Saturday, October 11, 2008

Voter swings by race from one election to the next

Thinking about racial demographics of party voting in the US over the last three decades piqued my curiousity over swings from election to election among racial groups. That "independents" will swing the election this way or that is a standard line of 'analysis' offered repeatedly during every election cycle. Yeah, fascinating, I know.

More interestingly, Hispanics are often considered a 'swing' category (even though they'll comprise around 3%-4% of the total vote in swing states this election cycle), as are various subgroups of whites. Blacks, in contrast, are, uh, never considered as such.

Those general characterizations aren't appreciably off the mark. From 1984 to 2006, the average swing from one Presidential cycle to the next (with the exception of '06, a mid-term only two years out from the '04 election) by group:

Whites -- 10 points
Blacks -- 4 points
Hispanics -- 13 points
Asians -- 15 points*
Others -- 2 points**

Those are absolute sums from the shifts on both sides, computed as though the race was a dichotomous one between the Democratic and Republican candidates only. So a 5-point drop in Republican support among Asians and a corresponding 5-point rise in their support for the Democrat represents a 10-point swing (and that has been the secular trend among Asians, whereas the other groups have more-or-less moved above and below an anchor of support favoring Republicans in the case of whites and Democrats in the case of blacks and Hispanics).

Since Asians move the most, it follows that campaigning should be directed primarily at them. It's of even greater importance than targeting the Hispanic vote is. Really, McCain ought to spend most of his time in California, where there are 4.5 million Asians and more than 13 million Hispanics! Surely that's his ticket to the Whitehouse!

The number of voters the average swing represented in the '04 Presidential election for the five major groups:

Whites -- 9.3 million
Blacks -- 500,000
Hispanics -- 1.3 million
Asians -- 300,000
Others -- 50,000

More than four in five 'swing' voters this election cycle are likely to be white. This understates the importance of the white vote, however, as swing states are considerably whiter, slightly blacker, less Hispanic, and less Asian than the nation at large is.

But since the white vote is invisible unless it serves to color working class whites as 'bigots' (despite the fact that blacks are more likely to vote for racial reasons than whites are, even in West Virginia), targeting the Hispanic vote at the expense of others makes the most electoral sense!

* Exit polling from '92-'06.
** Exit polling from '00-'06.


John S. Bolton said...

It might be then, that even 90% of the swing voters in swing states are white. In any case more than 80% are. Media analysis proceeds as if the proportions were as large in the opposite direction. Republican outreach managers should be rarely objects of attention; yet they are perennial objects of dishonest blather. Who are they trying to fool?

Stopped Clock said...

Tangentially related: I find it interesting that four of the six richest Bush states are currently leaning Obama, some by wide margins; and that the other two are Alaska and Utah.

Is it possible to find decent estimates of a candidate's share of the vote in each state broken down by race? I want to see how much of the white vote Obama gets in each state this November.

Audacious Epigone said...

CNN has exit polls from the '04 election detailing demographic data for Senate elections at the state level, and is set up appearing to let users view the same for the Presidential race, but no data is actually available when it is requested. I hope this election cycle will actually include it.