Similarly, Romney's support among self-identified Born Again Christians has held steady, as has Romney's 12-point lead among all white voters.

So, beware of reading too much into the NASCAR headlines.

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