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"...the 2012 campaign still looks like a titanic collision between the economy and demography."
September 3, 2012 6:30 AM   Subscribe

In 2008, the National Journal released The Hidden History of the American Electorate, an analysis of exit poll demographics conducted by multiple news organizations from US presidential elections between 1988 and 2004. The study looked for "pressure points in the electorate": trends which were likely to decide the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. They've released an update for 2012, by adding exit poll results from the 1980, 1984, and 2008 presidential elections. It gives a more comprehensive look at voting trends over a 32 year period of the groups whom they believe are likely to influence the outcome in November. Charts: Voting Preferences of the American Electorate, 1980-2008
posted by zarq (54 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks zarq. This is fascinating.
posted by cashman at 6:46 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


White people are ruining America.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:55 AM on September 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


Those opening 'graphs, though, yeesh. Prose was so purple, I think if I licked my monitor it'd taste faintly of grape.
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:06 AM on September 3, 2012


... and once again, the Republicans are not going to try too hard to get the Black vote
posted by Renoroc at 7:16 AM on September 3, 2012


Cashman, you're quite welcome.
posted by zarq at 7:41 AM on September 3, 2012


One sentence summary from the article:

The net result is an election that today appears on track to more resemble the 50-50 division of Bush’s slim victories in 2000 and 2004 than Obama’s 365-vote Electoral College blitz in 2008.

That matches what I've been following elsewhere; it seems like trends have been pointing to a slender Obama victory for some time.

That sentence was followed by:

Absent a dramatic late development, small shifts in the preferences or turnout of virtually any group in the electorate could decide this election.

Difficult to imagine what that would be. Republican missteps for months have done nothing but shore up the Democratic base. Romney needs a national 'swing' of several states in order to win the Electoral College. If potentially 'swingable' voters haven't come over to his side yet in Ohio or Colorado--what would make them do it now?

There's also negative campaigning to consider. If Obama can't get any more "white non-college married males" to vote for him, he can probably still get them to sit home and not vote.
posted by gimonca at 7:42 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the past eight elections, the Democratic nominee has averaged just 36.1 percent of the vote among white men

Jeezum crow you guys.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:42 AM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Clicking through to the article's swing state sidebar--kind of disappointing. Calling some of these states "in play" is laughable (Minnesota? Hah!). The capsule analysis on states after clicking through is mildly interesting, but left me wanting the kind of details that the main article's graphs showed at the national level. Seeing individual demographics for Colorado would be interesting. A national graph that mixes together "non-college white males" from Maine and Mississippi, sort of interesting, but not as much.
posted by gimonca at 7:49 AM on September 3, 2012


(They do have a few bar graphs, but you'll have to look elsewhere for perspective. Sure, the Black vote in Virginia trends blue, but what percentage of the total is that? If you're building a coalition, how do the pieces fit together.)
posted by gimonca at 7:51 AM on September 3, 2012


Difficult to imagine what that would be. Republican missteps for months have done nothing but shore up the Democratic base. Romney needs a national 'swing' of several states in order to win the Electoral College. If potentially 'swingable' voters haven't come over to his side yet in Ohio or Colorado--what would make them do it now?

A little help from Mitt's friends in the corporate world? A big, resurgent wave of foreclosures nationwide? Gas prices suddenly spike and remain above $4/gal? A high-profile set of layoffs? Anything that re-focuses the middle-class on a crappy, failing economy.
And, yeah, I'm willing to believe that corporate America would purposely tank the economy in order to get one of their guys in the White House.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:53 AM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Demographics and preferences are barely half the story. Obama could be preferred by 90% of the people and still lose if the 10% are the only ones who vote.

According to Gallup, voter engagement is down this year and Republicans have the advantage there (with an asterisk about the timing, right around the Republican convention).

Meanwhile, there's the disenfranchisement “anti-fraud” efforts in many states. Nate Silver did an analysis and concluded that the impact would be minimal, but I felt it underestimated the chilling effect such policies would have even on voters with ID.

With voter turnout percentage hovering in the fifties in every presidential election since Nixon, the real story in U.S. politics is who shows up.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:57 AM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I found it easier to browse the graphs fullscreen, which you can do at http://assets.nationaljournal.com/gfx/exitpollhist.html
posted by Phredward at 7:58 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


My gut feeling is that white women are going to be the story this go 'round.

Regardless, if you want Obama to win another turn, you MUST vote. And get evryone you know to vote.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:00 AM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do Hispanic Catholics vote democratic but not Protestants?
posted by bq at 8:14 AM on September 3, 2012


In the past eight elections, the Democratic nominee has averaged just 36.1 percent of the vote among white men

Remember when they used to be the labor party?
posted by DU at 8:16 AM on September 3, 2012


Thorzdad, that's multi-year strategy stuff they've already been doing. I don't think any of them is really amenable to that level of manipulation at this late date.

With voter turnout percentage hovering in the fifties in every presidential election since Nixon, the real story in U.S. politics is who shows up.

Exactly. This is what they have to count on, and is a large driver of the lie-as-much-as-possible bullshit campaign that's emerged more clearly with the RNC. There is evidence that Republican voters are more engaged this year and combined with various voter-suppression efforts, such as the ID laws, they may be able to swing the necessary few or even fractional points.

There's a meme-type photo making the rounds showing lines of people at "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" warning that this is what they hope election day will look like.

Certainly, progressive efforts have fallen short here in Wisconsin despite huge grass-roots efforts to unseat various Republicans -- but this November even the few legislative recall victories may be undone by the advent of redistricting, and that's happened nationwide this cycle (2012 vs. 2008), with a majority of it under GOP statehouses.
posted by dhartung at 8:20 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remember when they used to be the labor party?

Only 11.9% of Americans are in a union. So they're probably a superset of what's left of organized labor.
posted by Talez at 8:27 AM on September 3, 2012


Why do Hispanic Catholics vote democratic but not Protestants?

I would suspect that many Hispanic Protestants are ex-Catholics who were converted by evangelical Protestants. It's the link to evangelicalism that probably explains the Republican voting.
posted by jonp72 at 8:31 AM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Competitor in Chief
Obama Plays to Win, in Politics and Everything Else

Mr. Obama is in the climactic contest of his career, about to receive the ultimate judgment on his performance from the American people. It is a moment, aides say, he has been craving: during some of the darker days of his tenure, he told them that he wanted the country to evaluate him not in isolation, but in contrast to the Republican alternative. The tough, often successful attacks from the right have hardened and fueled him, aides say, driving him to prove that “we’re right and we’re better,” as one ally put it.
posted by netbros at 8:37 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regardless, if you want Obama to win another turn, you MUST vote. And get evryone you know to vote.

Without question, I'm going to vote for the President. But I'm sick and tired of the Democratic narrative of blaming all of their shortcomings on people who didn't vote or voted for a third party. And I'm sick of the constant reminders that the entire election depends on how many people I personally can get out to vote.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:41 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would suspect that many Hispanic Protestants are ex-Catholics who were converted by evangelical Protestants. It's the link to evangelicalism that probably explains the Republican voting.

Exactly.

I went looking for context, found this: Latino Religion in the U.S.: Demographic Shifts and Trend, which helps some, but also leads to further questions. (There are questions you could follow up with around "identity" versus "belief", for example.) Short answer for context: Hispanic Protestants as a demographic have grown, but still aren't a big deal.
posted by gimonca at 8:53 AM on September 3, 2012


A big, resurgent wave of foreclosures nationwide?

I hear what you're saying there, although a corporate-driven October surprise would have to be either genuinely unplanned, or appear to be unplanned, otherwise it seems like it would backfire. If the narrative becomes "the Koch brothers raised gas prices on everyone", that's not great for the GOP brand.

To clarify what I was thinking: it's hard to imagine an overt outreach the Romney campaign could make to win over segments of the Obama coalition at this point.
posted by gimonca at 9:03 AM on September 3, 2012


I don't know just looking at the graphs I have to wonder how the GOP wins any elections. where there is a gap between white Republican males and white Democrats males. Women vote in similar numbers as men maybe slightly more given male mortality and incarceration. It seems to me with white women voting for Democrats as a rule and the minorities going Democrat in huge numbers the closeness of elections are amazing. I guess I need to do the math. It is going to take years to overcome GOP gerrymandering of the past decade.
posted by pdxpogo at 9:04 AM on September 3, 2012


How can this not include a class breakdown as well? Especially given the current economic debates.

Does anyone have a link to such data?
posted by wjzeng at 9:12 AM on September 3, 2012


It is going to take years to overcome GOP gerrymandering of the past decade.

Can't be overcome if the GOP keeps on winning on the state level. They control the majority of state legislatures and that won't change unless Democrats and progressives spend more time and money on local races.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:12 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gas prices suddenly spike and remain above $4/gal?

I've been paying above $4 for quite some time now. I just paid $4.99 for premium yesterday. In Chicago.
posted by gjc at 9:27 AM on September 3, 2012


How can this not include a class breakdown as well?

I don't think that information is included in exit polls?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:32 AM on September 3, 2012


Without question, I'm going to vote for the President. But I'm sick and tired of the Democratic narrative of blaming all of their shortcomings on people who didn't vote or voted for a third party. And I'm sick of the constant reminders that the entire election depends on how many people I personally can get out to vote.

It's not blaming people for shortcomings, it is reminding people that actually voting their preference is important.

This is especially important this election because research continues to show that a significant proportion of people who voted for Pres Obama last time are being wishy washy about it this time around. They aren't as charged up, or they assume things that cannot be assumed, like that they are in a "safe" democratic state. Or worse, they think Obama hasn't done enough and want to punish him by not voting for him. Assuming, I guess, that he's going to win anyway, so not voting will send a message. Except that's not what is going to happen- the other guy will win if really only a few people stay home. The proportions of votes are really only ever within 10% of each other, so it doesn't take all that many people to change a state.

If you care about the outcome, you have to vote. If you are pissed at the president, write him a letter. But don't withhold your vote unless you want the other guy to win.
posted by gjc at 9:39 AM on September 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


Could there be another 'Bush v. Gore' this year?
posted by cashman at 9:43 AM on September 3, 2012


>White people are ruining America.

If that's the case, maybe it's time to start fighting fire with fire. By that, I just mean that the people most capable of making a difference need to be more active, even if they only have a modicum of power or influence. An extension of the whole "evil triumphs when the good do nothing" kind of thing.

It would have been hard to abolish slavery if the slaves didn't have any support, just like how gay marriage and repealing DADT gained traction after rational, considerate heterosexuals became more vocal. I doubt someone like Stephen Colbert would be as influential if he were anything but a White American. When the injustice becomes so widespread, everyone who isn't speaking against it starts to sound like they're saying "I got mine, Jack" even if they sincerely don't feel that way.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 9:52 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anything that re-focuses the middle-class on a crappy, failing economy.

Anybody who is inclined to blame Obama for the economy at this point probably isn't going to vote for Obama anyway. In fact, that's a consistent theme in the polling this cycle; very few people remain undecided, and in several so-called "swing" states even though Obama and Romney are close, Romney would need a really unlikely avalanche of still undecided voters to put him over.

While Obama has lost a lot of the enthusiasm that gave him the electoral college avalanche in 2008, he doesn't need an avalanche to keep his job; he just needs 270 electoral votes. Right now he has a lot more ways to get those votes than Romney does, and several things that the Republicans have been counting on to shore up their plan have in fact either failed or backfired.

Meanwhile, in states where massive SuperPAC money has already been spent it doesn't seem to be having a lot of influence; it ticks people off and, like I said, there aren't really many undecided voters left. All things considered, things are looking much better for the Democrats than anybody thought either likely or possible after the 2010 debacle.
posted by localroger at 10:23 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


That matches what I've been following elsewhere; it seems like trends have been pointing to a slender Obama victory for some time.

With the combined forces of A slim victory for Obama in the polls translates to a modest victory for Romney in the actual election.

Barack doesn't even have that margin in the polls anymore. Rasmussen now has Romney leading by 4 points. This isn't some fluke fluctuation. Incremental gains for Romney have been the trend over the last few months.

An Obama victory isn't wishful thinking at this point. It's a delusion.
posted by clarknova at 10:27 AM on September 3, 2012


Rasmussen now has Romney leading by 4 points.

The presidential election isn't decided by popular vote. 538 has Obama with a 74.5% chance to win.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:34 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. Nobody with any sense takes Rasmussen's results without a large block of salt. They regularly show Republican candidates 4-5 points ahead of what all other polls do, unless the Republican is Todd Akin who they're trying to push aside and Ras drops him 4-5 points.

2. National popular vote is meaningless. It is the electoral collage that elects the President, and much of Romney's support is in states he is going to win anyway by a supermajority, such as Louisiana and Missisippi.

3. What i said in my last comment, and what shakespeherian just said.
posted by localroger at 10:36 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Barack doesn't even have that margin in the polls anymore. Rasmussen now has Romney leading by 4 points. An Obama victory isn't wishful thinking at this point. It's a delusion.

Not quite.

on preview, what shakespeherian said.
posted by cashman at 10:36 AM on September 3, 2012


It's also worth pointing out that Romney's convention just ended-- if his numbers didn't go up right now, it would be fairly unprecedented. Nate Silver points out that Romney's convention bounce is actually slightly lower than might be expected generally, and despite the fact that his polling numbers are up today, the small amount that they're up actually looks like bad news for him.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:41 AM on September 3, 2012


clarknova: " Rasmussen now has Romney leading by 4 points. "

Have they fixed their measurable Republican bias yet?
posted by zarq at 10:49 AM on September 3, 2012


Another thing about those piles of SuperPAC money -- what the hell are all these ads supposed to say that doesn't make things worse?

If they appeal to their own base they turn off independents, and if they appeal to independents they turn off their base, many of whom have no enthusiasm for Mormon Rich Flip-Flopper Guy.

This is why there was no convention bounce. SRSLY when has that ever happened before? I mean even McCain / Palin got a convention bounce.

Romney's Bain experience reminds people that he closed companies, shipped jobs overseas, has more money than God stuffed in overseas bank accounts, and is afraid to reveal his tax returns. His foreign policy demo tour was even more of a disaster than the RNC, which is saying a lot.

It's why Todd Akin was such a disaster. By dragging their very real war on women out into the light of day they gained no new voters but surely energized a few people who were tepid about Obama because they didn't get their pony, but have no been reminded that there might be real consequences to letting the Republicans have the wheel again.

Meanwhile, the Obama camp has been brilliant about getting social media and ads so good they go viral to get their message out widely and effectively. When the most retweeted tweet of your convention is your rival snarking your famous actor's speech, the stink of fail is strong in your camp.
posted by localroger at 10:54 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you care about the outcome, you have to vote. If you are pissed at the president, write him a letter. But don't withhold your vote unless you want the other guy to win.

I care about the outcome both this year and in years future. Which is why I'm voting for the candidate I agree with. If the Democrats want to attract my vote, they are free to try being on the Left.
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


So how does a future with Romney choosing new Supreme Court justices look to you?
posted by tommyD at 11:50 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I care about the outcome both this year and in years future.

If this were true you would vote for Obama, because it is 100% certain that either Obama or Romney is going to win this election; the rest is just window-dressing. (Well, unless you live in a non-swing state as I do, and your protest vote is safely meaningless. In that case go ahead and make your point.) But if you live in a state like Florida or Ohio, staying home or voting third party is half a vote for Romney. Don't kid yourself that it's anything else.

Obama has done a number of things I strongly disagree with but, being sane, I realize that I would still much rather live in his America than the America the other guys would create. We can work on fixing the things Obama is doing wrong when there is less risk of the whole place going crazytown beneath our feet.
posted by localroger at 11:51 AM on September 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


DU: " I care about the outcome both this year and in years future. Which is why I'm voting for the candidate I agree with. If the Democrats want to attract my vote, they are free to try being on the Left."

Idealism is a naive luxury we can no longer afford. You're espousing the sort of thinking that helped bring us eight years of George W. Bush. When moderates in swing states allow apathy to either keep them from the polls or throw their vote away on a symbolic gesture, the result can be the worst-case scenario. As we have seen. Look how well that turned out.
posted by zarq at 12:01 PM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Could we perhaps not have this conversation again
posted by shakespeherian at 12:04 PM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


In the past eight elections, the Democratic nominee has averaged just 36.1 percent of the vote among white men

Hey! I'm a minority!

But seriously, "This is the last time anyone will do this".
Romney’s campaign has been floating word of late that it sees a potential presidency as following the mold of James K. Polk — fulfilling dramatic policy change, and leaving after a single term. “Multiple senior Romney advisers assured me that they had had conversations with the candidate in which he conveyed a depth of conviction about the need to try to enact something like Ryan’s controversial budget and entitlement reforms,” reports the Huffington Post’s Jonathan Ward. “Romney, they said, was willing to count the cost politically in order to achieve it.”
Which makes me wonder openly, if Romney can accomplish sweeping changes, what's to keep a president elected by a 2016 backlash (and a congress elected by a 2014 backlash) from undoing everything like Romney promises to undo everything Obama's done? Maybe having another couple atrociously partisan Supreme Court justices declaring everything the GOP doesn't support unconstitutional?

After making noises about a "Permanent Republican Majority" in Bush's first few years, I was honestly surprised the Republican Party didn't do more (and more 'extralegally') to hold onto Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. Maybe they've given up their reluctance to do so (especially in light of their current assault on the Voting Rights Act, which will become more effective once their people pass a "Voter Fraud Act" next year).
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:27 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was honestly surprised the Republican Party didn't do more (and more 'extralegally') to hold onto Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.

I think in both cases they thought they had it in the bag because they listen too much to their own propaganda.
posted by localroger at 12:33 PM on September 3, 2012


I think in both cases they thought they had it in the bag because they listen too much to their own propaganda.

Never get high on your own supply.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:37 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Incremental gains for Romney have been the trend over the last few months.

Not really.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:14 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Difficult to imagine what that would be. Republican missteps for months have done nothing but shore up the Democratic base. Romney needs a national 'swing' of several states in order to win the Electoral College. If potentially 'swingable' voters haven't come over to his side yet in Ohio or Colorado--what would make them do it now?

There's also negative campaigning to consider. If Obama can't get any more "white non-college married males" to vote for him, he can probably still get them to sit home and not vote.


I can imagine very poor economic news could be the kind of game changing event that could make a difference in the next two months. There's certainly a potential for it, with the Asian economy slowing and Greece perhaps on the verge of leaving the Eurozone. Obama's lead is pretty tenuous.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:55 PM on September 3, 2012


Here is my approach.

1) rank all candidates as if it was a Preferential voting system.

2) answer polls with your #1 candidate

3) on voting day, vote for the highest ranking candidate with any chance of winning according to polls (or intuition).

It is not perfect in that it assumes polling provides useful intelligence, but at least you are putting information into that system with your poll responce.

Lacking actual preferential voting it is not a terrible simulation of it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:32 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can imagine very poor economic news could be the kind of game changing event that could make a difference in the next two months. There's certainly a potential for it, with the Asian economy slowing and Greece perhaps on the verge of leaving the Eurozone. Obama's lead is pretty tenuous.

Conspiracy theories aside, that's not something that the Romney campaign can actively do to change the election. That's an October surprise that they could wish for, but not a viable strategy for them to count on.

In any case, time is running out. The rate of downward decline would have to be pretty steep to make a difference in the next two months, and every day that goes by it becomes less and less likely.
posted by gimonca at 8:50 PM on September 3, 2012


And I'm sick of the constant reminders that the entire election depends on how many people I personally can get out to vote.

That's because the entire election does depend on it. How else do you think close, base vs. base elections are won? Social pressure and personal contact work to increase turnout.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:08 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


538 has Obama with a 74.5% chance to win.

There's another sanity check to consider -- the Iowa Electronic Markets. The winner-take-all market has Obama trending upward from 60% for the first time since March -- even as vote share has tightened.

This is not good for much more than slight optimism, of course, but it is optimism. The Romney strategy of picking Ryan, a "bold" choice, and then of the candidates engaging in massively dishonest rhetoric, also suggests desperation more than confidence on their part.

I was honestly surprised the Republican Party didn't do more (and more 'extralegally') to hold onto Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008

The way I see it, they have become mainly concerned with dismantlement of the welfare state under the guise of reform. As such a long game is appropriate, and it doesn't matter much if they lose a few. They are confident that they can usually block major new social programs, and probably expected to be able to hold off Obamacare.
posted by dhartung at 12:32 AM on September 4, 2012


What if we think of it this way:

They could spend 1 Political Unit moving to the left to turn your abstention into a vote (net gain: 1 vote), or they could spend it moving to the right to convert a moderate who would've voted Republican (net gain: 2 votes).

If you stay home, that's the calculus. Having nothing to do with right and wrong, just pure political pragmatism.
posted by Riki tiki at 5:17 PM on September 5, 2012


And I'm sick of the constant reminders that the entire election depends on how many people I personally can get out to vote.

There are more of us than there are of them. Period. However, they're much more likely to vote.

It is very strongly in their interest to keep us less likely to vote. Generally, when they win, it is by dividing us against each other and by erecting barriers (whether physical, legal or psychological) between us and the ballot box.

So, yes, entire elections always depend on how many people you, me and the rest of us personally get out to vote.
posted by dersins at 7:52 PM on September 5, 2012


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