Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Democratic Divide

We are well into the Democratic primary race and the results are looking eerily similar to those predicted by a leaked Obama campaign memo from early February.  The memo outlines which states the Obama campaign expects to win and which ones it expects to lose.  The fact that the predictions have been so accurate implies that voters are making decisions based on factors that are easy to identify and hard to change.  During election night coverage, the pundits pour over exit-poll data to find which are voting for which candidates.  The voter profiles you hear over and over again on the networks are:

  • Women vote for Clinton, men vote for Obama
  • African-Americans vote for Obama, Latinos vote for Clinton
  • People with college degrees vote for Obama, those without them vote for Clinton
  • Young voters vote for Obama, older voters vote for Clinton
I decided to take a closer look at it myself.  I dumped the exit poll data from CNN's Election Center into a Google spreadsheet and checked each state for each profile.  Places where a profile is broken are highlighted in red.

The only states where all of the profiles held were Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Texas.  The most rigid profiles are the racial ones.  Senator Clinton has not won the African-American vote anywhere, not even in her home state of New York.  Senator Obama has only one the Latino vote in his home state of Illinois, and Virginia, both by slim margins.

Out of 27 states for which I have exit poll data, Senator Clinton has lost the female vote 12 times, while she has won the male vote 5 times.  Senator Obama lost the college educated vote six times, while he won the non-college educated vote 7 times.  Finally, Senator Clinton won voters under 60 9 times, while she lost voters over 60 5 times.

Where the profiles have been broken, they have been definitive.  Senator Obama won every state where won the female, over 60, non-college educated or Latino vote.  Similarly, Senator Clinton won every state where she won the male, under 60 or college educated vote.

So the voter profiles have been powerful in this election, but they are not all-powerful.  Each candidate has shown an ability to reach into the other's bases to get the voters they need for critical wins.  They will have to continue to do so if one of them is going to break the delegate deadlock before the Democratic National Convention.

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