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November 30, 2004

Bush's Hispanic Support Headed Downwards

Or, more accurately, closer to where it was to begin with. I argued the other day that it was quite unlikely that Bush actually got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, as the national exit poll claimed, and that the 59 percent share given him by the Texas state exit poll was particularly fanciful.

Now we have this AP item, showing a drastic downward revision in the Texas figure for Bush's Hispanic support:

In the Nov. 3 BC-ELN--Texas Glance and BC-TX Exit-Poll Excerpts, The Associated Press overstated President Bush (news - web sites)'s support among Texas Hispanics. Under a post-election adjustment by exit poll providers Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, 49 percent of Hispanics in the state voted for Bush, not a majority. The revised result does not differ to a statistically significant degree from Bush's 43 percent support among Texas Hispanics in a 2000 exit poll.

The revised BC-TX-Exit-Poll Excerpts showed that 20 percent, not 23 percent, of all Texas voters were Hispanic. They voted 50 percent for Kerry and 49 percent for Bush, not 41-59 Kerry-Bush.

Quite a change and it affects not just the Texas Hispanic estimate, but the national one as well. As Steve Sailer correctly points out:

That reduction of 10 points in Texas would appear to knock almost 2 points off Bush's national Hispanic share by itself (since the exit poll claimed that Texas accounted for 18% of America's Hispanic voters), and the reduction in the Hispanic share of the Texas vote from 23% to 20% would reduce Bush's national Hispanic share as well (because he still had more Hispanic support in Texas than nationally).

We shall see what further exit poll revisions do to the estimates of Bush's Hispanic support. But my--and Sailer's--estimate that Bush received around 39 percent, not 44 percent, of the Hispanic vote is looking better and better.

November 29, 2004

Comparing the Bush and Reagan Eras

Ron Brownstein had an interesting column, "GOP's Future Sits Precariously on Small Cushion of Victory" in the LA Times last Monday that put Bush's re-election victory in some much-needed historical context. He pointed out:

Measured as a share of the popular vote, Bush beat Kerry by just 2.9 percentage points [actually now down to 2.7 points--RT]: ....That's the smallest margin of victory for a reelected president since 1828.

The only previous incumbent who won a second term nearly so narrowly was Democrat Woodrow Wilson: In 1916, he beat Republican Charles E. Hughes by 3.1 percentage points. Apart from Truman in 1948 (whose winning margin was 4.5 percentage points), every other president elected to a second term since 1832 has at least doubled the margin that Bush had over Kerry.

In that 1916 election, Wilson won only 277 out of 531 electoral college votes. That makes Wilson the only reelected president in the past century who won with fewer electoral college votes than Bush's 286.

Measured another way, Bush won 53% of the 538 electoral college votes available this year. Of all the chief executives reelected since the 12th Amendment separated the vote for president and vice president — a group that stretches back to Thomas Jefferson in 1804 — only Wilson (at 52%) won a smaller share of the available electoral college votes.

But, even more interesting to me, since I've been pondering the comparison between the Bush era and the Reagan era, is the following point he makes about what a re-election victory has usually meant to the incumbent party and what typically has followed that reelection victory:

Throughout American history, the reelection of a president has usually been a high-water mark for the president's party [emphasis added]. In almost every case, the party that won reelection has lost ground in the next presidential election, both in the popular vote and in the electoral college.

The decline has been especially severe in the past half century. Since 1952 there have been six presidential elections immediately following a president's reelection. In those six races, the candidate from the incumbent's party has fallen short of the reelection numbers by an average of 207 electoral college votes and 8.4 percentage points in the popular vote.

Because his margin was so tight, Bush didn't leave the GOP with enough of a cushion to survive even a fraction of that erosion in four years. Even if the GOP in 2008 matches the smallest electoral college fall-off in the past half century — the 99-vote decline between Reagan in 1984 and George H.W. Bush in 1988 — that would still leave the party well short of a majority.

Very interesting stuff indeed. And it suggests that comparing the GOP's previous re-election victory and the current one is an exercise with more than academic implications.

Start with the obvious: Reagan got 58.8 percent of the popular vote in 1984, besting his Democratic opponent by 18.2 percentage points, compared to Bush's 2.7 point victory margin, and carried 98 percent of the electoral vote, compared to Bush's 53 percent. Indeed, if you put the two elections of the Reagan era together, we find Reagan averaging 54.8 percent of the popular vote with a 14 point victory margin and 94 percent of the electoral vote, compared to Bush's average of 49.4 of the popular vote, a 1.1 point victory margin and 52 percent of the electoral vote.

Quite a difference and, as Brownstein emphasizes, essentially no cushion against incumbent party third term slippage.

It's also fascinating to compare that 1984 GOP high water mark to the current one in terms of how the GOP is faring in different types of counties. Take, for example, those 100 fastest-growing counties (since 2000) where Bush did so well in 2004. I've pointed out the less-than-earthshaking nature of this trend elsewhere. But it's interesting to note that in those very same counties in 1984, Reagan did even better: he carried them by 36 points, compared to Bush's 25 point victory this year.

Or, if you prefer, take the 100 fastest-growing counties from the 1990's: Bush carried them by 27 points this year; Reagan carried them by 38 points in 1984.

Another interesting point of comparison is to look at large metropolitan areas. In the exurban or fringe counties of these areas, Bush beat Kerry by 24 points....but Reagan beat Mondale in these same counties by 29 points. So even in this area of particular strength for Bush, he he still lagged somewhat behind Reagan's 1984 performance.

And Bush lagged way, way behind Reagan in the most consequential part of large metro areas, their central counties. Reagan carried these counties by 11 points in 1984, while Bush lost them by an identical margin this year. That's a huge anti-Republican swing of 22 points in a group of counties that are much more consequential than exurbia to GOP electoral fortunes. In the 2004 election, these central counties still cast 43 percent of the overall vote, compared to just 5 percent for the exurban counties.

Yet another way to look at the Bush '04/Reagan '84 comparison is to compare Bush's strength in his best areas--rural and exurban counties combined--with Reagan in the same counties in 1984. That comparison shows that Bush carried these counties by a healthy 21 points (60-39) this year...but Reagan did even better in 1984, carrying them by a 25 point margin (62-37).

Moreover, despite the fact that exurban areas have been growing fairly rapidly, they start from a small enough base that their share of all US voters has increased only modestly over the last twenty years. In fact, once you combine these exurban areas with the rural areas, which have been declining slightly, the share of the US vote cast by the combined group of counties has held rock steady at 25 percent between 1984 and 2004.

In short, when you compare the Bush era to the Reagan era, even Bush's strongest areas don't look so strong and there's less real growth going on in his coalition than generally supposed. If this is a contemporary high water mark for the GOP--and there are good historical reasons for supposing it is--they could be in real trouble.

Ruy Teixeira and Ken Mehlman Offer Opposing Views in Washington Post Analysis

A Sunday Washington Post article titled "Was Nov. 2 a Realignment" contrasted Bush's campaign manager Ken Mehlman's upbeat interpretation of the election's significance for the Republicans with Ruy Teixeira's more balanced appraisal.

"Something fundamental and significant happened in this election that creates an opportunity for" the Republicans to remake national politics over the long term, said Ken Mehlman, who managed Bush's reelection campaign and was tapped by the president after the election to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee. "The Republican Party is in a stronger position today than at any time since the Great Depression."

Liberal political analyst Ruy Teixeira is among many analysts not buying it. Two years ago, he co-wrote a book predicting an emerging Democratic dominance of national politics. That certainly has not happened yet -- but neither has the opposite, he believes. The electorate this year "tilted, but it didn't tilt very much," Teixeira said.

"If the war on terror is such a realigning issue, how come Bush only got 51 percent of the vote?" he asked. By Teixeira's lights, the president took advantage of the natural power of incumbency, which is accentuated in wartime, and gave scant emphasis to his second-term policy agenda on such issues as overhauling Social Security, which polls show leaves many voters uneasy. "It's hard to read [the results] in a serious way as a mandate for much of anything," Teixeira said.

Rolling Stone Features Ruy Teixeira in Election Analysis

A Nov. 17th Rolling Stone magazine roundtable on the election included Ruy Teixeira along with Peter Hart and David Gergen in a roundtable discussion with Rolling Stone editor Jan Weiner. Here are a few excerpts from Ruy's comments during the discussion.

We should keep a bit of perspective on this. The last three elections, the Democrats got, respectively, forty-nine, forty-eight and forty-eight percent of the vote. That's not that far off a majority. I mean, you shift a point and a half of the vote and you're just about there. They just need to figure out a way to put their natural constituencies, and growing constituencies, together with a more respectable performance among whites of moderate income. Democrats are not in the position that the Republicans were in after Goldwater was defeated in 1964...

One of the misperceptions about the election is that young people didn't turn out. In fact, the number of voters under the age of thirty increased substantially. And they went for Kerry by nine points in an election in which the country as a whole went for the other side by three points. That's the biggest difference between youth and the country as a whole that we've seen in the last four elections -- even greater than in 1996, when Bill Clinton carried the youth by nineteen points and carried the country as a whole by eight points. I think there's real potential there for the future.

November 26, 2004

Old Democrats, New Democrats, Newer Democrats

As many observers have remarked, the debate among Democrats about the reasons for their defeat on November 2 has been remarkably civil as these things go. In particular, the vituperative exchanges between so-called Old and New Democrats have been refreshingly absent.

There's a good reason for this. That debate is increasingly irrelevant to where the Democratic party needs to go and increasingly foreign to a new breed of Democrats--"Newer Democrats"--who represent the party's future.

Here's an excerpt from an article I wrote before the election, "Old Democrats and the Shock of the New" (forthcoming in a Hoover Institution volume, Varieties of Progressivism in America, edited by Peter Berkowitz), that lays out the ways in which the Democratic party has evolved away from both Old and New Democrats. The basic argument holds up pretty well, I think, in the aftermath of the 2004 election.

...[M]ost Democrats were understandably tepid about signing up on either side of the [populist-centrist] dispute [after the 2000 election]. Both sides seemed more interested in rehearsing old debates and defending old positions than in grappling with the election that had just happened and building on the Clinton synthesis in all its complicated glory. There was simply no appetite among most Democrats for rerunning the faction disputes of the 1980s; Democrats knew their party had changed dramatically in the 1990s, and an argument that was detached from that reality seemed uninteresting at best and downright destructive at worst. Moreover, the Republican Party under Bush, with an ascendant hard Right and its willingness to say or do anything to win, seemed a formidable enemy that called for a fresh Democratic approach, not just old wine in new bottles. This has lead to the emergence of what I call “Newer Democrats.”

...Newer Democrats saw ...the DLC and the liberals/populists, as continuing to provide important insights and useful tools for building the party. And both groups were clearly important parts of the party that were not going to go away. But neither New Democrats nor populists, in this emerging view, seemed to know how to beat Bush and the no-holds-barred conservative Right that was taking over the Republican Party. Both groups seemed stuck in the past, even though the urgent task was to transform the actually existing Democratic Party, with its updated vision of progressivism and new coalition, into an instrument that could beat the Bush Republicans.

You can read the whole article by following the link above. And you may want to check out the whole volume, Varieties of Progressivism in America, because it also contains excellent essays by David Cole, Thomas Edsall, Franklin Foer, William Galston and Jeffrey Issac. In addtion, Hoover has already published a useful companion volume, Varieties of Conservatismm in America, also edited by Berkowitz, with essays by Randy Barnett, Joseph Bottum, Richard Epstein, Jacob Heilbrunn, Mark Henrie and Tod Lindberg, that is well worth a look.

Did Bush Really Benefit from E-voting in Florida?

By Alan Abramowitz

Perhaps you've seen or heard of an analysis by Michael Hout, a Berkeley sociologist, of the impact of e-voting in Florida. Hout and his associates claim that Bush did better than expected in the 15 Florida counties using e-voting. See the link below to their report.

I did my own analysis of their data. It does not support their conclusions. In fact, I find that Bush did slightly worse than expected in the 15 e-voting counties.

I did three things. First, I just compared the change in percent for Bush in Florida counties with and without e-voting. Contrary to their conclusion, Bush gained more support in counties without e-voting. Then I looked at a scatterplot of Bush2004% by Bush2000%. There is no indication at all here of any non-linearity in the relationship. Therefore, I cannot see why the Hout team added a quadratic term to the model. Then I did a regression analysis of Bush2004% with Bush2000% and a dummy variable for e-voting counties. The dummy variable had a negative but statistically insignificant effect. So if anything, Bush did slightly worse in 2004 in counties with e-voting when you control for his support in 2000. My guess is that this is because the e-voting counties tend to be in large metropolitan areas but Bush's gains were greater in smaller, rural and exurban counties.

November 24, 2004

No Honeymoon for Bush, No Parity on Party ID for Republicans

The new CBS News/New York Times poll suggests that, as indicated by the postelection DCorps poll, Bush doesn't have much of a mandate for his policies and is unlikely to enjoy much of a honeymoon from a public that preferred him only marginally to John Kerry.

Bush's overall approval rating in the poll is 51 percent and more people think the country is off on the wrong track (54 percent) than feel it is going in the right direction (40 percent). That's a net of -14 on wrong track, actually slightly worse than recorded by CBS right before the election.

Bush's approval ratings in specific areas, except for the campaign on terrorism, are all lower now than they were right before the election: 44 percent approval/48 percent disapproval on handling foreign policy; 42/57 on the economy; and 40/55 on the situation in Iraq. On the campaign against terrorism, however, his rating is 59/37, up 4 points since before the election.

The poll also finds more of the public uneasy (51 percent) than confident (47 percent)in Bush's ability to "deal wisely with a difficult international crisis" and with his ability to "make the right decisions about the nation's economy" (52/46).

On Social Security, by 51-38, the public thinks Bush is not likely to make sure Social Security benefits are there for "people like you". Also, they don't believe, by 51-31, that the Social Security system will be able to provide the proper level of benefits for them when they retire. However, the public is split on whether it would be a good idea (49 percent) or bad idea (45 percent) to let individuals invest part of their Social Security taxes on their own--Bush's signature proposal in this area.

On corporate influence, two-thirds (66 percent) think large corporations have too much influence on the Bush administration, compared to just 19 percent who corporations have the right amount of influence and 4 percent who think they have too little (!).

On taxes, less than a third (32 percent) think Bush's tax cuts since 2001 have been good for the economy (64 percent think they've been bad or made or made no difference) and only 31 percent think that additional reductions in taxes (another signature Bush proposal) would be good for the economy (62 percent think such reductions would be bad or make no difference). And, on the question of whether the temporary tax cuts passed in 2001 should be allowed to expire, more say they should expire (45 percent) than say they shouldn't (41 percent).

On budget priorities, by more than 2:1 (67-28), the public thinks reducing the federal budget deficit should be a higher priority than cutting taxes. (No question was asked about spending on health care, etc. vs. cutting taxes, but that result would likely be even more lop-sided.)

On Iraq, for the first time since July, more say we should have stayed out of Iraq (48 percent) than say we did the right thing to take military action against Iraq (46 percent). Also, for the very first time, an outright majority (51 percent) says that the war in Iraq is separate from the war on terrorism (up 9 points since right before the election). Of those who say the war in Iraq is part of the war on terrorism (43 percent), 34 percent say it is a major part and the other 9 percent say it is a minor part. Finally, a plurality now say (46-45) that is not possible for the US to create a stable democracy in Iraq.

On the political parties, despite the Republicans' gains in the 2004 election, the public now views the Democrats substantially more favorably (54 percent favorable/39 percent unfavorable) than they view the Republicans (49/46).

And as for that parity in party ID indicated by the NEP exit poll? It's already gone, if it was really there to begin with. Confirming the Annenberg Election Survey results I wrote about a couple of days ago, the CBS/NYT poll now shows the Democrats with a 7 point lead on party ID (36-29).

Another Note on Those Fast-Growing Counties

Last night, I wrote a post suggesting that Bush's gains in fast-growing counties in 2004 were less impressive than indicated in the Brownstein/Rainey article in the LA Times. But I forgot to mention what is perhaps the least impressive number mentioned in the article.

The article makes a bid deal about the fact that Dole in 1996 only carried the 100 fastest-growing counties by 450,000 votes, whereas Bush carried them this year by 1.7 million votes, a "dramatic" change.

Oh really? Well, let's see here. Dole lost to Clinton by 8.2 million votes. Bush beat Kerry this year by about 3.4 million votes. That’s a net shift of 11.6 million votes to the GOP between the two elections. The Brownstein/Rainey data say that the fastest-growing counties contributed 1.25 million votes (1.7 million-450,000) to that shift or about 11 percent of total Republican gains.

I guess drama's in the eye of the beholder.

November 23, 2004

How Important Were the Fast-Growing Counties to Bush's Victory?

Very important--cosmically important!--if we are to believe the analysis in Monday's Los Angeles Times story by Ron Brownstein and Richard Rainey. The story, breathlessly entitled "GOP Plants Flag on New Voting Frontier: Bush's Huge Victory in the Fast-Growing Areas Beyond the Suburbs Alters the Political Map" makes the situation sound dire indeed for the Democrats. Bush rode a tidal wave of GOP votes in these counties to victory and, since these counties are so fast-growing, things will only get worse!

Does the analysis in the Brownstein/Rainey article justify the somewhat extravagant claims made for the importance of these counties? I don't think so. Start with exhibit number one in the article: Bush carried the 100 fastest-growing counties (defined as those that grew the fastest between April 2000 and July 2003) by 1.7 million votes this year. That sounds impressive, especially since the article points out that those votes are "almost half the president's total margin of victory".

But isn't the most relevant measure for understanding Bush's victory how much Bush improved his performance in different areas relative to 2000? It is these improvements in Bush's vote margins in various areas of the country that are responsible for taking him from a half million vote deficit in 2000 to a roughly 3.4 million vote advantage this election.

In that light, how does Bush's performance in these fast-growing counties stack up? Not so different from what I found the other day when I analyzed the role of exurbs in Bush's 2004 victory. In that analysis, I found that exurbs, defined as fringe counties of large metropolitan areas, contributed about 13 percent of Bush's net vote gain between 2000 and 2004.

In the fast-growing counties, as Brownstein/Rainey point out, Bush’s vote margin in 2000 was 1.06 million votes, so his improvement or net vote gain in these counties was a more modest 660,000 votes. That, in turn, works out to a contribution of about 17 percent to Bush’s total net vote gain in the country. That’s good, but it’s hardly overwhelming.

And actually not very different--and in some cases less--than the contributions of other "top 100" groups of counties that don't have that exciting fast-growth label. Take the top 100 counties in terms of amount--not rate--of population growth. My analysis shows that these counties contributed 21 percent of Bush's total increase in vote margin. Or how about the top 100 counties in terms of population size today: Kerry still carried these counties by an overwhelming margin (5.9 million votes) but Bush cut his deficit enough in these counties that they still contributed about 15 percent of Bush's total net vote gains--just about as much as those sexy fast-growing counties contributed.

And no matter which of these "top 100" county categories you look at, the overwhelming amount of Bush's gains still occur outside those county categories. Boringly enough, it looks like Bush's narrow victory was mostly attributable to modest, but broad-based, gains across the country, not to any particular flavor of county, as enticing as that storyline obviously is to journalists.

How broad-based? If you look at percentage point margins, Bush improved his margin by 4 points in the 100 fastest-growing counties--and by 3 points outside those counties. And he improved his margin by 3 points in the 100 largest-growth counties and by 2 points in the 100 counties with the largest populations.

It's fun to talk about exurbs and fast growth, but "huge victory" and "altering the political map"--puh-leeze. In the end it was "two to four points and a cloud of dust". That was the real 2004 election.

November 22, 2004

Does Bush Have a Mandate for His Conservative Agenda?

Perhaps the silliest of the claims put forward about Bush's narrow victory on November 2 was that he had some sort of mandate to pursue his conservative policy ends. Nothing could be farther from the truth as demonstrated convincingly in this memo "What Mandate: A Report on the Joint National Post-Election Survey" by Stan Greenberg and Bob Borosage. As they point out in the memo:

A majority of voters backed the president, but they still thought the country was off track and preferred a different direction in America’s relations with the world and on domestic social policy...[T]he public’s priorities are wholly different than those the president put forth in the days after the election. That is particularly clear if one looks at fiscal and tax policies, health care, and Social Security privatization.

They conclude:

Progressives should feel confident in mobilizing opposition to these initiatives. If the president goes forward and the lines are drawn, voters will finally hear the differences on economic issues and strategy that they were looking for at the beginning of this paign. If the argument is drawn clearly, the president and his allies will find themselves facing significant voter skepticism, and generating potential electoral vulnerability. The president’s claim to an electoral mandate for his agenda misreads where the voters are.

Just so. But there are a lot of interesting findings in the memo, so check out the whole thing. My personal favorite: the finding that, while voters' first choice of a Bush campaign initiative for him to pursue in his second term is continuing the war on terrorism, their second choice is.....nothing.

That about says it all.

Have the Republicans Really Achieved Parity on Party ID?

According to the 2004 NEP exit poll, Democrats and Republicans were dead-even on party ID (37-37) in the 2004 election, a 4 point shift from the 39-35 Democratic advantage registered by NEP's predecessor, VNS, in the 2000 election.

Did a shift of this size really take place in partisan allegiances of the American electorate? Given how much the NEP poll apparently had to weight down Kerry voters and weight up Bush voters to conform to the election result, there are certainly reasons to be cautious about that poll's measurement of a characteristic so closely correlated with the presidential vote. It is also possible the NEP's measurement reflects less a change in underlying sentiment among the electorate and more a change in who showed up at the polls on election day.

It doesn't exactly settle the issue, but it's worth drawing people's attention to a report on party ID trends recently released by the Annenberg Election Survey. According to the report, in about 45,000 interviews of registered voters (RVs) conducted from December, 1999 through January, 2001, Democratic identifiers led Republican identifiers by 33.7 percent to 29.9 percent, a 3.8 point Democratic advantage essentially identical in size to that measured by VNS in the 2000 exit poll.

Annenberg conducted about 68,000 interviews of RVs from October 2003 to mid-Novmber, 2004 and found only a slight diminution in the Democratic party ID advantage to 2.8 points (34.6 percent Democratic to 31.8 percent Republican). That's quite a different story than the one implied by 2004 NEP exit poll and, given the huge sample sizes in the Annenberg study, is certainly worthy of consideration.

November 21, 2004

American Prospect Hosts Debate on Tactics for the Dems

A November 19th debate in The American Prospect between Terence Samuel, chief congressional correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and American Prospect staff writer Matthew Yglesias considers alternative strategies for the Dems. Here’s a taste of the exchange:

Terence Samuel:

For Democrats trying to figure out what they need to do as an opposition party, there should be little confusion about how to approach the new role, or the newly acknowledged role. They have to come out slugging.

Republicans didn’t just let the Democrats dig their own grave, though that wasn’t an implausible strategy. They knew what they wanted and they fought for it… They actively went out and undermined and discredited the very foundations of the Democratic Party, slowly disassembling its coalition and appropriating its power

Matthew Yglesias:

On the point that the Democratic Party needs to fight, you'll get no argument from me. The question is which battles to fight and in what way. The model of the past four years has been characterized by the Republicans -- not unfairly -- as obstructionism, trying as hard as possible to block as many administration proposals as possible…

A better path would be to dedicate the bulk of Democratic time and attention to fulfilling the role played by opposition parties in the parliamentary democracies that the United States increasingly resembles. In other words, to outline an alternative agenda for the future.

There’s a lot more and it’s worth reading

Washington Post Notes That Colorado Was a Bright Spot for Dems

A November 21st Washington Post article notes that Colorado provides lessons for the Dems. The article begins:

When Democratic state chairmen gather in Florida next month to lick their wounds from the Nov. 2 election, their agenda will include a careful study of one bright spot in a generally sorry performance: Colorado, a solidly red state that went almost completely blue this year.

Despite a large Republican advantage in registered voters and the popularity of President Bush, who carried the state easily for the second time, Colorado Democrats picked up a U.S. Senate seat and House seat that had been considered safe for the GOP. They reversed Republican majorities in the state House and Senate to take control of the legislature. And they backed expensive ballot measures that passed by large majorities despite opposition from the GOP.

NYT Op-Ed Notes Broad Support for Environmental Measures in 2004 Election

A Nov 20th New York Times Op-Ed piece notes that environmental measures received wide support in last months election. Here are some excerpts.

Though nobody seemed to notice, Republican and Democratic voters seemed to be of similar minds on one issue this election: the environment. Across the country, in red states and blue states, Americans voted decisively to spend more money for natural areas, neighborhood parks and conservation in their communities. Of 161 conservation ballot measures, 120 - or 75 percent - were approved by voters. Three-and-a-quarter billion dollars were dedicated to land conservation.

...So what's the story? Simply put, these measures unify Americans. It's hard to be against new parks and trails, or to disagree with wanting to protect farms and forests from development. What's more, voters have learned that these measures often provide local solutions to water-quality problems: preserving natural natural lands in watersheds can help protect drinking water sources or reduce storm-water runoff.

...True, this year's election didn't turn on environmental issues. But the voters sent a message anyway: whether we're red or blue, we all have a little bit of green in us.

November 19, 2004

A Close-Up Look at Undecided Voters

A New Republic article by a Kerry canvasser who spoke with hundreds of undecided voters in the weeks before the election has some interesting insights into the ways many average voters think about political issues and candidates. Here are a few excerpts:

…Most undecided voters…seem to view politics the way I view laundry. While I understand that to be a functioning member of society I have to do my laundry, and I always eventually get it done, I'll never do it before every last piece of clean clothing is dirty, as I find the entire business to be a chore. A significant number of undecided voters, I think, view politics in exactly this way: as a chore, a duty, something that must be done but is altogether unpleasant, and therefore something best put off for as long as possible…

…Undecided voters, as everyone knows, have a deep skepticism about the ability of politicians to keep their promises and solve problems. So the staggering incompetence and irresponsibility of the Bush administration and the demonstrably poor state of world affairs seemed to serve not as indictments of Bush in particular, but rather of politicians in general. Kerry, by mere dint of being on the ballot, was somehow tainted by Bush's failures as badly as Bush was.

As a result, undecideds seemed oddly unwilling to hold the president accountable for his previous actions, focusing instead on the practical issue of who would have a better chance of success in the future. Because undecideds seemed uninterested in assessing responsibility for the past, Bush suffered no penalty for having made things so bad; and because undecideds were focused on, but cynical about, the future, the worse things appeared, the less inclined they were to believe that problems could be fixed--thereby nullifying the backbone of Kerry's case. Needless to say, I found this logic maddening…

There’s a lot more, and it provides an interesting addition to the discussion about why the election went the way it did.

November 18, 2004

Did Bush Really Get 44 Percent of the Hispanic Vote?

I very strongly doubt it. This claim is based, first and foremost, on the finding in the National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll, the nation’s largest and by far most influential, exit poll. But that finding, if carefully scrutinized, seems highly implausible for a variety of reasons. I lay these out below and conclude that a more reasonable estimate for Bush’s Hispanic support this year is around 39 percent.

Start with the Texas exit poll. That poll shows Bush with an astonishing 59 percent of the Hispanic vote. That’s an increase of 16 points in Bush’s support over 2000 and a shift in margin of 29 points (from an 11 point deficit to an 18 point lead).

The poll also claims that this mega-shift happened at the same time that Bush’s support was being compressed among whites. Bush’s support, the exit poll claims, dropped by a point among Texas whites compared to 2000, at the same time as Kerry’s support among Texas whites rose by 4 points compared to Gore’s. So Texas’ favorite son runs for re-election and widens his margin among white voters practically everywhere–except Texas, where he loses ground! But among Hispanics in Texas, he gets a massive 29 point shift in his favor.

This pattern just doesn’t make sense. But where the Texas poll makes the least sense of all is when you try to match them up with the county-level voting returns. If Bush was pulling over 70 percent of the white vote and almost 60 percent of the Hispanic vote, how on earth did he lose any counties in Texas....like (racial composition figures based on voting age population):

Brooks county: 90 percent Hispanic, 10 percent white (68-32 Kerry)

Dimmit county: 83 percent Hispanic, 16 percent white, 1 percent black (66-33 Kerry)

Duval county: 86 percent Hispanic, 13 percent white, 1 percent black (71-28 Kerry)

El Paso county: 75 percent Hispanic, 20 percent white, 3 percent black (56-43 Kerry)

Hidalgo county: 85 percent Hispanic, 14 percent white (55-45 Kerry)

Jim Wells county: 73 percent Hispanic, 23 percent white (54-46 Kerry)

Maverick county: 94 percent Hispanic, 4 percent white (59-40 Kerry)

Starr county: 97 percent Hispanic, 2 percent white (74-26 Kerry)

Webb county: 94 percent Hispanic, 6 percent white (57-43 Kerry)

My, my, where could those 59 percent Bush-voting Hispanics be hiding in the great state of Texas? Perhaps in the big urban areas like Harris county (Houston)? Well, let’s see, if we figure Hispanics are at least a sixth of Harris county voters (probably more, but let’s be conservative), then, by themselves, they would push up Bush’s margin, compared to 2000, by five points if they really voted for him at the 59 percent rate (and it should be even higher to balance the apparently way-under-59 percent Hispanics in these other Texas counties). But wait!–Bush’s margin actually contracted in Harris county by a point. Maybe black voters (18 percent of the Harris county VAP) moved the needle back the other way? Seems unlikely if we believe the Texas exit poll: it says Bush improved his margin among black voters by 19 points in 2004!

That just deepens the mystery. To account for the slight shift away from Bush in Harris county, we would then have to assume that Harris county whites reduced their margin for Bush by 12 points or more in 2004.

Similar exercises could be performed on other counties, but these examples should suffice to make the point: the 59 percent figure, as common sense would suggest, is clearly a gross overestimate of Texas Hispanics’ support for Bush in 2004.

That puts the national exit poll figure for Hispanics off to a bad start:. In 2000, Texas Hispanics were 10 percent of the national exit polls’ Hispanic sample and this year they will likely be substantially more (the latest Census population projection put Texas Hispanics at 19 percent of the nation’s Hispanic VAP and the Texas exit poll has Hispanics at 23 percent of Texas voters this year, compared to just 10 percent in 2000).

And we would expect Bush’s support in the southern region of the national exit poll, which includes Texas, to be particularly skewed by the Texas figure. That it is, it’s.......64 percent! Wait a minute–64 percent: that’s even higher than the Texas figure! Maybe it’s the inclusion of Florida in the southern region sample? Nope, the Florida exit poll says Hispanics voted 56 percent for Bush, 3 points less than their Texas counterparts (amazing in and of itself!)

Only two other states in the southern region (Georgia and Oklahoma) have Hispanic breakouts available, so can’t directly find all the missing pro-Bush Hispanics. But, as the astute conservative analyst and number-cruncher, Steve Sailer, has calculated, if you take the given Hispanic Bush support rates for the four available states and figure the number of Hispanic Bush votes that implies from those four states, you can then estimate how many Hispanic Bush votes must have come from the non-broken-out states (given their percentage of overall voters in those states, which the NEP has released) to produce the number of southern Bush Hispanic votes indicated by the 64 percent support figure. Well, I suppose the Hispanics in those other states could have produced those missing votes–but only if they voted early and often: they would have had to support Bush at the rate of 190 percent! (Read Sailer’s analysis in its entirety for all the details on these calculations.)

There are similar problems with the other regions of the national exit poll. In the west, the NEP says that Bush’s Hispanic support rose by 11 points (from 28 to 39 percent). But the NEP California exit poll says that Bush’s Hispanic support in that state rose by only 4 points over 2000 (from 28 to 32 percent). Given that California Hispanic voters are over three-fifths of this entire region’s Hispanic voters, that puts a heavy burden on the other states of West to produce this 11 point jump in support for Bush. Indeed, as Steve Sailer has calculated, once you take into account the other released Bush support rates for Hispanics in western states, Hispanics in the remaining states in the West must have supported Bush at the rate of 167 percent to reconcile the released state figures with the western region figure.

Sailer’s similar calculations for the midwest (123 percent Bush support among Hispanics in non-broken-out states) and the east (95 percent) show this problem affects all regions, albeit not as severely as the south and west.

OK, so what’s the explanation for this particular set of anomalies?–that is, even accepting all the various state-level Hispanic figures as gospel, including the absurd Texas figure, why do we get these crazy mismatches between the state figures and the regional figures from the national poll?

It seems to me there are two logical possibilities. One is that the Hispanic respondents included in the national poll systematically differ from those included in the state poll. So, for example, if Texas Hispanics in the state poll support Bush at 59 percent, those Texas Hispanic respondents included in the national poll support him at, say, 67 percent. Or California Hispanic respondents in the national poll support Bush at 39 percent, not 32 percent. And so on.

That strikes me as less likely than the other possibility. We know the national exit poll took some pretty serious weighting to get it to match up with the actual election figures. This suggests that, for example, even Hispanics that were already sampled/weighted in the Texas exit poll to have a 59 percent support rate for Bush were probably further weighted toward Bush in the process of getting the national exit poll “corrected”. The same logic would apply to the other states–Hispanic respondents from those states in the national poll got an additional “push” toward Bush that makes their Bush support rates higher than those measured at the state level.

If this has happened, it’s worth noting that in the 2000 VNS poll this problem does not appear to have occurred. If you take the Hispanic proportions of voters in each state in the 2000 poll and the Hispanic support rates for Bush in each of those states, you can calculate a state-based 2000 Bush support rate and compare it to the national rate. They are very close: the state-based rate is 34 percent and the national rate is 35 percent.

All this leaves us with a question: if 44 percent is the wrong level for Bush’s support among Hispanics, what is the right level? Of course, we’ll never really know for sure, but I am persuaded, by playing with the numbers and making some reasonable assumptions to correct the anomalies in the NEP that it is somewhere around 39 percent. That is also Sailer’s conclusion and that of the National Council of La Raza, whose extremely useful review of 2004 poll and voting data on Hispanics I recommend to you.

If the 39 percent figure is about right, that would mean Bush improved his standing among Hispanics by 4 points–about his gain in support among voters overall. That makes sense to me and is certainly no cause for complacency among Democrats. But there is no reason to panic either: Bush made gains among Hispanics, as he did among most voter groups, but not a breakthrough.

November 17, 2004

New Analysis Confirms Complexity of Religious Vote

A new analysis of the religious vote in 2004 conducted by Steven Waldman and John Green and appearing on the beliefnet.com website, confirms and elaborates on trends noted by EDM authors Ruy Teixeira in his November 8th analysis and Alan Abramowitz in his November 6 post.

While conservative protestant evangelicals were the most visible religious supporters of George W Bush, Bush also obtained increased margins among a number of other groups that contributed as much or more to his overall margin of victory.

The results are important because they contradict the oversimplified “us vs. them” kinds of analyses that can lead Democrats to overestimate the significance of very conservative religious voters and to underestimate the importance of regaining the support of the more moderate.

Harold Meyerson Argues Dems Can Find New Message in Challenges of Global Economy

In a November 17th Washington Post column Harold Meyerson argues that the Dems can find an appealing electoral message by proposing solutions for the profound insecurity created by the global economy. Here are some excerpts from his piece:


Democrats are good at policies. But all too often the campaigns lack a message -- a sense of what the candidate's about and what he aims to do…

Time was when the Democrats were the party of economic justice and opportunity, the party that championed emerging constituencies as well as classes: Catholics, blacks, women…

But, with the signal exception of Clinton's '92 campaign -- a brilliant mix of economic progressivism and cultural centrism -- the Democrats haven't been able to persuade enough voters to choose them as their champions for a very long time. And Clinton's ability to deliver on that promise once in office was a sometime thing. Full employment made life better for the people at the bottom of the economy. But the erosion of the decent jobs of the old industrial economy never really stopped (and, of course, has escalated greatly under Bush), and the jobs that replaced them more often than not offered lower pay, fewer benefits and less security…

[T]he Republicans have developed a clear response to these changes: They are the party of risk, which they call "opportunity." This is most certainly not why Bush won reelection; Americans are not pining to pay for their health coverage or retirement or college tuition with no assist from their employers or their government…

Historically the Democrats have been the party of security, but that's an identity they need to reclaim. ….The challenge of a global labor market demands more of them than a commitment to mid-career retraining; defending the American middle class means creating the kind of global standards that the Democrats created on the national level during the 1930s and '40s, the time of their greatest popularity. That's a daunting challenge, one that requires the Democrats to think and develop a story about the new threats to the American dream. If they do they'll come up with a more plausible list of culprits -- and solutions -- than the Republicans ever will. They may even come up with a new sense of self, with a purpose, with a theme.

November 16, 2004

Pew Survey Reveals That Question Design Influences Voters Choice of "Values" or "Iraq" as Most Important Issue

A November 11th survey by the Pew Research Center reveals that moral values and Iraq reverse positions as the most important issue depending on how the question is asked. Here's what the report says:

Since the election, there has been considerable debate over the relative importance of moral values to voters. More than one-in-five (22%) of those questioned by the National Election Pool on behalf of the Associated Press and the major networks cited moral values as the most important issue in their vote, from a list of seven items on the exit poll questionnaire. In Pew's post-election survey, half of the respondents were presented with the same list of issues as on the exit poll ­ and asked to choose which was most important ­ while half were asked an open-ended version of the question.

Among those offered the seven-item list, a plurality of 27% selected moral values, followed by 22% who chose Iraq and 21% who selected the economy and jobs. Terrorism was chosen by 14%; education and health care were chosen by 4% each and taxes by 3% (see chart on pg. 2).

The responses were significantly different among those who were not offered a fixed list of choices. The war in Iraq was mentioned as the single most important issue by a similar number (25%), but the economy and jobs were mentioned by only 12%; and only 9% mentioned terrorism. Notably, just 9% used the terms "moral values," "morals," or "values." Specific social issues ­ including abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research ­ were volunteered by 3%, while another 2% cited the candidates' morals.


It makes you wonder what the results would have looked like if the exit polls had included "lying to the American people" as one of the choices for most important issue

National Journal Article Debunks "Mandate" Myth

A November 12th National Journal article by Jonathan Rauch takes apart a series of myths about what the 2004 election signified. The first three paragraphs nicely sum it up.

The election of 2004 was one of the greatest of our era, but the post-election of 2004 was as bad as they come. Rarely have election returns been so widely but wrongly -- in fact, dangerously -- misconstrued.

A quick post-post-election exit poll: Which of the following two statements more accurately describes what happened on November 2?

A) The election was a stunning triumph for the president, the Republicans, and (especially) social conservatives. Because the country turned to the right, President Bush received a mandate, the Republicans consolidated their dominance, and the Democrats lost touch with the country.

B) Bush and the Republicans are on thin ice. Bush barely eked out a majority, the country is still divided 50-50, and the electoral landscape has hardly changed, except in one respect: The Republican Party has shifted precariously to the right of the country, and the world, that it leads.

Usual answer: A. Correct answer: B.


It gets better. Read it as a "pick-me-up" for Election Day blues.

Palast and Manjoo Debate whether Kerry Really Won Ohio

Harpers' Magazine contributing editor Greg Palast and Salon business and technology writer Farhad Manjoo continue the debate - discussed in posts here and here - regarding the possibility that John Kerry actually won Ohio

FDR and Values

Andrei Cherny, writing in the New Republic, examines how Democrats talked about values during the New Deal era and how Democrats can revive that tradition today.

Economic Policy Institute Economist Says Economic Issues Still Potent Vote-Getter

Writing in The American Prospect, Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute suggests why economic issues can still work for the Dems.

November 14, 2004

The Spatial Distribution of Bush's Vote Gains

Between 2000 and 2004, there was a net shift of about 4 million votes in Bush's direction. On November 9, I posted a brief analysis of where Bush's vote gains came from by state. I now have had a chance to conduct some analysis of the county-level results from 2004 and they provide some very intriguing insights into the spatial distribution of Bush's vote gains. These insights challenge the conventional wisdom about where Bush's vote gains came from and appear to contradict the exit poll's findings from this year about the spatial distribution of Bush's gains.

First, my analysis finds that only about a quarter of Bush's net vote gains from 2000 to 2004 came from the nation's "ideopolises" (see this piece in Blueprint magazine for an explanation of the term) and three-quarters--the vast majority--came from less technically advanced metro areas and from rural areas.

Second, my analysis shows that Bush made gains across the board (sometimes less, sometimes more than the conventional wisdom has indicated) when you examine counties sorted into 10 categories, going from most urban to most rural. (This analysis uses the rural-urban continuum codes developed by Calvin Beale of the USDA's Economic Research Service.)

Starting with the most urban counties, those that are central counties of large (1 million or more) metro areas, Bush improved his vote margin by 2.4 percentage points (i.e., he narrowed his margin of loss to about 55-44). His gains in these areas accounted for about 19 percent of his total net vote gain.

In fringe or exurban counties of these large metro areas, Bush improved his winning margin by 6.7 points (to 62-38). But because these exurban areas contain far fewer people than the central counties, Bush received only 13 percent of his vote gains from these counties.

More important to Bush's vote gains were medium-sized metro areas (250,000 to a million in population), where he improved his winning margin by 3.5 points (about the national average). But because of the large number of people in medium-sized metro areas, Bush received over a quarter (26 percent) of his net vote gain from these counties.

In small metro areas (less than 250,000 population), Bush improved his margin by 2.4 points and received about 8 percent of his net vote gain.

Turning to nonmetro counties, which are typically considered "rural" and which have urban concentrations that range from a high of 50,000 a low of under 2,500, Bush did the best in nonmetro counties that are adjacent to a metro area and have an urban population of between 2,500 and 20,000. In these counties, he improved his margin by 6.4 points and received 15 percent of his overall net vote gain.

In the other five types of rural counties (see the rural-urban continuum codes cited above), Bush improved his margin by from 2.2 to 4.2 points and--putting all these other rural counties together--received 18 percent of his net vote gain.

How do these findings match up with the exit poll findings on Bush's performance in different types of areas? Not very well at all.

Consider this: the exit polls say that Bush's margin was compressed both in their "rural areas" category (shrinking by 3 points) and in their other nonmetro category, "cities and towns, 10,000 to 50,000 population" (shrinking by an astonishing 19 points, from a 21 point to a 2 point margin).

It's very hard to square this with the findings cited above on Bush's gains in all categories of nonmetro counties, from the most rural to the least.

Or consider this: the exit polls say that Bush improved his margin by an incredible 24 points (going from a 71-26 deficit to 60-39) in "cities of over 500,000" population and improved by an almost as stunning 17 points (going from a 57-40 deficit to dead-even) in "cities and towns, 50,000 to 500,000 in population". But a glance at the findings above for the different metro categories fails to find anything even remotely consistent with these shifts.

While the exit polls use different categories (cities of different sizes, suburbs, etc.) that are not county-based, it would take a hell of a story to reconcile these findings by pointing to the differences between categories.

So put a big question mark by those exit poll spatial findings. They just don't square with analysis of the actual votes that were cast and where Bush made his gains.

Much more of this county-based analysis to come! I'm just getting started and will shortly be taking a look at some of the more interesting states in '04 election.

God, Guns and Gays: Testing the Conventional Wisdom About the 2004 Election

As the conventional wisdom settles in about the 2004 election, it is, as always, subject to challenge in many important ways.

Alan Abramowitz does some important spadework on this conventional wisdom in his slide show, "God, Guns and Gays: Testing the Conventional Wisdom About the 2004 Election". I think you'll enjoy it and find it a source of much useful (and some surprising) data.

November 12, 2004

Do the Exit Polls Indicate Voter Fraud?

There are two lines of analysis that are typically used to justify the claim that the 2004 election result was somehow stolen by the GOP. The first is various bits and pieces of "evidence"--the precincts in Cuyahoga County, Ohio with more votes than registered voters, the counties in Florida (Baker, Holmes) with huge Bush margins but big Democratic registration advantages, etc.--that supposedly indicate vote tampering. I find this evidence profoundly unconvincing and think Farhad Manjoo and others have it basically right: there's not a lot of there there. Vote tampering does not appear to have happened on the scale necessary to affect this election.

The second line of analysis invokes the now-infamous early releases of the NEP exit poll data, which showed Kerry with a 3 point national lead, solidly ahead in Ohio and also leading in Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico. The reasoning, laid out most clearly in a paper, "The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy", by Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, is that exit polls are very accurate surveys and highly unlikely to produce the results referred to above by chance if the real world results truly were +3 Bush, etc. Therefore, the reasoning goes, our measurement of the real world (the actual vote counts) must be wrong and the original exit poll results right. Conclusion: there's something very funny going on with this election.

But there is a huge problem with this line of reasoning. The exit polls have always drawn samples that are off the real world results and have always had to be corrected (weighted) to eliminate bias, reflect new turnout patterns and, in the end, just flat-out conform to the election results. This year is no different (though it is possible that the magnitude of these corrections has been greater than normal).

Here is my understanding of how the exit poll samples are weighted, based on what I have been able to ferret out so far. (No doubt, I'm not getting it entirely right, but it's damnably difficult to track down good information about this--exit pollsters have never made much effort to publicly explain and document their methods.)

1. Samples are weighted to correct for oversampling of precincts (for example, exit polls have historically selected minority precincts in some states at higher rates than other precincts) and for non-response bias (exit poll interviewers try to keep track of refusers by sex, race and age).

2. Samples are weighted to correct for changing turnout patterns in the current election, since the sample design is based on past turnout behavior.

3. Samples are, in end, simply weighted to correspond to the actual election results. This is done by first weighting exit poll results in sample precincts to the true precinct results, as they are known, and then weighting the overall sample to the overall election result, once it is known.

At what point are these various weighting procedures performed? That's difficult to say because of the lack of public documentation of exit pollsters' methods. But it appears to be the case that weighting of flavors one and two takes place at least partially during the day (and continuously through the day), while the third flavor naturally has to wait until actual election results start to become available.

So where were we in this extremely complicated weighting process when those first +3 Kerry exit polls hit the CNN website? Who knows? (And exit pollsters have not exactly clarified the issue since).

But it's certainly clear that those data had not yet been weighted (or at least very much) to reflect the actual election outcome (again, part of standard exit poll procedure, not anything peculiar to this year). But how much had they been weighted to reflect the other factors (1. and 2.) mentioned above?

Possibly much of this weighting had already been done. If so, then the rest of the sample correction--that took their data from +3 Kerry to +3 Bush--was done by good old-fashioned weighting to the election outcome. Or perhaps it was some combination of additional weighting for factors 1. and 2. plus weighting to the election outcome.

Who knows? Again, exit pollsters don't seem to be particularly eager to share this information. Nor do they seem particularly eager to clarify how common it has historically been for exit poll samples at that time on election day to be that far off from the actual election result.

The issue of historical comparisons is an important one. Part of what has led to the brouhaha over this year's exit poll is people's lack of knowledge about how exit polls have been conducted in the past.

Consider this. The unweighted--completely unweighted--data from the last four presidential elections before this year are as follows:

1988: Dukakis, 50.3; Bush, 49.7

1992: Clinton, 46; Bush, 33.2

1996: Clinton, 52.2; Dole, 37.5

2000: Gore, 48.5; Bush, 46.2

President Dukakis? Obviously, the unweighted data have always been highly problematic and--interestingly--have always shown a strong Democratic bias. Now these unweighted data from past years do not, admittedly, correspond to where we were in the weighting process on election night this year when the +3 Kerry poll hit the 'net--those data had presumably already been weighted to some extent to correct for factors 1. and 2.--but it is still food for thought.

Of course, it's entirely possible that exit poll samples this year, controlling for similar points in the weighting process, were more "off" than in past years. I can't say at this point and I urge the NEP to make the appropriate historical comparisons available to answer the question. But, even if so, this is hardly evidence of skulduggery in the real world; much more likely it reflects the enormous--and perhaps increasing--difficulties of conducting surveys of this complexity in a rapidly changing country.

Of course, additional inaccuracy in the exit poll samples this year (if true) is not a development completely devoid of implications. It could mean that some of the specific results from the survey are less reliable than in the past. (I personally have my doubts about some of the numbers, like those for Hispanics.) But that's a far cry from assuming an election has been somehow stolen or tainted.

My advice: calm down and concentrate on what's really important--beating them next time.

Strategy Notes:
John Belisarius

How Big A Role Did Fraud, Ballot Theft and Suppression of the Vote Play in The Election?

In the last few day's accusations of massive vote fraud, ballot theft and suppression of the Democratic vote during the 2004 elections have mushroomed to such a level that both the New York Times and the Washington Post have given the charges front page coverage.

Unfortunately, almost all the discussion of this issue has become focused on the specific question of whether a sufficient number of votes might have been stolen or suppressed to have changed the outcome of the election. In many cases, the unstated assumption seems to be that if such violations did not rise to the level where they changed the result then they can safely be ignored.

That's the wrong way to look at this issue. What the vast majority of Democrats find most disturbing about 2004 is that Bush's victory was based on a pervasive strategy of dishonesty--a dishonesty that included major distortions of Kerry's record by the Bush campaign's own television commercials, outright lies told by the Swift Boat Veterans, grotesque distortions circulated among rural or minority voters (such as the claim that Democrats would take away religious people's bibles or that Martin Luther King was a Republican), flyers listing false reasons why voters should believe themselves disqualified, leaflets and phone calls falsely announcing changes in polling places and phony voter registration groups that collected and then destroyed voter registration forms.

Layered on top of this were techniques for suppressing the vote in Democratic areas that included last minute changes in polling places, use of felon lists known to be inaccurate and the provision of inadequate numbers of voting machines and ballots.

It is this entire pattern of appallingly anti-democratic behavior that should be at the center of the national discussion today, and not just the specific question of whether these kinds of activities--along with any direct theft or alteration of votes by electronic or punch card voting machines--could have risen to a level sufficient to reverse Bush's victory.

Regarding the precise amount of voter fraud and suppression that actually occurred during the election, data are still trickling in. A widely quoted article by Harpers magazine writer Greg Palast pulled together a variety of issues to draw the conclusion that Kerry might actually have won the election. Follow-up articles in Salon and The Nation by Farhad Manjoo and David Corn, however, while entirely sympathetic to Democrats basic suspicions and complaints, reviewed Palast's evidence and reached the opposite conclusion.

The debate is not over. Two web sites that continue to collect and evaluate reports from around the country are the Election Incident Reporting System and the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project.

But the most important thing for Democrats to remember about this debate is that they should not allow it to be reduced simply to the question of whether or not the election was "stolen". What vast numbers of Democrats as well as many moderates and independent voters already believe and believe very strongly is that Bush's victory was based on a campaign that was deeply, deeply dishonest and profoundly unfair.

November 10, 2004

Solving the Paradox of 2004

Or, as the subtitle of Democracy Corps' new memo on their postelection poll puts it, "Why America Wanted Change But Voted for Continuity". (You can find the full topline here and an extensive chartpack from the poll here.)

The memo gives as good an account of this paradoxical result as we have so far. Here are some relevant excerpts, but I urge you to read the memo in full and consult the extensive supporting material:

...The president and his campaign acted boldly to create an election dynamic that enabled Bush to escape the consequences of his incumbency and the public’s desire for change. That included a contrast on character and leadership, though that would not have saved the president. More important was the attack on Kerry on abortion and gay marriage and the extreme cultural polarization of the country. That proved effective at the end because the president was able to keep the election centered on safety (the terrorist threat) and values, rather than on Iraq and the stagnant economy. Bush asked people to vote their beliefs and feelings, rather than to judge his performance or ideas for the future.

That is why George Bush’s vote on Election Day exceeded his pre-election job approval and exceeded his final poll numbers.

...John Kerry and his campaign were in a position to win the presidency, falling short at the end. While Kerry crossed the threshold on security, he was weighed down by doubts about his convictions and authenticity and cultural baggage that left him short with rural, many blue collar, non-college educated and union voters, and Hispanics. In the end, Kerry was unable to make the economy a central point of choice and change or break through with his vision for creating better jobs with more affordable health care. When that became apparent in the last week, large sections of downscale America shifted, opting to vote their values, rather than their economic worries. That produced a cultural surge at the end, an intensified polarization that took down many Democrats in rural states and the South, that diminished their blue collar support generally and that allowed George Bush to get a national majority from red America.

...A sizeable majority felt the country was headed in the wrong direction; their top issues remained the economy and jobs and Iraq, along with the war on terrorism. Indeed, many more voters said they wanted an election about the economy and health care, rather than about how to keep America safe (52 to 41 percent).

...The answer [to the question of why a change electorate re-elected the incumbent] lies in the success of the Bush campaign in defining John Kerry and in keeping the campaign centered on safety and values to the end. It also lies in the inability of the Democrats to make the economy and their vision for the country compelling for the electorate, particularly those most hurt by current changes. Together, that gave us the cultural polarization of the 2004 election.

...[T]he very late deciders, either broke evenly or more for Kerry, as one would expect in an incumbent election. But...that was swamped by the shift of downscale voters in the final week and a half, as values trumped the undeveloped economic concerns. In that period, the vote broke for Bush by 55 to 44 percent.

...Many of these downscale voters were concerned about economic problems as well as moral decline. They mostly hung back from Bush, many providing him with less support than in 2000, until the final 10
days of the election. This pattern was most evident for the following groups:

• Among white rural voters – key to what happened in so many battleground states and in so many U.S. Senate races – Bush’s vote was at only 57 percent, 6 points below where Bush stood in 2000. But about 10 days out, they broke, ultimately giving Bush what he achieved four years earlier.

• Among white older non-college educated women, Bush’s vote had fallen
to 45 percent, 5 points below his 2000 level, though the vote started to break 10 days out and moved to Bush in the final weekend, ultimately reaching 58 percent.

• The white older non-college educated men also lagged for Bush. In the last week, Bush’s vote stood at 52 percent, 6 points below the 2000 level, but they broke Bush on Election Day.

• White seniors were lagging for Bush right to the end, with Bush 4 points below the 2000 level. But with few material issues being debated in 2004 – no “lock box” – seniors voted their moral concerns, giving Bush a stunning 59 percent. (In The Two Americas, Greenberg highlighted how seniors have always given Republicans about 60 percent of their votes before seniors issues were contested, starting in 1992.)

...In this final phase, unfortunately, the economic issues slipped away for the Democrats. After the debates, voters preferred Kerry over Bush on the economy by up to 7 points, but in the final week that slipped to just 2 points. More importantly, the issue focus moved away from the economy and to Iraq. Both during the debates and on Election Day, a third of the voters said terrorism was their top voting issue. Iraq grew in importance through the final weeks – up from 19 to 26 percent – but at the expense of the economy and jobs, which dropped from 35 to 28 percent. This election moved away from the Democrats’ key issues and choice in the final phase of voter decision-making.

When the economy slipped away as an issue in this final phase, Bush was in a strong position to consolidate these voters on their worries about terrorist and safety and their worries about John Kerry on the cultural issues and his values. That led to the late shift of white rural, blue collar, and senior voters to Bush. That gave Bush his narrow national majority.

So there you have it: a very plausible description of how Bush managed to win this election--a description that adds a great deal of important detail to the generally superficial newspaper accounts of Bush's victory. Lacking, however, is much of an explanation for why this cultural surge at the end of the campaign took place and what, if anything, Democrats could have done to forestall it.

That's a tough one--and one we're all going to have to think about.

Harold Meyerson Notes Continuing Democratic Unity

An excellent piece by Harold Meyerson in Wednesday's Washington Post emphasizes the vitally important fact that Democrats are not falling back into division and back-biting in the aftermath of the elections. Here are a few highlights:

Listen closely. That silence you hear is the sound of Democrats not recriminating.

We are, to be sure, post-morteming like nobody's business. It could scarcely be otherwise after the most heartbreaking defeat just about any Democrat can recall. But this year, I sense, there is a little more consensus than conflict -- and a lot more confusion than either -- Democratic ranks about what went wrong and where we go from here.

To begin, there's a genuine respect for John Kerry that will spare him from the kind of morning-after rage that many Democrats directed at Al Gore four years ago. Kerry, and Kerry alone (well, with some help from George Bush), put himself back into contention with his three debate performances. They did not win him the White House, but they won him a respite from the kind of backbiting for which we Dems are justly famous.

That's not to say we don't all have criticisms of Kerry's campaign. It was too slow to respond to the summer's character assassinations. Kerry's plan for Iraq never sounded very plausible, but that's chiefly because the administration has made such a hash of the war that there are no good alternative policies..Above all, Kerry was unable to sufficiently press the Democrats' advantage on issues such as health care, education and jobs.

...

In large ways and small, campaign 2004 was marked by unprecedented Democratic unity. That's one reason why the defeat feels so shattering: The whole team was on the field, working together as well as if not better than ever before.

For this reason among others, the Democrats' postgame analysis has not yet assumed its accustomed form of a circular firing squad. Among Democrats I speak to from all corners of the party, the same points come up over and over again. The mobilization of the Democratic base that the party and the "527" groups threw themselves into this year remains essential, but it is plainly not a ticket to victory in itself. Democrats cannot go into the next presidential election with just a handful of states truly in play; they need to be competitive in more red states to keep the Republicans from concentrating their resources in Florida and Ohio and some borderline blue states.Above all, the fact that the only two successful Democratic presidential nominees since Lyndon Johnson were both governors of Southern states now looms hugely in Democratic calculations.

Read the whole article, it's worth it.

November 9, 2004

Where Did Bush's Gains Come From?

In 2000, Bush lost the popular vote by about half a million votes. In 2004, Bush won the popular vote by 3.5 million votes. That's a shift in Bush's direction of 4 million net votes.

Where did this shift in margin--these 4 million votes--come from?

It is possible to answer this question by comparing Bush's margin in individual states in 2000 with his margins in those same states in this election. This analysis shows the following:

1. About half of Bush's gains came from the solid red states--those states that gave Bush a margin of 6 or more points in 2000. And about half of these gains in the solid red states (a quarter of Bush's total gains) came in just four specific states: Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia.

2. About a third of Bush's gains came from the solid blue states--those states Gore carried by 6 points or more in 2000. (In these states, Bush gained by reducing his deficits relative to 2000). And about three-quarters of Bush's gains in these solid blue states came from just three states: New York, New Jersey and California.

3. About a fifth of Bush's gains came from the "purple states"--those states that were decided in 2000 by less than 6 points (which includes almost all of the 2004 swing states). And almost all of Bush's gains in this group of states come from just two states: Florida and Tennessee.

Coming soon: analysis of the county-level vote.

November 8, 2004

A Tour of the 2004 Exit Poll: What It Says and What It Doesn't (Continued)

Today we continue our tour of the 2004 exit poll. (See yesterday's post for the beginning of the tour and few relevant technical notes.)

3. Whites by Gender. Democrats' falloff among whites appears to have been concentrated almost entirely among white women, rather than white men. This year, Bush carried white men by 25 points (62-37), only a point more than his 24 point margin in 2000 (60-36). In contrast, he carried white women by 11 points (55-44), a big improvement over the single point (49-48) by which he carried this group in 2000.

4. Education. Democrats’ slippage by education group was concentrated entirely among the non-college educated. Kerry split the college-educated as a whole evenly with Bush, just as Gore did in 2000, and actually carried those with a postgraduate education by 11 (55-44).

But, where Gore lost the non-college educated as a whole by just 2 (49-47), Kerry lost them by 6 (53-47), including an 8 point deficit among those with some college (up from a 6 point disadvantage in 2000) and a 5 point deficit among those with just a high school degree (up from just a single point disadvantage in 2000). Most startlingly, Kerry only carried high school dropouts by one point (50-49), while Gore had carried the same group by 20 points.

Given that Bush's increased margin came entirely from the non-college educated and given the increase in Bush's margin among white voters, we would expect that Bush's performance among white working class voters must have improved substantially. This cannot be estimated directly from the NEP poll because they haven't yet released that level of detail on their data. However, the Institute for America's Future and Democracy Corps conducted an extensive (2000 interviews) post-election survey and they found Bush winning white working class voters by about 24 points. The compares to a 19 point margin in Democracy Corps' 2000 post-election survey and a 17 point margin in the 2000 VNS exit poll.

Arguably, that's the story of the election right there. An additional wrinkle on the white working class vote is that this falloff was likely concentrated among white working class women, not men, judging from the figures cited above on Bush's big gains among white women, but no change among white men (however, this is an inference from the pattern of the data; no direct evidence on white class women vs. men is available from the NEP or DCorps surveys).

5. Income. It is fascinating to note that Kerry actually improved over Gore among income groups under $30,000: 63-36 vs. 57-37 among those with less than $15,000 and 57-42 vs. 54-41 among those between $15,000-$30,000. He did about the same as Gore among the $30,000-$50,000 group (50-49 vs. 49-48). But he lost considerable ground among those over $50,000, losing 56-43 vs. 51-46 among the 50-75K group; 55-45 vs. 52-45 among the 75-100K group and 58-41 vs. 54-43 among those over 100K.

6. Marriage. The "marriage gap" grew slightly in 2004. This was because, while Kerry's margin among unmarried voters stayed about the same as Gore's in 2000 (58-40 vs. 57-38), Bush's margin among married voters expanded from 9 to 15 points (57-42 vs. 53-44). This increased the marriage gap, depending on how you measure it, from 13-14 points in 2000 to about 17 points this year.

But Bush's margin among those who are married and have children expanded more modestly, from 56-41 in 2000 to 59-40 this year.

Data available from DCorps' post-election survey make it possible to compare white married voters by gender with their counterparts in 2000. This comparison shows Bush's margin among white married men staying about the same across elections and actually shrinking a bit among white unmarried men. But among white married women, his margin increases from 9 to 18 points and, among white unmarried women, he actually achieves a tie, compared to a 15 deficit in 2000.

7. Age. Kerry did very well with young voters this year, winning them 54-45, compared to a narrow 48-46 margin for Gore in 2000. On the other hand, Kerry lost seniors by 52-47, while Gore won them by 50-47.

A few more words on the youth vote. This marks the fourth straight presidential election where Democrats have won the youth vote. It is also, of those four elections, the one where youth's Democratic support was most out-of-line with the rest of population. In 2000, youth were only 2 points more Democratic than all voters; in 1996, they were 11 points more Democratic than all voters; and in 1992, they were 4 points more Democratic than all voters. But in this election, youth were 12 points more Democratic than all voters (+9 Democratic among youth vs. -3 among all voters).

In this election, youth were about 17 percent of voters. That's the same as the exit poll figure for 2000. Does this mean youth turnout didn't go up? Not at all. Even assuming the exit poll figures are correct (and personally I prefer the Census voter supplement data for looking at the demographic composition of the voting pool and assessing turnout trends), they merely mean youth turnout didn't go up any more than other groups in the electorate. In other words, youth turnout went up, but probably only 3-4 points, about the national average.

8. Religion and religious observance. Perhaps no feature of the 2004 election has received more attention than the allegedly central role of evangelical Christians and their high turnout in Bush's victory.

But the evidence that evangelicals were so very, very important (as opposed to merely important, which seems reasonable) is shockingly thin. Perhaps the main piece of evidence for this claim is that 23 percent of voters in the NEP exit poll were white "born-again or evangelical" Christians, who supported George Bush, 78-21.

That is indeed impressive. Trouble is, we have no idea how that compares to 2000, since the exit polls didn't ask the same question last time. Instead they asked a very different question about being part of the "religious right", which categorized 14 percent of voters as part of the white religious right. Clearly, to conclude from these two different questions that evangelical turnout increased from 14 to 23 percent from 2000 to 2004 is inappropriate.

Thomas Edsall in The Washington Post today nicely summarizes the correct way to look at these data:

Exit polls do not permit a direct comparison of how many evangelical and born-again Americans voted in 2000 and 2004 because the way pollsters identified these voters changed. Four years ago voters leaving polls were asked: "Do you consider yourself part of the conservative Christian political movement, also known as the religious right?" In 2004, the question was changed to: "Would you describe yourself as a born-again or evangelical Christian?"

Fourteen percent answered "yes" in 2000 and 23 percent did so in 2004, but polling specialists said the 2004 wording virtually assures more affirmative answers.

Admirably clear. OK, on to the next piece of evidence. This is the finding that 22 percent of voters--more than any other issue--said "moral values" were the most important to their vote and these voters supported Bush 80-18.

Again, pretty impressive. But again, we have no idea how this compares to 2000, when voters were not given a "moral values" or any other "values" choice but instead a list of actual issues (taxes, world affairs, Medicare/prescription drugs, health care, economy/jobs, education and social security). As Gary Langer, ABC News Polling Director points out:

[T]he exit poll...asked voters what was the most important issue in their decision: taxes, education, Iraq, terrorism, economy/jobs, moral values or health care. Six of these are concrete, specific issues. The seventh, moral values, is not, and its presence on the list produced a misleading result.

How do we know? Pre-election polls consistently found that voters were most concerned about three issues: Iraq, the economy and terrorism. When telephone surveys asked an open-ended issues question (impossible on an exit poll), answers that could sensibly be categorized as moral values were in the low single digits. In the exit poll, they drew 22 percent.

OK, next. The exit poll asks a question on the frequency of religious service attendance. And this question does show those who say they attend services more than weekly increasing slightly from 14 to 16 percent. On the other hand, the poll also shows those who say they attend weekly decreasing slightly from 28 to 26 percent, so the most observant segment of voters, those who attend services weekly or more, remained steady at 42 percent of voters. This hardly seems consistent with a wave of evangelical turnout.

Moreover, as Alan Abramowitz points out:

[B]etween 2000 and 2004, President Bush's largest gains occurred among less religious voters, not among more religious voters. Among those attending services more than weekly and those attending every week, support for Bush rose by 1 percent, from 63 percent in 2000 to 64 percent in 2004. However, among those attending services a few times a month, support for Bush rose by 4 points, from 46 percent to 50 percent, among those attending only a few times a year, support for Bush rose by 3 points, from 42 percent to 45 percent, and among those never attending services, support for Bush rose by 4 points, from 32 percent to 36 percent.

Bottom line: the President made gains across the board among voters, regardless of their degree of religious commitment but he made his largest gains among less religious voters.

None of this seems consistent with the idea that evangelical turnout and intense support from the most religious Americans put Bush over the top in 2004.

On to religion itself, independent of level of observance. The NEP exit poll shows that Protestants supported Bush by 19 points (59-40), compared to 14 points in 2000 (56-42). Among Catholics, there was an even larger swing in Bush's favor, going from a 50-47 Democratic advantage in 2000 to a 52-47 Republican advantage this year.

Unfortunately, we don't know how white Catholics' preferences changed this year, because NEP has not released the data. In 2000, Bush carried white Catholics by 7 points (52-45). It seems reasonable to assume that Bush carried this group by a significantly wider margin this year.

In addition, while Jews are a small proportion of voters (3 percent of voters this year) their margin for the Democrats shrank from 60 points in 2000 (79-19) to 49 points (74-25) this year.

On the other hand, among those who profess some other religion besides Christianity or Judaism, Democrats' margin of support rose from 34 points in 2000 to 51 points this year. And among those who say they have no religion, Democrats' margin of support rose from 31 to 36 points across the two elections.

OK. I'm running out of gas, so I'm going to have to stop right here. But there's much more to be covered and I hope to continue our tour soon. Ih the meantime, what we've covered so far should provide some food for thought.

Did Gay Marriage Referenda Help Bush Get Re-elected?

By Alan Abramowitz

An analysis of the results of last week's election indicates that the presence of gay marriage referenda on the ballot had no effect on the outcome of the presidential election at the state level.

There was a very strong correlation between President Bush's share of the vote in 2000 and his share of the vote in 2004 across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The president consistently ran a few percentage points ahead of his showing in 2000, but he did not improve on his 2000 performance any more in states with gay marriage referenda than in other states. In 11 states with gay marriage referenda on the ballot, the president increased his share of the vote from an average of 55.4 percent in 2000 to an average of 58.0 percent in 2004--an improvement of 2.6 percentage points. However, in the rest of the country the president increased his share of the vote from an average of 48.1 percent in 2000 to an average of 51.0 percent in 2004--an improvement of 2.9 percentage points.

Expanding the Playing Field

I don't always agree with what Ron Brownstein has to say but, in this case, I think he is very definitely onto something--and it is expressed with his usual clarity and solid research. His Washington Outlook column today in The Los Angeles Times is entitled, "Democrats Need a Red-Blooded Candidate to Stanch Losses" and is basically about how Democrats need to widen the playing field to compete effectively with the Republicans.

He argues:

In the congressional and presidential races, Democrats maintained the core of their support in the blue states that Al Gore won in 2000. But at both levels, the Democrats made scant headway in the red states Bush won last time.

That left Sen. John F. Kerry with too narrow a margin of error for reaching 270 electoral college votes and congressional Democrats with too few options for reversing the GOP majority. It also allowed Bush, far more than Kerry, to take the offense and erode the edges of the other side's coalition.

"We were not pressuring them in as many places as they were pressuring us," said Steve Elmendorf, Kerry's deputy campaign manager. "We were never really in play in a whole bunch of states Bush had won four years ago, and he was pushing us hard in states we won four years ago."

From this pattern, the lesson seems unavoidable. Democrats need a nominee who can effectively compete for more of the country than Kerry did — especially socially conservative regions such as the South and rural Midwest. That would give the Democrats more paths to an electoral college majority. A nominee with more appeal in the red states might also create a climate that enables the party to seriously contest more House and Senate seats.

And goes on to say:

If there's any solace for Democrats, it's that Bush hasn't built a coalition so broad that it's out of reach. The 29 states that Bush has carried both times equal 274 electoral college votes. The 18 Gore states that Kerry won plus the District of Columbia provide a base of 248 electoral college votes. Indeed, Democrats have now carried those 18 states in four consecutive elections. The party wouldn't need to move much from red to blue to squeeze out its own narrow majority in 2008.

But that will require a nominee who is able to expand the playing field. As a nominee, Kerry did many things well. But as a Massachusetts senator with a generally liberal voting record, especially on social issues, he labored to get off the runway in the states Bush carried last time.

I found his argument persuasive and one all Democrats will have to reckon with.

What Mandate?

Political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have an excellent article, "Popular Fiction" on The New Republic website today demolishing the absurd claim that Bush's narrow election victory constitutes some sort of mandate for his conservative economic and social policies.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

No sooner had the red and blue ink dried on the maps of election commentators than triumphant Republicans began talking about their clear mandate for an ambitious domestic agenda. The people have spoken, Republicans proclaimed, and what they have said is that they favor the conservative agenda on taxes, Social Security, health care, gay marriage, and abortion. The administration, their humble servant, has a solemn duty to execute their wishes. And so President Bush has promised to move forward with ambitious but still only vaguely outlined plans for Social Security privatization, tax simplification, and restrictions on lawsuits. "I have political capital and I intend to spend it," he declared.

....Although many pundits are saying that Bush trounced Kerry, the election was in fact exceedingly close by historical standards. In October, the American Political Science Association released the predictions of seven leading models of presidential elections. As an incumbent president running at a time of decent economic growth, Bush's average predicted vote was around 54 percent, meaning he significantly underperformed historical expectations.

....[E]verything we know about American opinion suggests that Bush is out of step with the public on all the issues he is now putting at the top of his "to do" list. During the election campaign, polls found that most Americans continue to be highly skeptical of the Republican tax-cut agenda and convinced that they have not benefited from it. In the final debate, Bush had to resort to the fudge of pointing out that the majority of his tax cuts went to "low- and middle-income Americans"--and while they did, the majority of benefits from his tax cuts did not.

....Against the backdrop of September 11, the Republican strategy worked well enough to gain a narrow victory. Yet winning narrowly on a campaign of mud and fear, and a strategy of hard-nosed partisan gerrymandering, does not a popular mandate for the conservative policy agenda make. Republicans like to compare the current president with Ronald Reagan. But in 1980, Reagan made clearly specified tax cuts the centerpiece of his campaign. And when he won a decisive victory, he could credibly claim a mandate to implement his pledge. That is simply not the case today.

I recommend you read the whole thing. You'll be glad you did.

November 7, 2004

A Tour of the 2004 Exit Poll: What It Says and What It Doesn't

Here are some observations on the 2004 exit poll data, based on the latest version of the data available. There is much to be explained and understood about these data and certainly legitimate questions can be raised about some of the findings. But the first task is simply to clarify what the poll actually says and does not say, because there is considerable confusion about this.

The figures used here are not the final figures, but, based on my experience in previous election cycles, they probably vary only slightly from the final numbers available when the exit poll authorities (in this case, the National Election Pool (NEP)) release a cleaned-up dataset in a couple of months with final weights.

All 2004 figures discussed here refer to the NEP exit poll not the Los Angeles Times exit poll, since the NEP poll is both substantially larger and far and away the most widely-used and cited. All 2000 figures refer to the 2000 exit poll by VNS, the NEP's predecessor.

1. Gender. According to the NEP poll, Bush carried men by 11 points (55-44), exactly the same margin he had in 2000 when he carried men by 53-42. Among women, however, Kerry's margin was only 3 points (51-48), down from the 11 point margin Gore had in 2000 (54-43). No matter how you measure the gender gap (add the margins and divide by 2 or simply subtract Democratic male support from Democratic female support), this means a substantial compression of the gender gap (from 11 or 12 points, down to 7) and it is entirely due to the Democrats' reduced margin among women.

2. Race. According to the NEP poll, 23 percent of voters this year were minorites, up from 19 percent in 2000, indicating the continued rapid expansion of the minority electorate.

The NEP poll says, however, that Bush widened his margin among white voters--still 77 percent of voters--to 17 points (58-41), up from a 12 point margin (54-42) in 2000. And among hispanics, now 8 percent of voters, the poll indicates a Kerry margin of only 53-44, a dramatic compression from Gore's 62-35 margin among the same group in 2000.

However, there is some dispute about whether the compression of the Democratic margin was as severe as indicated by this poll. An exit poll of Hispanics only by the William C. Velásquez Institute of San Antonio, which sampled 54 counties in the 14 states with the largest number of Latino registered voters, had 68 percent voting for Kerry and only 31 percent voting for Bush.

To further sow confusion, the NEP data on hispanics are now being reported in two different ways--as above, at 8 percent of voters and 53-44 Democratic support and at 6 percent of voters and 56-43 Democratic support in Sunday's New York Times. How did hispanics suddenly get demoted to 6 percent of voters? The answer is complicated, but here it is: the NYT for purposes of their historical chart uses a single race question to capture hispanics, as opposed to a race question plus another question on whether the respondent is of hispanic descent or not, which was included on both the 2000 and 2004 exit polls and is now used by CNN and practically everyone else. The NYT's reasoning for not using this new (and better) two question measure of hispanic respondents is that the historical hispanic data in their chart will at least all be measured in the same way.

I certainly see the point in apples-to-apples comparisons. On the other hand, since the new measure is undoubtedly a better one and we don't really believe the hispanic proportion of voters in 2000 was only 4 percent (as the single question hispanic series also indicates) and just 6 percent this year, it would be better, I think--as well as less confusing--for the NYT to go with the data that is the best and simply acknowledge a discontinuity in the exit poll times time series on hispanics between 1996 and 2000.

People will, after all, play the closest attention to the figures--both support rates and proportion of voters--from this year and, secondarily from 2000. Given that the figures from the two question hispanic measure for those two years are (a) better and (b) comparable with one another, it strikes me as a good idea to feature those data rather than the misleading single question hispanic data. Again, the discontinuity can then be footnoted for those that get into the data that far, but the average NYT reader will be provided with the most accurate measure of hispanic turnout and presidential support.

The data on blacks are much more straightforward. Among blacks, Kerry had an 88-11 margin, down only slightly from 2000's 90-9 margin for Gore. In fact, except for 2000 and Mondale's 1984 campaign, Kerry's margin among blacks is the highest obtained by a Democratic candidate since the exit polls started in 1976.

More exit poll fun tomorrow!

November 6, 2004

Religion and the 2004 Election

By Alan Abramowitz

There has been considerable speculation since last Tuesday that President Bush's victory in the presidential election was largely due to improved turnout and support for the president among strongly religious voters. This speculation has been reinforced by the finding in the national exit polls that 22 percent of voters cited "moral values" as the most important issue in the election and the adoption by overwhelming margins of constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in 11 states. But the evidence from the 2000 and 2004 national exit polls does not support this theory. First, there was almost no difference in reported frequency of church attendance between the voters in 2000 and the voters in 2004. Among voters in the 2000 election, 14 percent reported attending church services more than weekly, 28 percent reported attending every week, 14 percent reported attending a few times a month, 28 percent reported attending a few times a year, and 14 percent reported never attending services. Among voters in the 2004 election, 16 percent reported attending services more than weekly, 26 percent reported attending every week, 14 percent reported attending a few times a month, 28 percent reported attending a few times a year, and 15 percent reported never attending services. While the percentage attending more than weekly rose by 2 points, the percentage attending every week dropped by 2 points and the percentage never attending rose by 1 point.

More importantly, between 2000 and 2004, President Bush's largest gains occurred among less religious voters, not among more religious voters. Among those attending services more than weekly and those attending every week, support for Bush rose by 1 percent, from 63 percent in 2000 to 64 percent in 2004. However, among those attending services a few times a month, support for Bush rose by 4 points, from 46 percent to 50 percent, among those attending only a few times a year, support for Bush rose by 3 points, from 42 percent to 45 percent, and among those never attending services, support for Bush rose by 4 points, from 32 percent to 36 percent.

Bottom line: the President made gains across the board among voters, regardless of their degree of religious commitment but he made his largest gains among less religious voters.

November 5, 2004

How High Was Turnout in the 2004 Election?

By Alan Abramowitz

For the past two days The New York Times, among other publications, has been reporting that this year's voter turnout was higher than in any presidential election since 1968 and may even have exceeded the turnout in that election. Citing figures provided by Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, the Times reported that 59.5 percent of the voting age population turned out this year. This would be a truly remarkable achievement, if it were true. Unfortunately, it isn't. According to an October 24, 2004 press release from the U.S. Census Bureau, the current estimate of the voting age population of the United States is 217.8 million. Thus far, approximately 116 million votes have been tallied in the 2004 presidential election. That amounts to 53.3 percent of the current U.S. voting age population. In addition, an unknown number of late absentee and provisional ballots have not yet been counted. According to Mr. Gans, these could bring the final total of votes close to 120 million, although that seems overly optimistic.

Even if we accept this figure, however, that would only amount to 55 percent of the voting age population, not close to the level of turnout in the 1968 presidential election. Moreover, there are several reasons why it is highly unlikely that voter turnout in the United States will match the turnout levels of the 1960s any time in the near future. First, we have added 18-20 year-olds to the electorate and, even with an increase in turnout this year, the rate of turnout of this age group is far lower than that of those 21 and older. Second, the U.S. population today includes a much larger proportion of non-citizens who are ineligble to vote. During the 1960s, only about 2 percent of the voting age population consisted of non-citizens. Today, that figure is approximately 9 percent. When 2004 turnout is calculated as a proportion of the voting age citizen population, in fact, it was somewhere between 58 and 60 percent. But that is not what the Times and other media outlets have been reporting. The level of voter turnout in the 2004 election was very impressive compared with that of recent presidential elections, but as a proportion of the voting age population it was not nearly as high as that of the 1960s.

The Secrets of Bush's Success.....and How Democrats Can Come Back

I collaborated on an article with John Judis and Marisa Katz, "30 Years War: How Bush Went Back to the 1970s", which has just appeared in The New Republic. Here are some excerpt from the article, but I think you'll be interested in reading the whole thing.

George W. Bush's victory shows that the political strategy that conservative Republicans developed in the late 1970s is still viable. Bush won a large swath of states and voters that were once dependably Democratic by identifying Republicans as the party of social conservatism and national security. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry rallied a powerful coalition of minorities and college-educated professionals based in postindustrial metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In the future, this coalition may triumph on its own. But, in this election, Democratic successes in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and West could not make up for Republican successes in the South, the border states, the Southwest, and the Great Plains. Fittingly, the election was decided in Ohio--a state that combines the metropolitan North and the small-town South.

...Bush recreated the Reagan-era coalition by combining Brooks Brothers and Wal-Mart, the upper class and the lower middle class. He won wealthy voters--those who make over $200,000--by 63 to 35 percent. But he also won voters who had not completed college by 53 to 47 percent. If minorities, who voted predominately for Kerry, are excluded, Bush's margin among working voters was even higher. He reached these voters, who made up the bulk of his support, through opposition to gay marriage and abortion and through patriotic appeal as the commander-in-chief in a war against terrorism that seamlessly unites Osama bin Laden with Saddam Hussein. According to the Los Angeles Times, Bush's voters accorded the most importance to "moral/ethical values" and "terrorism/homeland security" in deciding their vote.

Kerry's Democratic coalition, by contrast, was composed of low-income minorities and upscale, college-educated professionals--two groups that, not coincidentally, were the least likely to accept the president's contention that the Iraq war was part of the war on terrorism. In national exit polls, Kerry got about 70 percent of the nonwhite vote. He tied Bush among voters with college degrees and bested him by 55 to 44 percent among voters who had engaged in postgraduate study. Kerry's voters, as one might expect, cared most about jobs and the war in Iraq. Luckily for Bush, however, voters without degrees still outnumber those with them. In Colorado, Kerry won voters with college degrees by 50 to 48 percent and those with postgraduate study by 55 to 43 percent. But Bush, by winning voters without degrees by 58 to 41 percent, was able to carry the state fairly easily.

....Kerry won not just big cities, but most of the large metropolitan areas dominated by professionals and immigrants. Kerry did very well in the West, Northeast, and parts of the Midwest because of the growth of high-tech metro areas. Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, and New Hampshire are now solidly in the Democratic fold. Illinois, New York, and California have become as thoroughly Democratic as Massachusetts. But, outside these states, Kerry's support among urban voters failed to carry the day. In North Carolina, Kerry actually did better than Al Gore in the state's key metro areas--Gore lost Charlotte's Mecklenburg County in 2000, but Kerry won it 52 to 48 percent. Nevertheless, Bush again won the state by about 13 percent, because he slaughtered Kerry outside Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, winning 64 percent in the Greensboro area, 60 percent in the rural, small-town east, and 59 percent in the mountain west.

...Bush was also fortunate in his opponent. John Kerry was an able debater, and his experience in Vietnam and on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee partially neutralized arguments that would have been made against other Democrats like former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. But Kerry, an aloof New Englander, operated at a distinct disadvantage among white, working-class voters. Unlike Bill Clinton, he had trouble convincing voters that he "felt their pain." In interviews conducted on the eve of the election, we asked white, working-class Bush supporters in Martinsburg, West Virginia, what they thought of Clinton. Even those who praised Bush for his "family values" said they had voted for Clinton and thought he was an "excellent president." But it wasn't Clinton's politics they preferred; it was Clinton himself, despite the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Gore had exactly the same problem with these voters in 2000. The Democrats need to find a candidate that can talk to both PhDs and tractor-trailer drivers.

If they do this, the Democrats will be able to win presidential elections. Kerry, after all, came very close to winning this time despite his inadequacy as a candidate. Democrats showed that they can hold their own in states like Colorado (where Democrat Ken Salazar was elected to the Senate), Arizona, Nevada, and Virginia. In many of these states, demography is on the Democrats' side. Colorado is going to become more like California and less like Utah or Montana, and Virginia is going to become more like New Jersey and less like South Carolina. The future of Ohio is Franklin County, not Butler County. Democrats also showed that they can compete in raising money without relying on corporate contributions and that the Internet is an important vehicle for organizing.

November 4, 2004

Strategy Notes:
John Belisarius

The Democrats Didn’t Lose in this Election, They Won

That’s right, they won.

And they won big.

No, it’s not just that Dems came within 3% of winning a very tough election. That alone is a very real and important accomplishment, but it’s not the key.

The real point is that if the Democrats are serious about the long-tem goal of building a broad and enduring democratic majority then getting 51% of the vote is not always the right test of a particular campaign’s success. Sometimes you have to lose an election to build the foundation for later victory.

Just ask the Conservative Republicans. They can recite you this lesson by heart. In every glowing account they write of their gradual rise to power they always point to Barry Goldwater’s unsuccessful 1964 campaign and Ronald Reagan’s 1976 bid for the Presidency (which did not get beyond the Republican primaries) as the pivotal campaigns that laid the foundations for all their subsequent victories.

And when you look at it from this point of view, the true scope, the genuinely impressive magnitude of the Democrats’ success this year can be expressed in a single sentence: In 2004 the Dems accomplished in 8 months what it took the Goldwater-Reagan conservative movement over a decade to achieve.

Last December, the Democratic party was internally divided, unsure about its message, uncertain how to talk about war and foreign affairs, financially dependent on donations from corporations and affluent donors and only beginning to build a grass-roots voter mobilization campaign. There was great anger and energy among the party’s core supporters, but it seemed extremely unlikely that the party as a whole would be able to agree upon a message, unite around a candidate and mount a serious challenge to a personally popular wartime president whose approval ratings hovered close to 60%.

Yet, by the time John Kerry addressed the Democratic convention in July, he was leading a political party that had become firmly united, was supported by new and powerful grass-roots mechanisms for fund raising and internet organizing (pioneered by Howard Dean and his supporters) and which was building a new voter mobilization network that was reconnecting the party with its political base.

Kerry and Edwards then provided the Democratic Party with a politically viable moderate-progressive message - one that had been eluding the party for years. In foreign affairs it combined basic patriotism and support for the troops with brutally sharp and honest criticism of the Administration’s disastrous foreign policy. In domestic affairs, it combined a cautious but sincere economic populism with greater fiscal responsibility then the Republican administration.

This political platform was sufficiently compelling to convince a large majority of those who watched the presidential debates that Kerry, not Bush, had been the victor of all three exchanges and to win him the support of a substantial majority of moderate and independent voters as well as his Democratic base.

Had the 2004 campaign halted at this point, the Kerry-Edwards campaign would have already accomplished more then the Goldwater-Reagan Republicans did from 1964 to 1976, but the campaign then pushed on to come within 3% of victory and a solid majority.

Sure, it was disappointing not to be able to snag those last few points, and the disappointment was compounded by the widespread feeling of optimism that lasted until the very last moments of election night.

But there is a vast difference between a vibrant and compelling campaign that doesn’t quite make it over the top and a campaign that is fundamentally a failure. The Dems have had more then a few of the latter kind, but 2004 wasn’t one of them.

“But we did worse then we did in 2000” people say, “We’re going backward, not forward”.

Nonsense. The truth is that in presidential elections the Democrats have basically been a minority party since 1968, when George Wallace cut deeply into the Dems blue-collar support in Michigan and the other industrial states as well as the South. In 1972, when the Republicans played the “Real Majority” vs. the “Elitists” game against the Dems for the first time, Nixon got 60% of the vote to McGovern’s 37%. Carter won a narrow victory in 1976 but look at the record since then.

1980Jimmy Carter41% vs. Reagan+Anderson57%
1984Walter Mondale41% vs. Reagan59%
1988Michael Dukakis46% vs. Bush Sr.53%
1992Bill Clinton43% vs Bush+Perot56%

Democrats never got anywhere even close to 50% of the vote until Clinton’s reelection campaign in 1996 (Clinton 49%, Dole/Perot 49%) and Gore’s 2000 run (Gore 48%, Bush 48%).

But in both of these latter campaigns the Democrats were running as incumbents or former Vice-Presidents, not as challengers. 2004 was the first time a Democrat ran as a challenger in more then a decade and Kerry faced a President who had, at the outset, high approval ratings, the patriotic fervor of an apparently successful war behind him, the overt support of one of the major TV networks, and the most extensive grass-roots voter mobilization the Republican Party had ever fielded.

And yet Kerry and Edwards came closer to unseating their opponent and closer to winning 50% of the vote then had any Democratic challengers in the last three decades.

A campaign like this simply can’t be considered a failure even by narrow electoral standards and the intangible benefits make it even less so. This political campaign made rank and file Democrats from every section of the party feel proud to be Democrats in a way they have not felt in decades. It displayed Democratic candidates who were decent, thoughtful and honorable men and offered a set of policies and positions that a wide range of Americans could accept as a solid framework and point of departure for the future. It showcased a political party that was systematically building the foundations for its future victory.

So shake off the disappointment and feel the sense of pride and accomplishment you deserve to feel instead.

The Dems lost an election. OK, it happens.

But the Dems haven’t been defeated, not at all.

They’ve just been slowed down.

2008 and the Time for a Change Factor

By Alan Abramowitz

Democrats can't win by mobilizing the base alone--they need a candidate and a message with broader, at least slightly broader, appeal. Still, Kerry did not do badly for a Massachusetts liberal. This was no 1984 or even 1988. Only a 3 point margin in the popular vote and with another 150,000 votes in Ohio, Kerry would have won the electoral vote. (That's kind of a scary thought though. The electoral college could really misfire pretty badly, much worse than in 2000, and in either direction.)

2008 really should be a better chance for Dems to win the White House if we have a strong candidate and a strong message. Here's why--the time for change factor kicks in for us. And it's pretty big. Since WW II there have been 7 presidential elections in which a party had held the White House for just one term. The incumbent party's candidate won 6 out of 7 (only Carter lost) with an average popular vote margin of 11.6 percent. There have been 8 elections in which a party had held the White House for two terms or more. The incumbent party's candidate won only 2 and lost 6 with an average popular vote margin of -0.9 percent. This pattern goes all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century and the "time for change" factor has a significant effect on the outcomes of presidential elections even when you control for the incumbent president's popularity and the state of the economy--there is about a 5 point penalty if you've held the White House for 8 years or longer. Add that 5 points to Kerry's 2004 total, and you win easily.

Good Answers to Good Questions

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution participated in an online chat on The Washington Post website yesterday, where he answered questions about Tuesday's election results--many of them on the minds, I would imagine, of those who visit this site. All Mann's answers are lucid and perceptive; I strongly recommend you checkout the transcript of his chat as an aid to your reflections on the election.

November 3, 2004

Lessons of the 2004 Election

Well, a second term for George W. Bush it is. Not a smashing victory for him: he took the popular vote by a 51-48 margin and gained two new states (IA and NM) by 50-49 margins, while losing one old state (NH) by a 50-49 margin.

What are the lessons Democrats can draw from Bush's victory? How was Bush able to hang onto power despite the poor economy, Iraq, the health care crisis and so on?

1. The limits of mobilization. Democrats put great stock in mobilization and the ground game. And Kerry did do better in many areas where there was intensive mobilization. For example, in Ohio, Kerry carried Franklin county (Columbus) by 41,000 votes, compared to Gore's margin of just 4,000 last election, and carried Cuyahoga county (Cleveland) by 218,000 voters, compared to Gore's margin of 166,000 in '00. But these gains were mostly cancelled out by Republican mobilization in conservative rural and exurban areas, so Ohio, in the end, was only slightly closer (2.5 percentage points) than it was in 2000 (3.5 points).

As another example, the exit polls indicate that 23 percent of voters this year were minorites, up from 19 percent in 2000. So Democrats were reasonably successful in getting minorities to the polls But these data indicate that hispanics only supported Kerry 53-44, a dramatic compression from Gore's 62-35 margin among the same group in 2000. And--much more consequential for the election--the exit polls say that Bush widened his margin among white voters to 17 points (58-41), up from a 12 point margin (54-42) in 2000. Weakened support among hispanics and, especially, a bigger deficit among whites (still 77 percent of voters) was more than enough to cancel out the effect of more minority voters going to the polls.

2. The limits of anti-Bushism. Kerry had much to say that was very critical of Bush and certainly there was much to criticize in the areas of the economy, tax cuts, Iraq, health care, energy policy and so on. These criticisms were directed at genuine weak points in Bush's record and there is good evidence that most voters shared at least some of these criticisms. Bush was not, and is not, a particularly popular incumbent, so attacking his record was an inevitable and important part of Kerry’s campaign.

The problem, however, was that Kerry never managed to convince many of the same voters who shared his criticisms of the Bush administration that he could and would do a better job in the areas he criticized. To cite just one example from the exit poll, voters were asked if they trusted Bush to handle the economy: 51 percent said no and 49 percent said yes. Not so good for an incumbent. But voters rated Kerry even worse: 53 percent said they didn’t trust him to handle the economy, compared to just 45 percent who said they did.

And all through the campaign, up to the very end, there was abundant evidence that voters did not think he had a clear plan for Iraq or, for that matter, for the country in general. His campaign was notable for lacking signature themes and proposals that typical voters could easily grasp and identify with. Does anyone seriously believe that many voters knew or understood Kerry’s plan for Iraq? For health care? For the economy? How many voters knew the one or two thematic phrases (if they existed) that summarized what John Kerry stood for?

Let’s face it: not many. I worried about this all through the campaign, but hoped, toward the end, that voters were interested enough in getting rid of Bush that they would cut him slack on these specifics. That did not turn out to be the case.

3. The need for white working class support. The last three elections (2000, 2002, 2004) have all had strong ‘culture war’ components that have severely depressed white working class support for Democrats. Recall that Bill Clinton actually carried the white working class (whites without a four year college degree) by a point in both his election bids. But in 2000, Al Gore lost these voters by 17 points; in 2002, Democratic congressional candidates lost this group by 18 points and this year, the situation appears to have worsened further. That is implied (though not proved) by the finding, cited above, that Democrats lost whites as a whole by 5 points more than 2000 and another exit poll finding that Democrats’ slippage by education group was concentrated entirely among the non-college educated. (Kerry split the college-educated evenly with Bush, just as Gore did in 2000, but, where Gore lost the non-college educated by just 2 (49-47), Kerry lost them by 6 (53-47).)

The fact of the matter is that Democrats cannot win when they do so badly among this very large constituency. John Judis and I always believed that the trends we described in The Emerging Democratic Majority could underpin a majority coalition given reasonable (not majoritarian, but competitive) performance among white working class voters. Alas, this does not qualify as reasonable performance.

Democrats’ difficulties with this group surely have a great deal to do with these voters’ sense of cultural alienation from the national Democratic party and its relatively cosmopolitan values around religion, family, guns and other social institutions/practices. Even the war on terror has increasingly become more a cultural issue linked to patriotism than a true foreign policy issue for many of these voters.

Given this sense of cultural alienation, it must be questioned whether candidates like Gore or Kerry can ever really be viable with these voters. Democrats may have to choose candidates in the future who do not so easily evoke this sense of cultural alienation and who can connect in a genuine fashion with these voters. I come to this conclusion reluctantly because I had hoped that an effective campaign could overcome this obstacle by, in effect, using wedge Democratic issues like health care or jobs to build support among this group. But the messenger appears to matter a great deal, just as having a message does (see point number two, above). The Democrats in the future will have to pay attention to both, I think.

Exit Polls and Other Woes

By Alan Abramowitz

The exit polls missed the mark very badly last night (before they were reweighted to correspond to the actual results). The national exit poll consistently showed Kerry leading by 3 points--just the reverse of the actual vote. The Ohio exit poll had Kerry up by 4 and the Florida exit poll had it tied.

What happened? Some combination of bad precinct samples, resopnse bias, or failing to accurately account for early and absentee votes must have been at work. Whatever it was, it was a major problem. In 2000, the national exit poll also overestimated Gore's vote, but not by nearly as big a margin.

Why did Kerry lose the popular vote? Basically this was a rerun of 2000. Almost every state, and every big state, went the same way it did in 2000. It looks like the only switches were New Hampshire for Kerry and probably Iowa and New Mexico for Bush, although those are not certain (and, in fact, New Hampshire is also extremely close). But Kerry got killed in the South and that appears to have also dragged down several Democratic Senate candidates.

I think that Democrats need to think very hard about the lessons of this election, regardless of what happens in Ohio with the provisional ballots. We lost the popular vote and probably the election to a Republican incumbent with a horrible record. It is going to be very difficult to win a presidential election unless the Democratic candidate can do significantly better in the southern and border states. More thoughts to come later.

Exit Poll Update

The exit poll results, both national and state, cited in my previous post have now been substantially revised and do not look particularly favorable to Kerry. While some of the patterns discussed previously remain, others have changed fairly dramatically. Much more discussion to follow, of course, but way too tired to pursue it now.

November 2, 2004

Current Exit Poll Results

No doubt everyone has seen some version of early exit poll results circulating around the web. Here is a version of those results that allegedly hails from around the 6pm hour and was posted on the Daily Kos. I have received pretty much identical numbers from several other good sources so these results are probably as reliable as anything else we can get at this point. Extreme caution is advised, of course, but these results do look quite favorable for Kerry:

Kerry Bush

PA 53 46
FL 51 49
NC 48 52
OH 51 49
MO 46 54
AR 47 53
MI 51 47
NM 50 49
LA 43 56
CO 48 51
AZ 45 55
MN 54 44
WI 52 47
IA 49 49

But here are some other early results that have received less attention. These results come from the national exit poll on the CNN website and, presumably, other sites as well. Now, these results can change and undoubtedly will in some respects. But if they wind up being close to the final results, there's a reasonable case to be made that CNN has already let the cat out of the bag in terms of the final result.

That's because CNN has posted data which indicate the overall popular vote result is 51-48 Kerry. If that holds up, it is not impossible for Bush to nevertheless win an electoral vote, but it is very, very improbable. A three point popular vote margin should translate into a substantially more lopsided margin in the electoral college in favor of John Kerry.

Here are some other potentially significant results from these early national exit poll results (Kerry number always given first):

1. Substantially smaller gender gap (54-45 women vs. 47-51 men). But change relative to 2000 is mostly the shrinking of Bush's lead among men (11 points in '00, 4 points this year)

2. Bush is only winning white men by 17 points; in '00 he won this group by 24 points.

3. Current results indicate minorities are 23 percent of the vote, which is 4 points higher than in 2000. These results shows blacks as 11 percent of the vote (vs. 10 percent in '00) and hispanics as 9 percent of the vote (vs. 6.5 percent in '00). In terms of support for the Democrats, these results show blacks supporting Kerry 90-10, very similar to '00 results (so much for that absurd Joint Center poll that had Bush's black support at 18 percent). Asians are supporting Kerry by 23 points (61-38), a fairly big jump from the '00 54-41 Democratic margin. On the other hand, these results show Hispanics supporting Kerry by only 56-41, compared to 62-35 in '00. If this result holds up (and this is one I would expect to change), it's quite a surprise.

4. Young voters (18-29) are going heavily for Kerry, 56-43 though these results do not show an increase in young voters as a proportion of the electorate (17 percent this year vs. 17 percent in '00)

5. Union household members are 24 percent of voters (down slightly from '00's 26 percent level) and support Kerry by 61-38 (slightly larger margin than '00's).

6. Kerry leads among independents by 7 points (compared to a 2 point Democratic deficit in '00) and leads among moderates by 16 points (compared to a Democratic lead of 8 points in '00).

More on these data later. But note this: CNN has now started posting their state level exit polls as soon as the polls close in that state. Take a look. Based on these data, Kerry seems very, very likely to win.

Update: CNN has posted an updated (9:20 pm) version of their national exit poll results. Some numbers move around by small amounts, but these changes have little effect on the patterns summarized above.

Final Harris Poll Points to Kerry Victory

John Kerry leads George Bush 50-47 percent of nation-wide LV's, according to the final Harris Interactive Online Survey, conducted 10/29-11/1. Kerry also leads Bush 48-47 percent of nation-wide LV's, according to the final Harris Interactive Telephone Survey. Both poills indicate a surge for Kerry over the previous Harris Poll. The Harris report on the poll notes "If this trend is real, then Kerry may actually do better than these numbers suggest. In the past, presidential challengers tend to do better against an incumbent President among the undecided voters during the last three days of the elections, and that appears to be the case here. The reason: undecided voters are more often voters who dislike the President but do not know the challenger well enough to make a decision. When they decide, they frequently split 2:1 to 4:1 for the challenger."

The Harris Poll in three key states also affirmed the strong likelihood of a Kerry victory:
Florida - Kerry leads 51-47 percent of LV's
Pennsylvania - Kerry ahead 50-48 percent of LV's
Ohio - Kerry up 51-47 percent of LV's

As the Harris report concluded, "Assuming the forecast is correct, Kerry is likely to win all three large states, and almost certainly the White House along with it."

Kerry Edges Bush in NH Poll

John Kerry leads George Bush 50-49 percent of New Hampshire LV's, with 1 percent for Nader, according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Poll, conducted 10/28-11/1. The poll also found that Kerry leads among NH Independents 48-41 percent and 51-42 percent among "swing voters."

Final SurveyUSA Iowa Poll: Kerry Up 3

John Kerry leads George Bush 50-47 percent of Iowa LV's in the final SurveyUSA Poll, conducted 10/31-11/1. The poll also found that Kerry has a 20 point lead among Independents (57-37 percent).

Final Marist Poll: Edge to Kerry

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 48 percent of nation-wide RV's in the final Marist Poll, conducted 11/1. The Poll also found that Kerry leads Bush 50-49 percent of LV's, and Bush's approval rating was 49 percent.

November 1, 2004

Independent Voters for Kerry

It's been a general tendency throughout this election campaign, but it is quite striking how well Kerry is doing among independent voters in the various pre-election polls that have been recently released. If Kerry's lead among independents holds up, it will be very, very difficult for George Bush to win this election.

Here's why. Averaging the last eight national polls for which I can obtain relevant data, Bush is running about a 7 point higher margin among Republicans than Kerry is getting among Democrats. That's actually worse than Bush did in 2000, when he ran an 8 point higher margin among Republicans than Gore did among Democrats.

Then bring in our independent voters. Right now, Bush is averaging about a 7 point deficit among independent voters, compared to the 2 point advantage among these voters he had in 2000, a 9 point swing against him among independents.

So Bush seems likely to do slightly worse than 2000 in terms of receiving higher margins, relative to the Democrats, from his own partisans and very likely to do much worse among independent voters than 2000. Given that he actually lost the popular vote in 2000 by half a percentage point, he therefore has no chance of carrying the popular vote, or even coming close, unless he can change something else in his favor to counter these negative trends.

That can only be accomplished by erasing the Democrats' traditional turnout advantage in Presidential election years (Democrats generally run 3-5 points higher as a proportion of voters). In fact, these data suggest that, given the deficit Bush is likely to run among independents, simply erasing the Democrats' turnout advantage would likely not be enough; Republicans would actually need a turnout advantage of their own--perhaps a point or two--to prevail.

How likely is this? Not particularly. Such a radical shift in turnout patterns is only possible with a high mobilization of Republicans that is not counterbalanced at all by mobilization of Democrats. Does that sound to you like a description of this year? Not to me either; on the contrary, Democrats and Democratic institutions are exceptionally mobilized this year and it seems likely they, not the Republicans, will win the turnout wars.

And, if that's true, there is no way the Republicans can recover from the way independent voters are swinging against them--not only on the national, but also in key states like Ohio and Florida.

Ohio: In 2000, Bush carried Ohio independents by 16 points (!); this year, he is dead-even with John Kerry among this sector of the Ohio electorate (Gallup Ohio poll, October 29-31)

Florida: In 2000, Bush and Gore were about even among Florida indpendents; this year, Kerry leads Bush by 5 among these voters (Gallup Florida poll, October 28-30).

Election day seems likely to be independents' day--to Bush's bitter regret.

One Last Look at the Polls in Florida and Ohio

By Alan Abramowitz

Florida and Ohio are the keys to the 2004 election. If John Kerry carries one of them, he has an excellent chance of winning. If he carries both of them, as I believe he will, he is almost certain to win. Instead of just averaging all of the polls, let's combine them all, based on the actual numbers of respondents in each sample of likely voters. Remember, I'm looking at likely voters here, but Kerry generally does better among registered voters and in this high turnout election, the registered voter results probably give a better picture of what is going to happen. But many polls do not report results for registered voters, so we're stuck with the likely voter numbers.

Here's what they show. In Florida, there have been 12 polls since October 15 with a combined n of 9526 likely voters. George Bush is supported by 47.3 percent, John Kerry by 46.3 percent. So Bush is still well below the crucial 50 percent mark generally needed by an incumbent.

In Ohio, there have been 11 polls since October 15 with a combined n of 9034 likely voters. John Kerry is supported by 47.9 percent, George Bush by 47.4 percent. Again, Bush is not close to the 50 percent mark and is actually trailing slightly in this combined sample of likely voters.

With a huge turnout expected tomorrow and with even a small undecided break toward the challenger, we should all be celebrating tomorrow night.

Kerry Takes Final Economist/YouGov Poll by 3

John Kery leads George Bush 50-47 percent of nation-wide RV's, with 1 percent for Nader, according to the final Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted 10/29-11/1.

SurveyUSA Polls: Kerry, Bush Neck and Neck in Swing States

SurveyUSA Polls of LV's conducted 10/29-11/1 show John Kerry and George Bush locked in tight races in the following states:

PA - Kerry leads 49-48 percent
FL - Bush leads 49-48 percent
OH - Bush leads 49-47 percent
AR - tied at 48 percent
MO - Bush leads 52-47 percent

National Tracking Poll Roundup

Today's tracking polls, like yesterday's, are a mixed bag in terms of movement favoring Bush or Kerry--which is the typical pattern, as Alan Abramowitz has noted. (You can find all the relevant data and links at NowChannel.com.)

Here are today's results:

Fox 2way RV: 48-45 Kerry, from 47-45 Kerry yesterday
Fox 2way LV: 48-46 Kerry, from 48-47 Kerry yesterday
Fox 3way RV: 47-45 Kerry, unchanged from 47-45 Kerry yesterday
Fox 3way LV: 48-46 Kerry, from 46-46 tie yesterday
TIPP 2way LV: 45-44 Bush, from 47-42 Bush yesterday
TIPP 3way LV: 47-45 Bush, from 48-43 Bush yesterday
Rasmussen: 48.8-47.4 Bush, from 48.1-47.1 Bush yesterday
WaPo RV: 48-48 tie, from 48-47 Kerry yesterday
WaPo LV: 49-48 Bush, from 48-48 tie yesterday
Zogby: 48-47 Bush from 48-48 tie yesterday

Note: Over the last three days, Fox has moved steadily toward Kerry; over the same time period no other poll has exhibited steady movement toward either candidate. It may be significant that the Fox data are the most recent, since they conduct their tracking poll only over the last two days, while the rest do three days, except for WaPo, which does the last four days. Therefore, if there has been pro-Kerry movement very recently (as suggested, for example, by results of today's CBS News poll), the Fox poll would be more sensitive to it.

Note: At this stage of the election in 2000, Bush was ahead of Gore by one point in the Zogby tracking poll, by 3 points in the ABC/WP tracking poll and by 6 points in the TIPP tracking poll (3-way).

Note: It is not clear which of these organizations have now done their last polls though, based on past practices, we can expect at least Zogby, TIPP and Rasumssen to release their final results tomorrow--but Fox and WaPo may also release results. I just don't know.

Note: Today's results, whatever the movement from yesterday, all imply a close election, with results ranging in a narrow band from +2-3 Kerry to +1-2 Bush.

Note: Taking the most common horse race result whereever possible (3-way LV), these polls average 47.8 percent for Bush to 47.1 percent for Kerry. Not an auspicious result for Bush in light of the "50 percent rule".

Bush's Disappearing Lead in the CBS News Poll

Yesterday, two days before the election, CBS News reported a 3 point Bush lead among LVs. That survey covered October 28-30. Today, they released survey data covering October 28-31 which show Bush and Kerry now tied among RVs (46-46) and Bush up by only a point (47-46) among LVs. Since these data only differ from the data released yesterday in the inclusion of interviews from Sunday, that suggests Sunday was a strong day for Kerry in this poll--and, perhaps, in others.)

It's interesting to note that, in 2000, Bush was also leading (by 5 points) in the CBS News poll released 2 days before the election. But that lead also pulled a disappearing act between then and election eve. History may be repeating itself.

Final Pre-election Poll Analysis

By Alan Abramowitz

1. The National Polls

In the 12 most recent national polls listed on pollingreport.com, among likely voters, Bush is leading in 7 polls, Kerry in 2, and 3 are tied. Average support was 48.2 percent for Bush, 46.7 percent for Kerry, and 0.8 percent for Nader. In the 7 polls that provide results for registered voters, however, Kerry is leading in 4, Bush in 1, and 2 are tied. Average support was 47.0 percent for Kerry, 46.7 percent for Bush, and 0.9 percent for Nader.

Bottom line: Even in the samples of likely voters, Bush is well below the 50 percent mark generally needed by an incumbent. In fact, when Gallup allocates the undecided vote, their likely voter sample goes from a 49-47 Bush lead to a 49-49 tie. In the broader samples of registered voters, Bush is actually trailing in most of the recent polls. With a very high turnout expected tomorrow, the registered voter samples are probably more representative of the actual electorate than the likely voter samples.

2. The Four Major Battleground States

In Florida, there have been 11 polls since October 15. Bush led in 5, Kerry led in 5, and 1 was tied. Average support was 47.5 percent for Bush, 46.5 percent for Kerry, and 1.2 percent for Nader. Turnout in the early voting has been enormous, with a clear advantage for Democrats. Expect a huge turnout tomorrow as well that will put this state in the Kerry column.

In Ohio, there have been 11 polls since October 15. Kerry led in 7, Bush led in 3, and 1 was tied. Average support was 47.2 percent for Bush and 48.3 percent for Kerry. Ralph Nader is not on the ballot. Turnout is going to be enormous and two federal judges ruled this morning that Republican political operatives cannot challenge voters in minority precincts. That was Karl Rove's last gasp in Ohio. The Buckeye state will go Democratic this year and no Republican has ever won a presidential election without carrying Ohio.

In Pennsylvania, there have been 11 polls since October 15. Kerry led in 8, Bush led in 2 and 1 was tied. Average support was 46.8 percent for Bush and 48.7 percent for Kerry. Ralph Nader is not on the ballot. Pennsylvania looks solid for Kerry.

Finally, in Michigan, there have been 5 polls since October 15, including only the most recent release of the Mitchell tracking poll. Kerry led in all 5 polls. Average support was 44.2 percent for Bush, 47.2 percent for Kerry, and 1.0 percent for Nader. Michigan also looks solid for Kerry.

Bottom line: George Bush's situation in all four of these key battleground states is dire. His support is well below 50 percent in all of them and he is currently trailing John Kerry in 3 of the 4. A clean sweep of all four states by John Kerry is a distinct possibility.

If You Can't Trust Fox News, Who Can You Trust?

John Kerry leads George Bush 47-45 percent among nationwide RVs and and 48-46 among LVs in a 3-way contest, according to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll conducted 10/30-31. The Poll also found that Kerry leads among Independents 46-40 percent and Bush's approval rating was 47 percent.

Kerry also leads by 3 among RVs and by 2 among LVs in a 2-way contest.

DCorps Poll: Kerry Up 1 Nation-wide, 5 in Battleground

The new DCorps poll finds Kerry leading Bush, 48-47 percent, among nation-wide LVs, with 1 percent for Nader in a new Democracy Corps Poll conducted 10/29-31. The poll also finds that Kerry leads Bush 51-46 percent of LV's in the key battleground states (CO, FL, IA, NH, NV, NM, OH, PA and WI).

Kerry Running Close in Two New Polls, Leads Among Independents

Bush leads Kerry 49-46 percent of nation-wide LV's, with 1 for Ralph Nader, according to a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted 10/28-30. The poll also found that Kerry lead among Independents 50-43.

Bush leads Kerry 48-47 percent of nation-wide LV's, with 1 percent for Nader, according to an NBC News/Wall St. Journal Poll conducted 10/29-31.

Note: RV data were not available for either of these two polls.

Marist Poll: Kerry, Bush Tied Among RVs, Kerry Leads Among LVs

John Kerry and George Bush are tied at 48 percent of nation-wide RVs in a Marist Poll conducted 10/31. Among LVs, Kerry has a one point lead (49-48).

New Gallup Polls Show Kerry Finishing Strongly

Sunday night, Gallup released their final national poll, based on an unusually large sample (over 2,000 adults), plus six polls in key battleground states (OH, FL, PA, IA, WI and MN). The results indicate that Kerry is finishing strongly and should be in a good position to pull off a victory on Tuesday.

In the national poll, Kerry is ahead by a point among RVs in a 2-way race (48-47) and by 2 points in a 3-way race (48-46). In 2000, it's worth recalling, Gallup's RV result was a better predictor of the final outcome than their LV result, as it has been in three of the last four presidential elections.

After allocating undecideds, Gallup's LV result is a dead heat, 49-49. That's a considerable improvement from their last poll, where Bush was running a 5 point lead, 51-46, among LVs. And keep in mind that in 2000 Gallup's final LV result gave Bush a 2 point lead, while Gore went on to win the popular vote by half a point. In that context, a dead heat final estimate from Gallup makes Kerry look pretty good heading into election day.

Alan Abramowitz below has discussed the significance of Kerry's solid lead among independents in the national poll (8 points among RVs; no LV breakdown available). The poll also shows Bush's approval rating at just 43 percent in the battleground states and Kerry beating Bush by 10 points in those states (52-42).

Speaking of the battleground states, it struck me as quite significant that Gallup's state polls showed Kerry with solid leads in both Ohio and Florida among both LVs and RVs, since those were the two states in the "big three" (OH, FL, PA) that seemed most competitive and were red states in 2000. And, while Gallup's PA poll did show Bush with a lead among LVs, it also showed him trailing among RVs in a state where polls have very consistently shown Bush behind. The most reasonable assumption, it seems to me, is that Kerry is still the odds-on winner in that state.

The other results--a strong Bush lead among LVs in WI (but a small lead among RVs), a big lead for Kerry among both LVs and RVs in MN and close to a dead heat in IA--don't change my impression that this is a good set of polls for the Kerry campaign. But I was surprised about how CNN and other media outlets played these polls, implying that they were too much of a mixed bag to be good news for either candidate. Ohio and Florida to Kerry? Ho-hum. Just another symptom of a dead-locked race, etc.

Reader Lawrence Becker shared my surprise and contributed this entry in what could be a new game: "How can CNN......."

Again, I am amazed. But this time, it is the interpretation of the Gallup poll that amazes me, not the poll itself. As you know, Gallup just released a set of battleground state polls that (if accurate) are remarkably positive news for John Kerry and pretty devastating news for George Bush. And yet, CNN's interpretation of these polls is, "President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry were almost evenly split among likely voters in six major battleground states the weekend before the election." Well, that's techinically true. Among likely voters, Bush is ahead in 3 of these states and Kerry is ahead in 3. But CNN, perhaps knowing Gallup's "likely voter" model is very suspect goes on to say, "the figures were mostly the same among registered voters, except in Pennsylvania, where Kerry had a 2-point lead." Well that's a pretty big "exception," wouldn't you say?

Let's take a look at how "split" the race really is in these states among BOTH likely voters AND registered voters.

Florida (27)
(LV) Bush 46, Kerry 49
(RV) Bush 45, Kerry 49

Iowa (7)
(LV) Bush 48, Kerry 46
(RV) Bush 47, Kerry 46

Minnesota (10)
(LV) Bush 44, Kerry 52
(RV) Bush 43, Kerry 51

Ohio (20)
(LV) Bush 46, Kerry 50
(RV) Bush 44, Kerry 51

Pennsylvania (21)
(LV) Bush 50, Kerry 46
(RV) Bush 47, Kerry 49

Wisconsin (10)
(LV) Bush 52, Kerry 44
(RV) Bush 49, Kerry 46

In these six states, 95 electoral votes (as well as the presidency itself) are up for grabs. I distribute the all the other states to Kerry and Bush exactly as they voted in 2000 with one exception. I give New Hampshire to Kerry based on countless polls that show Kerry with a lead there. That leaves Bush with 227 electoral votes and Kerry with 216. If we just take Gallup's likely voter results (a very risky proposition, indeed), we find that Kerry would win 57 of these 95 electoral votes (Florida, Minnesota, and Ohio). Kerry would end up with 273 electoral votes and the presidency. And that assumes Kerry really would lose Pennsylvania, a possibility I find very
hard to believe since Kerry has led EVERY ONE of the last 20 polls reported by NowChannel.com. But okay, we'll settle for 273 electoral votes if we have to. It isn't horseshoes and it isn't hand grenades, right? So Kerry wins even with Gallup's likely voter data -data we already know to be biased against the Democrats.

Now if we just take Gallup's registered voter results, we find that Kerry would win 78 of 95 electoral votes (including the entire trifecta commonly known as "FLOHPA"). That would put Kerry at 294 electoral votes giving him some room for error in New Hampshire, New Mexico, etc. But wait, the news gets worse for Bush and better for Kerry. Bush is not at at 50% or above in any of these six states among registered voters. By now, we all know that Bush is highly unlikely to improve at all on his showing in poll numbers on the eve of Election Day. Gallup seems to acknowledge this fact by pointing out in their interpretation that while their national poll shows Bush at 49 and Kerry at 47 among likely voters nationwide, "Using voting behavior data from previous elections, the Gallup organization attempted to estimate how the undecideds would vote Tuesday. The result was a tie of 49 percent each for Bush and Kerry ..."

Can Bush win if these registered voter numbers are accurate? Simply put ...no. Can he even win among Gallup's biased formulation of likely voters? Probably not. Are these poll numbers accurate? Who knows? But I ask the key question of our new game. How can CNN ... read these numbers and come up with the headline, "Poll: Bush, Kerry split six key states?"? To use a favorite term of the President's, that seems like a bit of an "exaggeration."