In a quiet Bristow neighborhood, just outside of Manassas, you’ll find a small cluster of houses that share a driveway, but are on completely different political roadways.
In the days surrounding Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton's Bristow visit which was purposed to rally support for a re-election, two of the five neighbors took a public stand for the opposing ticket by placing Mitt Romney signs in their yards.
One of the neighbors who would only give his first name, Bill, said he and his family are for Romney because they are against universal healthcare.
“I think it should be the individual’s responsibility,” he said.
His neighbor to his immediate right—and the one to his left—beg to differ.
“We will vote Obama,” Joel Hileman, Bill’s neighbor said Monday afternoon.
“First of all, I belong to a union. Obama is in support of unions.”
Hileman said he has other reasons for voting for the incumbent: “To be quite honest, I don’t trust Mitt Romney. He’s saying what we want to hear.”
When asked how he feels about the political division among his closest neighbors, some who have lived near each other for some 13 years, Hileman said it is, “typical.”
And his neighbor Bill agrees with him—at least on this point.
“That’s America. Everybody has the right to have their beliefs,” Bill said. “It wouldn’t be America if we agreed on everything.”
Another neighbor Vickie McEntire, who said she intends to vote for Obama, said her opinion and that of her neighbors is demonstrative of the divide within the nation.
“Our pipe stem represents the U.S.,” McEntire said.
She hopes Tuesday’s election results turn out just like her pipe stem, with the majority of the people voting for Obama, she said, laughing.
Carrying on conversations with neighbors who don’t agree with your politics is about respect, she added. A Republican neighbor or friend trying to get her to change her mind would be a waste of time, McEntire said.
“… What we believe is sacred to each of us. What they believe is valid to them; what I believe is valid to me. I try not to be critical of their choices and I hope they are not critical of mine," McEntire said.
According to political experts, the key to Obama’s victory will be the “outer ring suburbs” in Prince William County, just like the one where the pipe stem neighbors live, located just off Linton Hall Road.
Areas like Loudoun and Prince William Counties—outer suburbs between the red rural areas and blue urban centers—will be major players this year. Both presidential candidates have made several visits to those areas this year, said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at University of Mary Washington.
A Nov. 4 poll from the Pew Research Center shows Obama slightly leading Romney nationwide. The poll showed the president with 50 percent support among voters; Romney had 47 percent.
In Virginia, a poll last week from CBS News, the New York Times and Quinnipiac showed Obama with "a narrow edge in Virginia, leading Romney 49 percent to 47 percent and in Florida, where he leads 48 percent to Romney's 47 percent," according to an article in U.S. News and World Report.
“This election is really a jump ball. A number of people are very frustrated with the unsatisfactory economic performance of the last four years, and they blame Obama for that," Farnsworth said. "But there are also a lot people who aren’t that happy with Mitt Romney. They don’t feel like he understands them or has a sense of the struggle that ordinary people are going through these days.”
Things have changed in Virginia since the 2008 election.
For one, Virginia has more registered voters now than in 2008: As of Nov. 1, there were close to 5.43 million total registered voters, according to the State Board of Elections, compared to about 5 million in 2008. But only 4.84 million of this year's registered voters are active.
The state’s population rose from about 7.7 million in 2008 to 8 million as of 2010, according to census data.
And statistics from the Virginia State Board of Elections show the rate of new voter registrations during the first six months of this year has been considerably slower than 2008. By June 30, 2008, Virginia registration had seen an increase of 22.4 percent, with 139,379 new voters. But as of June 30, 2012, only 82,284 new voters had registered.