Friday, March 28, 2008

Where is the Political Middle Voting this Year?

As I pointed out in a recent post, the idea that there has been a surge in independent voters in the Democratic primaries is not supported by exit poll data. I thought it would be interesting, though, to compare the Republican and Democratic primary electorates to see which party is doing the best job of reaching out to the political middle.

Let's start by comparing the partisan complexion of the primary electorates.

The party electorates are mirror images of each other. About 76% of the votes in each of the parties' primaries have come from their own partisans, 20% from independents and around 4% from the other party. The bottom line is that neither party is doing a better job attracting independents or rival partisans. Once again, this finding is a bit at odds with the common perception that the Democrats have been more successful at drawing independent voters.

But party identification is just one way of slicing the electorate. What about the ideological middle? Which party has been most successful at reaching out across ideological lines?

Here, the picture is much less balanced. The Republican primaries are dominated much more by conservatives than the Democratic primaries are by liberals; Democrats have done a better job attracting moderates than Republicans have; and Democrats have had somewhat more successful attracting conservatives than the Republicans have had attracting liberals.

So the general picture is that both parties' primaries have been dominated by their respective partisans, but the Democratic primaries have been more ideologically heterogeneous than the Republican primaries.

Does this pattern auger well for the Democratic nominee, whomever s/he might be, in the general election? I suppose it does if it reflects the breadth of appeal the nominee will have to the November electorate--but that might depend on who the nominee is.

Note: These data are based on averages across those states for which exit poll data are available.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Are White Voters Rallying for Hillary?

Josh Marshall has a post in which he responds to some recent chatter about whether Obama is doing increasingly worse among white voters. It's a busy weekend but I thought I would take a few minutes and bring some additional data to bear on this topic.

The data posted below follow up on my earlier posts on "gaps" in the Democratic primary electorate. First, let's look at the voting patterns among white voters across the states, ordered by date of primary.

Is there anything here to suggest that whites are rallying around Clinton? To paraphrase my man, Jeeves, "it would not appear to present itself as such." There is a bit of jumping around but there is no clear temporal pattern (remember,the states are ordered by date of primary or caucus).

The figure below breaks the data down by broader time periods.

There is still no evidence of a recent change in the voting patterns of white voters. About all you can say based on these data is that Clinton has done somewhat better among white voters in states holding contests on or after super Tuesday than in earlier states. But that's about it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Those Fickle Female Voters!

(Note: This post has been updated with a data correction)

Joe Klein has a column today in which he lays at least part of the explanation for Hillary Clinton's wins this week on the response of female voters to the now SNL skit about press coverage of the campaign.

According to Klein:
"A feminine fury was abroad in the land; on March 4, women represented a staggering 59% and 57% of the Democratic electorates in Ohio and Texas, respectively."
So once again, similar to the the alleged feminine reaction to the Diner Moment, it was the response of Fickle Female electorate to surface-level issues that turned things around for Senator Clinton. In effect, the gals rallied around the gal.

I have no idea if women responded differently to the SNL skit than men did, but I can say that there was nothing spectacular about female turnout in the March 4 primaries.

The figure below examines the female composition of the March 4 primaries, relative to other primary and caucus states for which exit poll data are available:

Here we see that the female percent of the electorate in March 4 states (pink bars--I couldn't resist) was, on average, well, slightly below average (mean across states = 58.3%). So the "staggering" turnout of women on March 4 was anything but that.

And what about the assumption that Clinton's fortunes are tied to the relative turnout of female voters? The general logic is that if more women than men turn out to vote, Clinton's vote share will increase. This makes sense, given the nature of the gender gap in candidate preference this primary season.

However, the figure below shows that there is a weak and NEGATIVE (r=-.34) relationship between female percent of the electorate and Clinton's percent of the Obama/Clinton vote (Note: tossing out various home states and Florida doesn't change the picture very much).

In fact, a couple of Clinton's strongest showings were in states like Oklahoma and California where the the female share of the electorate was well below average.

Of course, this is just a simple bivariate snapshot, and it's possible that with a series of appropriate control variables, a more theoretically pleasing pattern would emerge. But these data certainly blow a hole in the idea that all Senator Clinton has to do is turn out the female vote.