Emerging Democratic Majority?

I think one of the most interesting aspects coming out of the exit polls in last week's election is that they have so thoroughly validated the theory laid out in John Judis and Ruy Texeira's 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic MajorityBasically, they argue that the demographic portions of the electorate that are growing the most are the same ones that are increasingly becoming Democratic.  Republicans, in contrast, fare best among the ever shrinking portion of America that is white people in non-professional occupations.  One of my favorite aspects of the book is that they actually feature the Raleigh-Durham area as an “ideopolis” which typifies the changes in the electorate.  Here's Judis in a TNR piece after the election:

The new Democratic realignment reflects the
shift that began decades ago toward a post-industrial economy centered
in large urban-suburban metropolitan areas devoted primarily to the
production of ideas and services rather than material goods. (In The Emerging Democratic Majority,
Ruy Teixeira and I called these places “ideopolises.”) Clustered in the
regions that have undergone this economic transition are the three main
groups that constitute the backbone of the new Democratic majority:
professionals (college-educated workers who produce ideas and
services); minorities (African Americans, Latinos, and Asian
Americans); and women (particularly working, single, and
college-educated women).

As late as the
1950s, professionals were the most Republican of all occupational
groupings, but they were also relatively small in number–about 7
percent of the labor force. Today, professionals (who are the brains,
so to speak, of the new post-industrial economy) make up 20 percent of
the labor force and are a quarter or more of the electorate in many
northern and western states. They range from nurses to teachers to TV
producers to software programmers to engineers. They began voting
Democratic in 1988 and have continued to do so ever since.

Using
census data, Teixeira and I calculated that, between 1988 and 2000,
professionals voted for the Democratic presidential candidate by an
average of 52 to 40 percent. I don't know exactly what percentage of
professionals voted for Obama this week because exit polls don't
include professionals as a category. Still, as an approximation, I can
use a somewhat smaller (and maybe even slightly more conservative)
group: people with advanced degrees. Obama won these voters by a
whopping 58 to 40 percent. He even won college graduates as a whole, 50
to 48 percent. (It may be the first time that a Democrat has ever
accomplished this. In 1996, for instance, Clinton, even while beating
Bob Dole handily, failed to carry college graduates.) Moreover, if you
look at states Obama carried and compare them to the states that have
the highest percentage of people with an advanced degree, you find that
he won the top 19 states–all of them, which together account for 234
electoral votes. He also won 21 of the top 24, accounting for 282
electoral votes. McCain, by contrast, won the six states that have the
lowest percentage of people with advanced degrees.

As for minorities: Most–with the exception of
Cubans, Chinese-Americans, and Vietnamese-Americans–have voted
Democratic since the 1930s. But, with the shift of the economy and the
liberalization of immigration laws, the number of Latinos and Asian
Americans has expanded. Some of the new immigrants are professionals,
but others form the working class of the post-industrial economy. They
are orderlies, child-care workers, janitors, fast-food cooks, and
servers. As late as 1972, minorities accounted for just 10 percent of
the electorate. In this election, they made up 26 percent. Blacks, of
course, went overwhelmingly for Obama, but he also won Hispanics by 66
to 31 percent and Asians–who as a group used to split their vote
between Democrats and Republicans–by 62 to 35 percent.

Women,
too, were once disproportionately Republican–in 1960, Richard Nixon
won the women's vote. But their voting patterns began to change as they
entered the labor force. In 1950, only one-third of women worked;
today, 60 percent of women work, making up 46 percent of the total
labor force. Over 70 percent of working women have white-collar jobs,
and 24 percent work as professionals–compared to 17 percent of men. In
1980, women began disproportionately backing Democrats, and the trend
has continued. This year, Obama enjoyed a 13-point edge among women
voters and only a one-point edge among men. He carried working women by
21 points. If you add these numbers to the Democrats' advantage among
professionals and minorities, that is a good basis for winning
elections.

Obviously, one does not want to extrapolate too much from a single election, but the demographic trends are clearly moving in the Democrats' direction.  So long as demographic groups continue to align with the parties in roughly the ways they do now, Democrats only stand to gain.

Actually, was just about to post this and came across this article by Salon's Gary Kamiya which is even better.  I should be quoting from it, but I don't feel like re-doing the post. 

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Annals of crazy customers

I think I'll go for two posts in a row inspired by my wife.  Kim always enjoys telling me tales of crazy Snapdragonsbaby.com customers to vent and get things off her chest.  I think today's story might be the best.  She got a phone message from a customer who was upset because the “Pirate tee” she ordered had a picture of a pirate ship on the front.  Apparently, her family does not dress their children in pirate-themed clothing.  Oddly enough, this did not stop her from ordering a clothing item clearly labeled “Pirate tee.”  And for the record, despite the name, the pirate ship could easily be mistaken for any large sailing vessel.  Her loss– Alex wears one of these all the time and it is a great shirt.

Waiting lists for Downs adoptions

Kim sent me a really interesting Washington Post article about the fact that there is actually a waiting list for people wanting to adopt babies with Downs Syndrome (this may be the first time Kim has sent me a Post article, rather than vice versa).  This is especially noteworthy as most pre-natal diagnoses of Downs end in abortion (though, it should be noted that many people choose not to have this in utero genetic test):

For many parents, a diagnosis of Down syndrome can be overwhelming as
they face the likelihood that the child will struggle to live
independently and will require intensive medical, financial and social
support. Most prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome lead to abortion.

Yet almost 200 families are on a waiting list to adopt a child with Down
syndrome in the United States. Others are seeking to adopt such
children overseas. Many of those interested in adoption, such as the
Curtises, have a child with the genetic condition; some are
special-education teachers or motivated by religious beliefs or
idealism.

This month, President Bush
signed into law a bill meant to help families who confront questions
about Down syndrome or other disabilities. It promotes initiatives to
give new or expectant parents up-to-date information about the
conditions, as well as referrals to support services. It also
authorizes the government to help create a national registry to connect
birth parents with people who want to adopt a child with Down syndrome.

In 2005, Brian Skotko, a resident physician at Children's Hospital Boston,
surveyed more than 1,000 mothers of children with Down syndrome. He
found that information mothers got from doctors was often “incomplete,
inaccurate or offensive,” he said. “Rarely was the option of adoption
mentioned” to those diagnosed prenatally, he said.

 The article actually leads off with a story about a family who adopted additional Downs kids because they did not want their Downs child to get lonely:

Jonny and Madeleine, the eighth and ninth children in the Curtis
family, were born 54 weeks apart but grew up in many ways like twins.
Best friends from the beginning, they learned to walk and sound out
words together. But Madeleine's development soon outpaced her older
brother's.

Looking ahead, Barbara and Tripp Curtis worried that Jonny, who has
Down syndrome, would be alone as his siblings grew up and left home.
And so they adopted Jesse, Daniel and, finally, Justin. All three have
Down syndrome.

Now the four brothers, ages 8 to 16, share a bedroom decorated with posters of SpongeBob SquarePants and a framed picture of Jesus in their sprawling Loudoun County house. They also share a love of the Beatles, the Everly Brothers and Special Olympics basketball.

I know that aspect of the article grabbed attention, as in our own family Evan's development has outpaced Alex's.  Safe to say that three kids of any variety is more than enough for the Greene family. 

Exit polls

Kevin Drum makes a great point about interpreting this years exit polls relative to 2004:

First things first. In 2004, Kerry lost to Bush nationwide by 2.4
percentage points. In 2008, Obama beat McCain by 6.3 percentage points.
That's a swing of about 9 points nationwide, which means that any group
that also swung by 9 points in Obama's favor was doing nothing except
following the national trend.

The interesting question, then, is which groups significantly over-performed or under-performed this 9 point trend.  Drum provides the answers:

  • Income $200,000 or more (+34)

  • First-time voters (+33)

  • No high school (+27)

  • Latinos (+27)

  • 18-29 year olds (+25)

  • Under $15,000 (+21)

  • Full-time workers (+19)

  • Urban (+19)

  • Non-gun owners (+18)

  • Non-religious (+16)

  • Parents with children under 18 (+16)

As for the underperforming groups:

  • Gay/lesbian (-11)

  • Last minute voters (-8)

  • Union members (0)

  • “Other” religions (0)

  • Gun owners (+2)

  • White women (+4)

  • 45-59 year olds (+4)

Among the most notable… Obama really did kick butt with young people.  They only went up a percent as a portion of the electorate, but they overwhelmingly supported him.  Given Republican rhetoric in recent years, it is also not surprising that Latinos went hugely for Obama.  And check out the swing among $200K earners.  Nice to see they realize things are more important than their marginal tax rate going up 3%.  I read a comment somewhere today referring to wealthier white-collar workers voting against their economic interests, but I think that is a really narrow way of looking at things.  Maybe in the short-term their marginal tax rates go up, but long-term, everybody does better with a healthy and robust middle class and less extreme income disparities– i.e., a Democratic economic program.  Given that I'm trying to finish up a book on parenthood and politics, I'm very intrigued to see the huge bump in parents for Obama and looking forward to figuring out what is going on there.

The pinnacle of punditry

Well, I've been working my way up, and I have finally reached the apex of political punditry–The New York Times.  I spent an hour on the phone yesterday with the reporter talking about exit polls and such.  So, needless to say I would have been pretty disappointed had I not made it in the article.  The whole article is short and pretty good.  Here's my part:

Steven Greene, a political scientist at North Carolina State University,
said people had invested so much hope in Mr. Obama that there would
inevitably be disappointment. But Mr. Greene predicted that Mr. Obama’s
support among young people augured well for the Democrats’ future.

Actually, my great hope was that my name would get mentioned twice, so I would have that oh-so- New York Times, “Mr. Greene…”  Mission accomplished.

Post-Election thoughts

Millions of things to say…  Wow.  I could spend hours blogging my thoughts.  Instead, I'll try and compress some of them into a few bullet points.

  • A Black president.  That is so cool.  It is simply an amazing, amazing symbolic statement about how far this country has come.  America under Bush has done tremendous self-inflicted damage to it's perception around the world and really lost its moral leadership.  By electing a Black man, given our nation's history, really does a lot to restore America as a beacon of hope.
  • Obviously, Obama had a terrific speech last night.  I was really struck by McCain's, though.  I loved it.  I thought, “wow, here's the guy I really liked that I had pretty much forgotten had existed.”  Here's hoping that's the McCain we see going forward.
  • There is no Bradley effect.
  • I really think the effect of the economic crisis has been overstated.  Over at the Monkey Cage, there's a great post that quite clearly shows Obama began gaining before the crisis really hit, and there was no inflection point in the trendline in response to the crisis.  
  • I think the debates were actually an underappreciated factor in Obama's victory.  Much long Reagan in 1980, Obama was the largely unknown figure that needed the opportunity to let the American people get comfortable with him.  He did.  
  • I was honestly left with a bit of a nagging feeling that despite it all, Obama should have done better in the popular vote.  Incredibly appealing candidate with a great campaign who has inspired millions of new voters in a decidedly Democratic year.  I cannot help but wonder how many white voters Obama lost due to race.  Some interesting numbers…  according to exit polls, Kerry won 89% of white Democrats in 2004 while Obama won only 85% of white Democrats in 2008, despite the fact that Obama outdid Kerry in almost every other meaningful category.  My race and politics expert friend, the notorious Michael D. Cobb thinks it premature to claim race was a factor in this figures, but for me, Occam's razor suggests that Obama's race lost him a number of white Democratic voters.  He won due to 1) more Democratic voters than in '04; 2) a modest advantage among independents; 3) an overwhelming advantage among non-white voters.  I'm having lots of fun with the exit poll data, so I'll try to get up some more interesting thoughts based on the data (e.g., the gender gap was way back up this year).
  • Political Science aside, I am just damn glad that Obama won.

My election predictions

I've had a good year of electoral prognostication.  Might as well go ahead and put it on the line by making official election-eve predictions.  Here goes:
Popular vote: Obama 53; McCain 46 (whatever “Bradley effect” there is will be more than countered by the “cell phone” effect in Obama's favor).
Electoral college: 367 for Obama (Kerry states plus IA, VA, NV, CO, NM, FL, NC, OH, ND and either MO or IN)
Senate: +7 Democrats; Dole goes down in NC
House: I haven't been following this closely at all, but I'll say +26 Dems
Other: I'll predict Bev Perdue just squeaking out a victory for Governor in NC, which she will entirely to Obama's NC ground game.
If you are in NC, look for my sure-to-be provocative and insightful analysis tomorrow night on WUNC-TV
[Somehow, I forgot to mention a bunch of red-to-blue states the first time I did this– I think I've got them all now]

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