"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." -- JP Curran, 1790

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A historical guide to the future of Conservatism: Part 5

A continuation of my series; A historical guide to the future of Conservatism.

Previous Parts:

Part 5: Eduction and Income

This 5th part of the series focuses on on Education level, income level, and perceived financial betterment as voting populations. Although not tit-for-tat, parallels can certainly be drawn between the level of education and ones' income. However, as the data shows, higher educated voters tend to vote Democrat whereas higher income voters tend to be Republican. The data for perceived financial situation (better today, the same, and worse today) is maybe the most unique data set that I have analyzed because there is not heredity to the social-psychic perceptions of ones' prominence. Whereas with Religion or location or even age, identifiable social and psychological patterns can be formed by history. People tend to vote like their parents, when they become parents. Generations' voting habits are formed by events that they experienced together (Great Depression, 1960s Civil Rights movement, the peaceful prosperous 1990s, 9/11, etc.). But, perceived financial improvement crosses all demographics. A wealthy person might answer the question that they are worse today with market damage to their financial security. Meanwhile a poorer person may have gotten a promotion or bought a cheap house and consider themselves better today. Its a situational demographic that along with "job approval of the current administration" polls and "country in the right direction" polls forms an almost insurmountable trifecta of predication to Presidential election outcome


Starting with Education, the data is broken into achievement levels and their percentages for each:

While only 4% of the voting population, those who are Not a High School Graduate have gone Democrat by +5% in every election since 1980 with the exception of 1984 and 2004 ironically. This is another demographic that Obama swung hard back towards the Democrats from gains in 2004 winning by 28%.

Having gone for the winner in every election since 1980, the High School Graduate has eerily matched victory margins. While not by substantial margins, Democrats have been growing and Republican shrinking among voters in this demographic. These voters are some recent High School grads who may not have started college, but more likely are the working class, blue-collar, tradesmen of this country. Likely concerned with industry success, small-business success, and pocketbook issues.

The voters with Some College have also gone for the victor in every election since 1980. At 31% of the voting population, Democrats have consistently been growing in percentage in this demographic going from 35% in 1980 to 51% in 2008 (a 16% growth). Republican took a clear hit in 1992 and have not been able to recover. Liberal ideas dominate most college/university campuses, so it is not a surprise that Democrats have been growing here. However, to compete Republicans need to organize around college groups to pull in the young able bodied volunteers and voters who form the back bone of grassroots politics.

Republicans have won the College Graduate votes until this year when Barack won it by 2%. With 28% of the voting electorate, this obviously an important group to build upon. Republicans need to return to holding and building its constituency around this group.

Democrats have averaged 10% victories among those with a Post-Graduate Degree. Obama won this group by 18% in 2008. Democrats are growing among this demographic and their numbers continue to increase, 17% of the electorate reported having a post-grad degree, an all time high.


The Income data is broken into achievement levels and their percentages for each:

Income levels create the same bell-curve as education levels in terms of voter populations. Those earning Less than $15K/year are 6% of the voting population in 2008 and have gone Democrat overwhelmingly. Barack won these voters by 48%! Democrat margins have been growing. Because it is a "less than" qualifier, this likely includes those with no earned income. It is overly simplistic to attribute this voting pattern to economic principles, but as it relates to income this group favors the more Liberal ideals of taxation and redistribution.

Those making $15K to $30K/year also have favored Democrats overwhelmingly. Their numbers have grown to their largest margins of 23% for Barack! Being general laborers, young professionals, recent college grads, etc. it is a population that Republicans need to do better with to build a future.

The voters making $30K to $50K/year (19%) and $50K to $75K/year (21%) form the nucleus of the country. They are the highest in percentages of the population and they straddle the current median household income ($50,233.00 in 2007). They have typically been closely split between Democrat and Republican, with 2 exceptions. Bush won the $50-75K vote by 13% in 2004 and Obama won the $30-$50K by 12% in 2008. Bush had neutralized Democrat gains in the $30-50K group but McCain failed to retain that hold. Conversely, Republican have been steadily adding 5% in the $50-75K group from '92 to '04 until Obama reversed that to come within 1% of McCain. Ranging from $30K to $75K is a broad group but these are the working "Middle Class" voters that make up 40% of the voting population. A variety of other issues will affect their votes but one thing is certain, they don't want to pay any higher taxes!

The voters making $75K to $100K/year have gone Republican in every election since 1996 until this year. Obama won this group by the narrow margin of 3%, but it speaks volumes about the lack of impact that McCain's economic proposals had upon these voters. Being the senior contributors, middle aged younger management, or small business owners, these voters vary.

An impressive 26% of voters make Greater than $100K/year and of those 6% make Greater than $200K/year. So contrary to Democratic rhetoric, a quarter of the voters in this country are making more than $100 grand. Since 1996 those making more than $100K have gone Republican, until 2008 when McCain & Obama split these voters at 49%. Another indication of McCain's failed economic message/platform. There is only data from 2004 & 20008, but Obama reverse a 28% Bush advantage in '04 among those making greater than $200K to win the group by 6%. Amazing given the impending tax increases for these voters presented by Obama during the campaign.

Financial Situation:

The responses for Financial Situation are broken into whether someone feels "better today", "worse today", or "the same today" against an undefined yesterday.

This was one of the more interesting breakdowns because of its historical predictability regarding the outcome, as I described above. Remember that the undefined past in the question makes this response difficult to dissect and attribute to specific events. Rather, it is a gut reaction as to how people feel about "things" today.

With the financial crisis exploding in the middle of the campaign season, I'm surprised that only 42% responded that they are Worse Today. When you look at all three of the graphs together you can see that Democrats felt better after Clinton years and Republican after Bush years. It is interesting that Independents have been heavier in the worse today response regardless of the President, likely due to their cynical attitude towards the 2 parties.

Looking at the past elections, if you think of the Better Today voter casting their ballot out of affection and the Worse Today voter out of distaste, and the Same Today as somewhere in between it gets interesting.

1992: After 12 years of Republican rule, Bush's 37% margin among Better Today voters could not withstand Clinton's 47% margin among Worse Today voters. With Same Today voters split, the independents made the difference. Independents were 14% in the Better Today and Democrats at 24%. However Independents were 25% to the Republicans 14% in Worse Today. It was this 10% that probably had the biggest impact on Bush's loss.

1996: Clinton won the Better Today voters by 40% and Dole won Worse Today voters by 30%, Same Today voters were split. Enough said.

2000: Gore won the Better Today voters by 25% and Bush won the Worse Today voters by 30%. However, Bush split the tightly coupled Same Today voters to win by 25%. By targeting those who were content with the benefits they saw during the Clinton years, but dissatisfied with his conduct in office and social liberalism of the late '90s, he was able to upset Gore.

2004: Bush won the Better Today voters by an astounding 61% and Kerry won the Worse Today by 59%. Unlike 2000, Bush lost the Same Today crowd by 1%, but held on with the larger number of people who felt Better Today.

2008: McCain won the Better Today voters by 23% (less than half the margin of Bush in 2004) and Obama won the Worse Today by 43%. Obama also won the Same Today by 8%.

When applying the % of the vote for each group, Obama's 54% breaks down into 9% Better Today, 15% Same Today, and 30% Worse Today. Meaning 1/3 of the country felt they were Worse Today and voted for Obama, staggering! McCain's 44% breaks down into 13% Better Today, 19% Same Today, and 12% Worse Today. Clearly Obama capitalized on the voters who felt Worse Today and minimized McCain's numbers among those who felt Better Today to win.

Republicans, now being the opposition party, need to convince voters in 2012 that they are Worse Today and to vote for the Republican candidate. They do this by highlighting Obama's failures and their financial impact. We'll see how this recession plays out but it seems like the tools are already in motion and economists predict we will be coming out of this in late 2010 or 2011, just in time of Obama to claim credit!! Conversely, Republican need to minimize Obama's margin among those who will feel Better Today. If we are coming out of the Recession, this will be difficult but not impossible.

Key Takeaways:

  • Reverse Democrat growth among the less educated
  • Reclaim a majority of those with some college or college grad
  • Stop the slide among those with Post-Grad degrees
  • Interrupt Democrats impressive margins and growth among those making less than $30K
  • Securing a majority among the majority of voters, those making between $30 - $75K
  • Return to growth among those making more than $75K, make 2008 a fluke
  • Win a significant margin of those who will feel Worse Today in 2012
  • Minimize the margin of those who will feel Better Today in 2012
  • Find a way to split those who will feel the Same Today in 2012.

coming soon... Part 6: Voting Patterns and Party ID

Signing off...JCB

Source: http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/national-exit-polls.html

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