May 8, 2008 Leave a comment
In my various political commentating this week (including in Russian), I've been pretty much sticking with the theme that what decided the race in NC is pretty much what decided the race in all the states– voter demographics. Obama and Hillary didn't really do all that differently in NC (14 point Obama win) than PA (9 point Hillary win) with the groups that support them. The big difference was simply the proportion of these groups in the electorate. Thus, I was really pleased to see this article from former Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal:
Over the course of the primary season,
especially since early February, the preferences of Democratic primary
voters have been mostly stable. As my colleague Ronald Brownstein put it
last week, Clinton has consistently prevailed among a “beer track”
coalition of blue-collar whites, Latinos and seniors. Obama
consistently dominates Clinton among blacks and younger white voters,
and he draws additional strength from a “wine track” coalition of
independents and well-educated white voters. What varies from primary
to primary is less about the shifting allegiances of voters within
these groups and more about differences in the demographic composition
of each state.
Consider some specific examples. The outcome of the North Carolina
primary was wildly different than Ohio or Pennsylvania, yet non-college
white voters favored Clinton by virtually identical margins in each
state (+44 in Ohio, +41 in Pennsylvania, and +45 in North Carolina,
according to the Edison/Mitofsky National Election Pool exit polls
provided by NBC and ABC News). Clinton's margin was far narrower among
college-educated whites in each state (+7 in Ohio, +10 in Pennsylvania
and +7 in North Carolina). And Obama won near monolithic support from
blacks in all three states (87 percent in Ohio, 90 percent in
Pennsylvania, 91 percent in North Carolina).
The different overall outcomes owed mostly to the varying
demographic composition of each state. Blacks and college-educated
whites made up roughly two-thirds of the North Carolina electorate, but
only about half of the voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania…
All of which brings us to the underlying
story of the Democratic presidential primaries. Since Super Tuesday, it
has mostly been the story of what hasn't happened. Over the
last three months or so, for better or worse, the underlying coalitions
of support for Obama and Clinton have remained largely constant.
That said, there has been one clear trend that has worked to Obama's advantage. Obama's support among African-Americans has gone from very strong to overwhelming. Over at Real Clear Politics, Jay Cost has a great article analyzing demographics from the Indiana and North Carolina exit polls. His final analysis shows the trend among Black voters in Southern and non-Southern states and there's a clear pattern (below).
So, as the media continues to obsess over every little campaign detail and how that has affected the outcome, just remember, it's the demographics stupid.