Thursday, March 27, 2008

Barack's advantage over Hillary among young voters disappearing?

John Savage of BNWW points to an apparent trend that, if it holds, will be one of the biggest electoral surprises of the '08 Presidential race:

The news that voters under 35 are opposing Barack Obama more strongly than the population as a whole has to be one of the most heartening pieces of news that I’ve heard lately — especially since I don’t think it necessarily means they like McCain.
The polls being referenced are from SurveyUSA, taken after the Jeremiah Wright news 'broke' on March 14 (that is of the year 2008, not 2007, unfortunately). I'm not sure the data provide a reason to assert that 18-34 year olds are opposing Obama more strongly than other age categories are, as his support by age category remains strongest among younger voters in most states (including those where he gets a minority in every age group, like Alabama). But in several states, the under 35 crowd shows more support for Hillary against McCain than they do for Obama against McCain.

In Massachusetts, 75% of 18-34 yos support Hillary when she takes on McCain, while only 60% back Obama when he takes on the Arizona Senator. In Minnesota, Hillary gets 62% of the vote to Obama's 60%. In New York, Hillary wins 62%-59%, in California 74%-64%, in Missouri 45%-35%, in Ohio 50%-48%, and in Kentucky an astounding 55%-26%.

In New Mexico, both Democrats get 54%, in Oregon they both get 55%, and in Alabama they both get 39%.

In Virginia, Obama comes out ahead, 61%-58%, but in the state's Democratic primary, Obama clobbered Hillary 64%-35%. More convincingly, in Washington state Obama outdoes Hillary 64%-53%, in Wisconsin at 56%-42%, in Iowa 62%-52%, in Kansas 49%-35%.

The state scorecard for 18-34 year-old voters in places that have had polls of registered voters conducted after Obama's racialism became widely known has Hillary up 7-5 over Obama (and her state's are more electorally significant than his are), with three draws. This in contrast to the fact that even in the states surveyed where Hillary won big in the Democratic primary, she didn't take the younger vote, splitting it in California (likely due to the overrepresentation of Hispanics in the younger age categories) and Massachusetts, and losing it in New York and Ohio. That is, she didn't win the young vote in those states even though she won the states overall during the primaries, but she's winning those younger voters now.

I'm a little skeptical of the results, though. The Massachusetts' poll shows Hispanics breaking for Obama 51%-49% against McCain, but 58%-42% in McCain's favor against Hillary. That is exactly the opposite of how I would expect Hispanic support to fall, especially given the exit poll showing Hispanics on the Democratic side went 56%-36% in favor of Hillary over Obama (in Wisconsin, the results appear even more outrageous, with Hillary losing the Hispanic vote against McCain, 68%-14%, but Obama winning it against McCain, 72%-22%). The poll also shows McCain receiving 29% of the black vote against Obama and 30% of it against Hillary--absurdly high levels of black support for a Republican in both cases. In Washington state, blacks are only reported to favor Obama over McCain at 55%-45%!

Minnesota shows an even wilder Hispanic result (and a similarly incredulous black result), with Obama winning an astounding 91%-2% against McCain. The 2% isn't even mathematically possible, as the poll surveyed 532 registered voters, of which 3% were Hispanic. Thus the maximum number of Hispanics surveyed was 19, meaning if only one backed McCain, it should have shown up as 5% support, not 2%. Hillary, meanwhile, only gets 67% of the Hispanic vote in the state.

Further, the polls are of registered voters, not likely voters, and first-time voters have been an asset for Obama during the primaries and presumably would be during the general election as well. Obama's success in caucuses, where, relative to primaries, fewer (and more committed) people take part, means he's probably stronger among likely voters than he is among registered voters.

Also, these polls cover a pretty wide age range, from 18-34. Obama has beaten Hillary pretty soundly among voters of every age category under forty, but he's annihilated her among 18-24 year-olds. It is from his performance among the college-aged crowd that Obama has earned the popular reputation for being the candidate of choice for young America. So maybe Hillary's advantage has primarily come from those in their late-twenties and early-thirties.

Granting the polls working credulity for now, my initial thought is that younger voters tend to be votaries of the messianic Obama. They were more likely to turn away feeling bitterly betrayed when they found out that Obama neither has the ability to walk on water nor raise the dead, whereas the less quixotic middle-aged and elderly populations aren't as surprised by the revelation and so their support has for him has shown more stability.

It also seems to signal what is a perpetual complaint of non-centrists: That the far left/right supporters will move toward the moderate left/right more willingly than the moderate left/right will move to their respective 'extremes', especially when a moderate right/left alternative exists.

If we reasonably take Hillary to be the more moderate of the two Democratic contenders and McCain to be an internationalist in the political center, we'd expect Hillary's supporters more likely to back McCain against Obama than we would expect Obama's supporters to back McCain against Hillary. That looks like the net result at this point, anyway.

A national poll, post-Wright, with full crosstabs, would shed more light on what's happening at the youthful end of the electorate, but I can't find one yet.


Fat Knowledge said...

I am highly skeptical that the young are leaving Obama, based on the pro-Obama articles I see on Digg and other online sites visited mainly by the young. But, I guess we will see.

Audacious Epigone said...


So am I, believe me. I'm watching it closely.