I posted this on the “Why Bush Won” thread, but I think it got lost in the abortion/religion debate, and it’s directly on point for this thread, so here we go again:
More good analysis of the exit-poll data from a Canadian blogger:
Invasion of the theo-cons
It’s only been 24 hours, and already the media line on the US election has been set: It’s all due to George Bush’s cult-like hold on the religious right, wound up into a frenzy over gay marriage and other “values” issues and marched off to the polls in record numbers. The National was pushing this theme particularly hard tonight,
complete with scary shots of marauding gangs of evangelicals in choir formation.
This fits with an earlier media framing device, to the effect that Bush’s strategy relied on “turning out the base” rather than attracting undecided and swing voters, as in this post-election analysis from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/...in653592.shtml
“President Bush’s campaign won re-election through the strategic gamble that there was more to gain from galvanizing conservatives and stressing moral issues than from reaching out to centrist voters.” Or, more hysterically, this piece from arch-partisan Sidney Blumenthal, in the Guardian:
The evangelical churches became instruments of political organisation. Ideology was enforced as theology, turning nonconformity into sin, and the faithful, following voter guides with biblical literalism, were shepherded to the polls as though to the rapture. White Protestants, especially in the south, especially married men, gave their souls and votes for flag and cross. The campaign was one long revival.
This, after Kerry campaigned from the pulpit in black churches on five straight Sundays.
All well in keeping with the prevailing Democratic/media view that only morons and blinkered zealots would vote for Bush. But not at all in keeping with the actual data on who voted and why, as revealed in the massive (13,660 respondents), comprehensive CNN exit poll.
True, it found the largest single block of voters identified “moral values” as the “most important election issue” – a much cited factoid – and that 80% of these respondents voted for Bush. But that hardly makes this election a triumph of theocracy. In the first place, “largest single block” turns out to mean 22%, meaning 78% of voters – including two-thirds of Bush voters – named some other issue. Second, the pollsters only managed to elevated “moral values” to number one by dividing up the other issues into subcategories. Thus “Iraq” and “Terrorism” are treated as separate issues, though grouped together as, say, “national security” they would have claimed the top spot, with 34% of the total. Likewise “taxes” and “economy” were named by a combined 25% of voters. Had “moral values” been split into “abortion” and “gay marriage,” the spin would have been rather different.
Let’s move on. 37% of voters identified themselves as Republicans, the same as the Democratic turnout: the first time that has happened for a long time, if ever. That fits with the “turn out the base” thesis (I’m not saying it’s not true – just that it’s not the whole truth). But crunch the numbers a little further. Bush got roughly 90% of the Republican vote, plus 10% of the Democratic vote – plus 50% of Independents. Add it up: that means fully one-third of Bush’s vote came from non-Republicans – the same proportion as the “moral values” voters.
Possibly there’s some overlap – or a lot – between the two. That’s the point. Even if it were true that Bush drew disproportionate support among moral-majority types, that’s only one of many possible ways of slicing the data, and it’s revealing that analysts would seize on it. (See Jacques Parizeau, “Money and the Ethnic Vote: A Study in Selective Interpretation.”)
For example, we might also note that Bush’s support increased significantly among women (at 48%, there was effectively no gender gap: indeed he led Kerry 55-44 among white women), among Hispanics (44%, a record for any Republican candidate), among blacks (okay, it was only 11%, up from 9% last time, but that’s a one-fifth increase!), among Jews (at 25%, a one-third expansion), and among Catholics (where he beat Kerry, a Catholic, 52-47).
When a candidate draws increased numbers of votes from groups not traditionally identified with his party, we usually call that “broadening the base.” So why the fascination with zombie hordes of theo-cons?
ADDENDA: More fascinating nuggets from the exit polls:
About 45% of Bush’s vote – nearly half – came from self-identified “moderates” or “liberals.” (How do I get that figure? Jump about a fifth of the way down the page, where it breaks down the vote “by ideology.” Liberals made up 21% of all voters, and Bush got 13% of their votes. Multiplying the two, that means 2.7% of voters were “liberals for Bush.” Doing the same for moderates (45% of all voters, 45% of whom voted Bush) yields 20.3%: the number of moderate Bush voters. Adding these two tells us 23% of all voters were liberal or moderate Bushies. Those 23% represented 45% of all Bush voters, given these were 51% of the total vote.)
Bush took 46% of first-time voters. He took 52% of college graduates. 48% of working women. 44% of those earning less than $50,000. 45% of those aged 18-29. Given these are conventionally supposed to be strongly Democratic demographic groups, it suggests the stereotype of Bush voters as middle-aged white guys is equally suspect.
Bush, the AWOL Texas National Guard pilot, claimed 57% of the veterans vote, versus 41% for the “decorated war hero.”
Bush was the choice of 46% of those who said they made up their minds in the last week. The undecided split about evenly – not 9 to 1 for the challenger, as was assumed in one pre-election poll.
Bush was overwhelmingly favoured by those who said the most important quality in a president was either “religious faith,” “honesty,” “strong leader” or “clear stands on the issues.” (The latter two were the most commonly cited criteria among Bush voters, religious faith the least.) Kerry enjoyed equally strong support among those who looked for “intelligence,” “cares about people” or “will bring change.”
80% of Bush voters said they voted for their candidate, rather than against the other one. Barely a third of Kerry voters said the same.
93% of voters said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the cost and availability of health care. Yet despite making the issue one of the centrepieces of his campaign, Kerry could do no better than to split these voters with Bush.
Though 52% of voters said the economy was “not good” or “poor,” fewer voters trusted Kerry to handle the economy than Bush. Neither candidate was trusted by a majority.
Only 56% said the Bin Laden videotape was important to their vote. Of these, the vote was split 50-50 between the candidates. The tape was not a factor.
Thanks for the link. What this shows is that the country is clearly divided on many issues. Bush has a lot of work to do if he really cares about all of America and not just the ones that supported him.
It’s very interesting to me that the immediate meme floated after the election was that it was the responsibility of the winner to reach out and work with the loser.
Given the Democrats’ obstructionist record over the previous four years – I’m specifically thinking of the filibusters of appellate level judicial appointments – one would think that at least a word or two should be said about the responsibility of the losers to work with the winners.