Monday, November 24, 2014

Interesting Exit Poll Findings

The Washington Post has some interesting results from the Midterm Election exit polls today. Let’s start with the base numbers though: voter turnout (77 million) for the 2014 midterm election was the lowest since World War II. Thus, while serious issues remain on the agenda and the Democrats tried vigilantly to get out their base, those efforts largely failed. Just 36.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots three weeks ago, good news for the GOP but bad news for our democracy. Looking at the exit poll numbers themselves:

- Women Voters: In the vote for the House, Democrats beat Republicans by only 4 percentage points. This was a significant decline from the 11 and 13-point margins they garnered in the Obama wins of 2008 and 2012. Like a lot of the numbers I will report, it could come down to the reality that this election was dominated by older, white voters, and they obviously skew toward the GOP, but it could be a concern for Hillary Clinton, or the nominee in general.

- Religion: Democrats won 62 percent of the voters who “never” attend religious services but suffer an 18-point gap among those who do attend religious services on a weekly basis. This highlights the continued importance of religion in the U.S. to the electorate and the GOP base, helping to explain the tact to the right in recent elections.

- Cynicism: 54 percent of respondents claim that “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,” while only 41 percent believe “the government should do more to solve problems.” This is a huge problem for Democrats and progressives and one that must be addressed if we are to address some of our most pressing concerns around corporate malfeasance, banking regulation, growing inequality and the environment. The concern is only amplified when we move onto their general feelings about this government, with 60 percent saying you can only “sometimes” trust the government “to do what is right” and another 18 percent saying “never.” That is 78 percent in composite and a troubling lack of trust that makes you want to watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on repeat and pretend we are back in 1939.

- Same Sex Marriage: 48 percent supported and 48 percent opposed same sex marriage in their state. While this may seem surprising given the victories in the last election, the conservative slant of this electorate should be taken into consideration. However, this does seem to indicate that this will continue to be a wedge issue going forward (while the “war on women” might be less so, given the statistics above).

- White Voters: the overall percentage of white voters in this election was 75 percent, which seems like good news for the GOP. But that is not the case, as that number was 77 percent in 2010. The long-term demographic trends are against them – but for now Democrats only won 38 percent of the white vote nationwide. That is a troubling and almost insane number, showing (in my estimation) the power of fear and cloaked racism as a winning strategy for conservatives.

- Latino/a Voters: the GOP might be heartened to know, however, that they won 36 percent of the Latino vote, an increase from the 34 percent they won in 2010 and a huge jump from the 27 percent that Mitt Romney collected in 2012.

- Moderates: last but not least, Democrats might take some inspiration from the fact they won the moderate voter race 53 to 45 percent, though they lost the independent voter race by 12 points.

Overall, one can still argue, as I did yesterday, that the long-term trends favor democrats, though it appears they must do a few things to win in 2014: 1. Try to restore some faith in government as an institution that can solve our problems, 2. Reach out to female voters (Hillary as a candidate would obviously really help with that), 3. Solidify the Latino base (Obama’s work on immigration policy should help there), 4. Get out the vote: voter suppression appeared to work in this election but the bigger problem was galvanizing the base to vote in sufficient numbers. One expects that to change in a Presidential year, but the next candidate will have to follow the incredibly successful number crunching and get out the vote efforts of the Obama team, and 5. Transcend Wedge Issues: one of the worst effects of Citizens United appears to be a return to good ole wedge issue politics, that helped lead the Gingrich revolution in the 90s. Democrats have to take control of the framing of elections and make them about real issues and a real referendum on the GOP strategy of obstructionism and then promises of changing the very system they created.

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