#Election2012 – what we can learn from the numbers
When Barack Obama won a second term as President this past week, the world of political pundits were ready with analysis, opinions, and a few questions. Why had Romney lost? How had Obama won? Which issues mattered most? What accounts for the lower turnout?
As far as I am concerned, the biggest story from the election is the gradual shift seen nationally in the voting preferences of latino and black voters. You can check some decent exit polling here* that shows shifts in the voters. Quickly, here’s what some of the data tells us:
- Men (47% of voters) were +4% for Romney, -4% for Obama
- Women (53% of voters) were +1% for Obama, -1% for Romney
- Ages 18-29 (20% of voters) voted +6 for Obama, -5% for Romney
- Ages 45-64 (38 of voters) gained +2% for Romney, -3% for Obama
- Dems (38% of voters) voted +3% for Obama (from 89% to 92%)
- GOP (32% of voters) voted +3% for Romney (from 90% to 93%)
- IND’s (29% of voters) voted for Romney +6%, -7% for Obama (from 44% to 50%)
- White voters (72% of the national exit polls) went -4% for Obama, +4% for Romney
- Black voters (13% of the national exit polls) went -2% for Obama, +2% for Romney
- Latino voters (10% of the national exit polls) went +4% for Obama, -4% for Romney
- Other voter groups (3% of the national exit polls) went -8% for Obama, +7% for Romney
And the information goes on and on…
So, what does this tell us? Nothing especially new. We knew men trended toward Romney, and women trended toward Obama. We knew younger voters trend toward Obama, and older voters trend toward Romney. It isn’t a surprise that minority voters preferred Obama, or that white voters preferred Romney (insert comment about clear racial divides in America). Most of these statistics have been like this for years, or at the very least trending in that direction.
One portion of the poll did give me a moment of pause. Washington Post’s exit polling identified the US voting populace as 25% Liberal, 41% Moderate, and 35% Conservative. Based on that alone, and an assumption that Obama is a liberal and Romney a Conservative, it should have been easier for Romney to win. Or, even if Romney is a Moderate and Obama a Liberal, Romney should have had a greater chance to win.
But the results of the election proved that those assumptions and the odds were far out of Romney’s favor. Not only that, but he ended up losing the popular vote by around 2.5%. Interestingly, the poll self-identifying Democrat voters (38% of those exit-polled) as compared to the 25% who self-identified as Liberals. That’s a pretty big gap. Same with IND voters (29% identify as, yet 41% of voters claim moderate ideology).
At dinner with a friend the other night, we were discussing the election. It struck me that Tennessee Senate candidate Mark Clayton had shown that 700,000 Tennessee voters would push the “D” button no matter who was running. 700,000 people voted for someone they either 1) had no idea who he was or, 2) that 700,000 Tennessee voters honestly believe Mark Clayton would make a great Senator. Spoiler alert: it’s #1. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a “baseline.” No Tennessee democrat running for Senate should ever do worse than 700,000 votes, although it can be easily argued that Clayton should not have secured even close to 700,000.
Conversely, it is very possible that Romney and his 58,739,277 votes (as of 8:00pm est on 11/11/12) is the absolute highest percentage of votes a GOP candidate for President will get with the status quo. Is that a real possibility? Probably not, but it could be. It appears that GOTV efforts in the swing states struggled and that hard-core religious, right-wing voters might have skipped voting due to Romney’s religion/moderate leaning/other reasons. This thought should be very troubling to the GOP leadership. If you can’t win without the base voting at a rate of 100%, and you can’t win without reaching into the center, then you can’t win.
*Note: exit polling is NOT scientific. At all.