“We won the white vote!”

Great piece by Will Saletan on how Romney’s campaign stragegists, pollsters, etc., have been crowing that they won the “key” demographic groups.  Apparently, they weren’t so key after all.  Heck, if Romney won the majority of white people and the majority of Americans with incomes over $50K/year, he should be president– right?  Saletan:

The overall tenor of these reflections is that Romney and his advisers are proud of what they accomplished. They won the demographic groups they set out to win. The only problem is that these groups didn’t add up to a majority. The operation was a success, though the patient died.

Let’s take the putative success stories one by one.

1. Incomes over $50,000. A few days ago, in a review of the exit polls, Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies, who polled for Romney’s super PACand for Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, pointed out that “Romney won middle income voters ($50-100K) by six points.” Bolger was troubled that Romney lost the election while winning this group. But two days later, in aWashington Post op-ed, Romney’s chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, converted this statistic into a boast. “Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters,” Stevens crowed. Brushing aside the campaign’s critics, Stevens concluded that “any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right.”

Sorry to break it to you, gents, but if you check the most recent U.S. census data (Table A-1 of this report), you’ll discover that 49.8 percent of Americans have less than $50,000 a year in household income. And if you look at the right-hand columns, you’ll find that median household income is slightly more than $50,000. So when you brag about winning “every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income,” that doesn’t mean you won middle-income voters. It means you don’t know what middle-income is. And it means you’re dismissing 50 percent of Americans, which makes you 3 percentage points more out of touch than Romney and pretty much kills you in any election where lower-income people show up to vote…

In all four cases, the pattern is the same. Romney won the groups he targeted, and his team continues to point out proudly that he won them. But mathematically, these groups no longer decide elections. In a Nov. 12 memo, Romney’s polling firm asserted that “our research did what it is designed to do—provide strategic counsel to campaigns about key target groups and messages designed to help them win.” But what happens when the “key target groups” aren’t key? You can exclude blacks, Latinos, surplus Democrats, and people who earn less than $50,000 from your target groups and your poll analysis. But you can’t exclude them from the election.  [emphasis mine]

And of course, based on today’s earlier post about birth rates, this is only going to be ever more the case.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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