Saturday, November 06, 2004

Interpreting the Election

The demographic breakdown of voting patterns is quite interesting. It appears that many groups (evangelicals, young voters, etc.) increased their turnout in absolute terms, but not relative to the total number of voters, which also increased.

So, the Republicans and Democrats were *roughly* equally successful in turning out their supporters, but the R's slightly more so.

Probably, the R's were able to use culture war issues like gay marriage to distract their people from the problems in Iraq and with the economy.

I can see two disasters on the horizon that might give the D's a chance in two or four years: Iraq is the obvious one, but a dollar crisis (see previous post; foreign creditors become reluctant to buy Treasuries, forcing a spike in interest rates, leading to a recession) is also possible.

I can't emphasize enough how strong the R's and how weak the D's are right now, by historical standards. Bush's economic performance was terrible and the war in Iraq unpopular. Yet he won a decisive victory. Imagine how hard he would have been to defeat if he hadn't gone into Iraq, or had a better economy. (On the other hand you might argue that 9/11 helped him a lot as a source of fear mongering and demagoguery.)

From David Brooks' column: (no endorsement of his usually irritating column implied)

Here are the facts. As Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center points out, there was no disproportionate surge in the evangelical vote this year. Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.

It's true that Bush did get a few more evangelicals to vote Republican, but Kohut, whose final poll nailed the election result dead-on, reminds us that public opinion on gay issues over all has been moving leftward over the years. Majorities oppose gay marriage, but in the exit polls Tuesday, 25 percent of the voters supported gay marriage and 35 percent of voters supported civil unions. There is a big middle on gay rights issues, as there is on most social issues.

Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that phrase can mean anything - or nothing. Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.

He won because 53 percent of voters approved of his performance as president. Fifty-eight percent of them trust Bush to fight terrorism. They had roughly equal confidence in Bush and Kerry to handle the economy. Most approved of the decision to go to war in Iraq. Most see it as part of the war on terror.

1 comment:

Carson C. Chow said...

This election was basically identical to 2000 but with a slight majority going to Bush. I think the real problem is that a large percentage of those that voted for Bush had no idea what was actually going on. It doesn't seem as if things getting worse will help much. What needs to happen is that this segment of the population get reacquainted with reality. Bush's emphasis on education may ironically be the eventual path to changing the balance permanently. In the meantime, the progressives need to unabashedly and unashamedly champion their values, namely social justice, economic equity and a preservation of the environment. The most important element is that these values are applied to the world as a whole. No evangelical Christian is against these values. The republicans have just framed these issues as decay into decadence, big government going bad, giving your hard earned dollars to free loaders and caring more about owls than jobs. It's just a small number of people that you need to convince to change the balance.

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