Sunday, November 9, 2008

What The Voter Numbers Say About The Election Campaigns

Nate Silver, who runs , the pole tracking web site which rather accurately predicted the outcome of the Electoral College and popular vote, has now produced a quick view of the result mix - who voted for Obama.  If you're a number-cruncher type, you may want to go to his site and start digging in.  

Comparing exit polls from 2004 and 2008 makes the breadth of Barack Obama's victory clear. Obama received a larger share of the vote than John Kerry among voters of all genders, races, education levels, and income classes, and virtually all religions. The only groups with whom he underperformed Kerry were older (65+) voters, and gay and lesbian voters.
Conversely, there is a hidden source of strength that hasn't been talked much about before: Obama markedly overperformed Kerry among parents. In a sense, it was those people who have most reason to be concerned about the future who voted for Obama: people who are young themselves, or people who have young children at home.

Big City Barack
One nugget from Pew Research that I'd missed earlier: Barack Obama performed 9 points better than John Kerry among urban whites. This was not by any means the most important factor in his election, but it helps to explain the large improvements that the Democratic ticket made in states like Colorado and Nevada, where a great deal of the population is concentrated in Denver and Las Vegas, respectively, and why Republicans were at best able to tread water by targeting the rural areas of Pennsylvania, while Obama waltzed his way to winning large majorities of white and black voters in Philadelphia.
This also attests, of course, to the stupidity of bashing big cities. Roughly 82 million Americans live in cities of 100,000 persons or more, including 40 million in cities of 500,000 persons or more. This does not count smaller cities or suburban areas, which account for another 150 million Americans or so. (Don't neglect the fact, also, that many Americans who do have their residence in big cities may nevertheless work or play in them, and therefore think well of them). By contrast, only about 60 million Americans live in rural areas.
The Bush-Rove team of 2000 and 2004 understood the importance of appealing to suburban voters ... that is a viable strategy. Pitching your appeal to rural voters, on the other hand, probably will not work. They're outnumbered by the city dwellers in the first place, and if your attacks are strident enough that the suburbanites start to side with the urbanites, you've given yourself a big problem.
And, another seemingly decisive campaign element.... The Contact Gap: Proof of the Importance of the Ground Game?
One of the more interesting questions posed on this year's exit polls was whether the voter had been contacted by the Obama and McCain campaigns personally about getting out to vote.There is indeed a fairly strong relationship between contact rate and Obama's overperformance or underperformance in the polls.  Roughly speaking, each marginal 10-point advantage in contact rate translated into a marginal 3-point gain in the popular vote in that state. So the rule of thumb that a "good" ground game may be worth additional 2-3 points above and beyond what is reflected in the polls appears to hold; a great ground game may be worth somewhat more than that.
Interestingly, the regression line suggests that in states where there was no contact rate advantage -- that is, states where the Obama and McCain campaigns contacted an equal number of voters -- Obama would underperform his polls by about 3 points. This has several potential interpretations, but the one I find most compelling is that Democrats are in fact relying upon lower-propensity voters like youth and minorities. Therefore, it is more incumbent upon the Democrats to have a strong ground game to turn these voters out.
Nationally, there was an 8-point gap in contact rate ... the Obama campaign reached 26 percent of voters with its GOTV efforts to McCain's 18 percent. This can be contrasted with 2004, when Kerry's campaign contacted 26 percent of voters to Bush's 24. Although Obama's field operation was good, Kerry's was pretty good too; the difference may be that while Bush's field operation was also good, John McCain's was not. It is also possible that Obama's field operation was more efficient than Kerry's, as the contact rate gap was larger in battleground than in non-battleground states. I have heard multiple stories of voters in states like Indiana receiving as many as three or four in-person contacts from the Obama campaign on Tuesday. This is a sign of a campaign that knew where the tipping points were, rather than (say) sending volunteers to Michigan on Election Day just to play it safe.


Exit Polls Reveal Conservatives Abandoned McCain
Democrat Barack Obama garnered a surprising 20 percent of the vote from conservatives who cast ballots on Election Day, top-ranked radio-talker Rush Limbaugh told listeners.
Citing exit polls, Limbaugh also said on Wednesday that Republican John McCain lost independents and moderates by a margin of 60 percent to 39 percent.
“McCain only got 89 percent of the Republican vote,” Limbaugh said. “He only got 80 percent of the conservative vote.
“And therein lies the tale, the recipe offered up by the wizards of smart in the Republican Party and on our side — for whatever reason we have to abandon our base, and we’ve gotta broaden our base . . . 
“I have nothing against going out and getting Democrats and independents to vote for you. But not by behaving like a Democrat or independent.”
Fox News commissioned extensive exit polling on Election Day. Some highlights:
  • 75 percent of voters said the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction, and these voters went solidly for Obama — 62 percent to McCain’s 36 percent.
  • 63 percent of voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the nation, and they backed Obama, 53 percent to 44 percent.
  • 48 percent said they are “very worried” that the economic crisis will hurt their family’s finances in the coming year, and they voted for Obama,
    60 percent to 38 percent.
  • Voters who said they wanted a president who can bring about change overwhelmingly went for Obama, 89 percent to 9 percent.
  • Despite predictions that the 2008 election would bring a sharp increase
    in the number of young voters, people under age 30 comprised just
    18 percent of all voters, up from 17 percent in the past three presidential elections and down from 21 percent in 1992. These voters went for Obama, 66 percent to 32 percent.
  • Among the 11 percent of voters who were casting ballots in a presidential election for the first time, 68 percent voted for Obama and 31 percent chose McCain.
  • 18 percent of voters who supported President Bush in 2004 defected from the GOP and supported Obama this year.
  • Women chose Obama over the McCain-Palin ticket by a margin of 56 percent to 43 percent.
  • 52 percent of white Catholics voted for McCain, compared to 47 percent
    for Obama.
  • Black voters comprised 13 percent of the electorate and 95 percent of them backed Obama. White voters favored McCain by a 12-point margin.
  • Hispanics helped Obama win the battleground state of Florida, voting for the Democrat over the Republican, 57 percent to 42 percent. In 2004, President Bush garnered 56 percent of the Hispanic vote.
  • In Pennsylvania, 20 percent of Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton over Obama in the primary voted for McCain on Tuesday. 


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