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Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Election: Gore Voters for Bush?

Mystery man skippy the bush kangaroo points to an interesting quote from journalist Eric Alterman. Essentially, Alterman says the presidential race is over:
I am going to go on record here saying forget the polls, which were wrong last time and will be wrong again this time. If Bush somehow wins, it will require an even bigger steal than four years ago. Nobody who voted for Gore is voting for Bush. The Democrats have registered millions of new voters who don’t show up in the polls. Idiots who share Ralph Nader’s belief that there is not a “dime’s worth of difference” between the two candidates are far fewer than last time around. And lots more people have cell phones and can’t be reached by pollsters. I’m not saying Bush can’t win; I’m just saying I don’t think he can win honestly.
I've been thinking about this argument for some time, partly because some of my friends have been making it for months.

Is it true? Will all Gore voters really go for Kerry? At least one highly respected expert says that this is essentially true. Dwight Meredith of Wampum pointed me to an on-line chat session with political strategist Charlie Cook at the Washington Post website:
Charlotte, N.C.: Do you see the possibility of Gore 2000 voters crossing over in significant numbers to vote for Bush?

Charles Cook: The only group that I can think of where there is a significant number of people who voted for Gore last time that will vote for Bush this time are in the Jewish community, and it is hard to tell just how widespread that will be. While I expect Kerry to win an overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote, I suspect it well be a lower percentage than Democrats in past years have won. That's the only group I can think of. The question then is whether that is more or less than the number of Bush 2000 voters going for Kerry.
According to Voter News Service (VNS) exit polling data from 2000, 4% of voters self-identified as Jewish and Gore won them 79-18%. If Bush managed to get half the Jewish vote, he'd gain 1.3% of the national vote, which is potentially significant in a really close election. Of course, that would be a huge shift and I haven't seen any stories about polls suggesting a movement of that scale is going to happen. Anyone seen data?

In any case, I think both Alterman and Cook are wrong about some voting blocs.

There probably are 2000 Gore voters who now support Bush. For example, Gore likely won some blue collar workers who long supported Bill Clinton, but who are now Bush voters in the wake of 9/11. In 2000, they were voting to continue "peace and prosperity," but that's gone now and they don't blame Bush -- they blame the terrorists. I have no idea how many there are, but I think this is true based on the interactions I have with people in my community and in my classes.

Let's take a guess at some numbers. According to the 2000 exit poll data, Gore won 17% of the self-described "conservative" voters. Then again, Bush won 13% of the liberals, though this was a smaller category (29-21). Let's see, 17% of 29% means 4.9% of the national total is at stake, while 13% of 21% is only 2.7%. That 2.2% difference could be key in a coin flip election.

So far, we're at maybe 2-3% of the national electorate who were Gore voters that might swing to Bush in 2004.

Additionally, there are likely some 2000 Bush supporters who didn't vote for him then because of the late DUI revelation from Maine. Conservatives argue that millions of evangelicals didn't turn out to vote in 2000 and this is one reason. According to Marisa Katz, Karl Rove claimed in 2001:
"If you look at the model of the electorate, and you look at the model of who voted, the big discrepancy is among self-identified, white, evangelical Protestants, Pentecostals, and fundamentalists. ... [T]here should have been 19 million of them, and instead there were 15 million of them. Just over four million of them failed to turn out and vote... that you would have anticipated voting in a normal presidential election."
Then again, Katz debunks this theory by pointing out that the turnout figure seems to come from thin air and that most evangelicals live in non-competitive southern states like Texas and South Carolina.

Conservative Christopher Manion (in an email to Juan Cole) calls some of these voters the "blue hairs" (also "little old ladies in tennis shoes"), who have a low tolerance for moral failings by Republicans. Marion says this is why Kerry mentioned Cheney's daughter's sexual orientation in the third debate; it was a blatant effort to get the blue hairs to sit this one out. Given the way the Cheney's have tried to frame Kerry's comments as a personal outrage, they might stick with the President this time precisely because of Kerry's tolerance for gays. This is just a guess.

Note: 24% of self described gay, lesbian, or bisexual voters (4% of the national voter total) went for Bush in 2000. That's about 1% of the electorate that might be unhappy with Bush's plans to alter the constitution.

What else? Well, many of Gore's voters may have died. Gore won a a nice majority of the 65 and over crowd, but ages 30-59 split 48-48. Now, many of those voters are 60+ and I'm confident that the President's Medicare plan was aimed directly at them. Will it work? I don't know. Gore won 51-46 among voters over 60 and this was 22% of the electorate. If Bush can get his share to 48%, that would be nearly half a percentage point of the national electorate.

That said, because of Iraq, young voters seem to be more highly motivated, broke for Gore last time, and may well be more inclined to vote for Kerry this time.

There's also a plausible theory suggesting that soldiers and their familiies might be more likely to vote for Kerry because of their frustrations about deployments, benefits, the "back door draft," etc. Then again, the latest polling data shows the soldiers and their families remain strongly Republican Bush voters.

More plausibly, Muslim and Arab Americans seem to have shifted support to Kerry. However, VNS didn't have data in 2000 for either military voters or Arab/Muslim Americans so it is very difficult to analyze these voting blocs.

Here's an irony for everyone: 24% of voters said "honesty" was the most important candidate quality in the 2000 election -- and 78% of those voters went for Bush. Hmmmm.

Could those voters change? I think the Dems should run a commercial that includes this footage of the President from March 2002, even before Bush was trying hard to focus attention on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. This is the caption: Why wasn't the President "truly...not that concerned" about Osama bin Laden?

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