The lost Obama voters Democrats need to focus on

Not those who voted for Trump, but those who did not turn out at all in 2016.  Some excellent and interestinig analysis from Brian Schaffner and others.  Here’s the key chart:

And the analysis:

We grouped all 2012 voters into one of five categories, three of which we focus on in this essay: Obama-to-Trump, Obama-to-nonvoter and Obama-to-Clinton. (We used validated voter turnout data rather than self-reported turnout, which tends to overstate actual voter participation and which one of us used in a preliminary analysis.)

So who were the Obama-to-nonvoters? Fifty-one percent were people of color, compared with 16 percent of Obama-to-Trump voters and 34 percent of Obama-to-Clinton voters. Twenty-three percent of Obama-to-nonvoters were under 30, compared with 11 percent of Obama-to-Trump voters and 10 percent of Obama-to-Clinton voters. More than 60 percent of Obama-to-nonvoters make less than $50,000 a year, compared with 45 percent of Obama-to-Clinton voters and 52 percent of Obama-to-Trump voters…

Two clear patterns emerged. First, it will come as no surprise that Obama-to-Trump voters adopt the most conservative positions. In fact, Obama-to-Trump voters express the most conservative views of any Obama voters in each of the seven areas examined in this analysis…

Second, the preferences of Obama-to-nonvoters are almost always closer to the preferences of Obama-to-Clinton voters than they are to Obama-to-Trump voters…

Democratic strategists should recognize that Obama-to-Trump voters do not represent the future of their party. Obama-to-Trump voters diverge from the Democratic Party on many core issues, and in any case they are not particularly loyal Democrats: Less than one third of Obama-to-Trump voters supported Democrats down-ballot in 2016, and only 37 percent identify as Democrats.

In stark contrast, Obama-to-nonvoters share the progressive policy priorities of Democrats, and they strongly identify with the Democratic Party…

Getting these voters to the polls on Election Day is the most important task for progressives. And given their outlook on the important issues of the day, Obama-to-nonvoters are also likely to be easier to mobilize after two years of a Trump presidency — never mind four. [emphases mine]

Give up on Obama-Trump voters?  No.  But a more promising strategy is probably getting these former Obama voters back into the electorate.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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