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by inoljt

How 2012 Helps Prospects for Reforming the Electoral College

4:07 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt,

The electoral college is one of the lingering undemocratic parts of American politics. Unlike almost every other country in the world, America elects its presidents not via the popular vote but rather via a strange system of “electoral votes” distributed by states. The good news is that this system generally reflects the popular will. The bad news is that it occasionally fails, as last happened in 2000.

Since then there has been a push to reform the electoral college so that all states cast their electoral votes for the winners of the popular vote. Currently half the states needed to implement the reform have signed on.

The reform is mostly pushed by Democrats. This is because in 2000 the popular vote winner but electoral college loser was the Democratic candidate. As long electoral college reform was only pushed by Democrats, it was likely to fail. It is almost impossible to get enough states to sign on with complete Republican opposition.

In 2012, however, something quite interesting happened. The electoral college helped Obama quite a bit. For the final months of the campaign Obama was often behind in the national polls but still leading in the state Ohio. It was seen as a very conceivable possibility that Obama would lose the popular vote but win the electoral college and remain president because of Ohio. Even after the first presidential debate, Romney led in the popular vote but never in the electoral college.

It should be noted that these polls were wrong; they underestimated Obama nationally and put Ohio as more Democratic than a lot of states (Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia) which ended up more favorable to Obama. But the perception, based on these flawed polls, was what mattered.

So a lot of hard-core Republicans got to see the electoral college really hurting them during the most important campaign of all.

Moreover, the electoral college actually has leaned Democratic for three elections in a row. In 2004 John Kerry was 118,601 votes away in Ohio from becoming president while losing the popular vote. In 2008 John McCain would have had to win the popular vote by 1.7% to win Colorado and become president. In 2012 the votes are still being counted, but it’s very certain that Obama could have lost the popular vote and still remained president.

This is good news for electoral college reform. Hopefully Republicans will not forget how polls showed them leading the popular vote but still behind in the electoral college during October 2012. Republicans now are aware that the electoral college hurts them. It would be in their self-interest to shift to a popular vote.

There are several blue or purple states in which the state Republican Party is fairly strong and has prevented electoral college reform. The hope is that in a few of these states some Republicans will now support a popular vote. It is also possible that Republicans by themselves will enact popular vote bills on their own initiative. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, for instance, has publicly made supportive statements on a popular vote. Of course this is pure self-interest, since she (like many Republicans) recognizes that the electoral college now hurts Republicans.

But a popularly elected president looks closer than ever. As long as it was only a Democratic initiative, it didn’t look like the popular vote would be enacted. Now, hopefully, some Republicans will also see that the popular vote is both something that helps a Republican presidential candidate and (more importantly for American but probably not Republicans) the right thing to do.

by inoljt

Could Mike Huckabee Have Beat Mitt Romney?

5:09 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt,

Mike Huckabee (photo: Gage

The Republican Primary race is essentially over. Rick Santorum, having finally hit the end of his rope, has announced a suspension of his campaign. It’s going to be Romney versus Obama in November.

Rick Santorum was never a really strong candidate. For the longest time he polled at 1% in Iowa. Only when all the other non-Romney options were exhausted did Santorum begin to rise. But Santorum’s strength was always more anti-Romney than pro-Santorum. People voted against Romney, not for Santorum.

There was, however, another candidate who didn’t enter the field in 2012. This was Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee is a much stronger politician than Rick Santorum. Huckabee would have built the same coalition that Santorum built. And unlike Santorum, the people in Huckabee’s coalition would actually be voting for Huckabee rather than merely against Romney.

This leaves us a very interesting question: Could Huckabee have beaten Romney?

In many ways Huckabee would have been a super-charged version of Santorum. He would have done several considerably better amongst Santorum’s voters. On the other hand, he would have had many of the same weaknesses that eventually doomed Santorum. Given that Santorum never really came close to winning the nomination, that’s not good for Huckabee.

On the positive side, Huckabee would almost certainly have won conservative, evangelical Iowa – and probably by a lot. More likely than not he would have taken the state by double-digits. Huckabee would then have probably lost New Hampshire. But next would be South Carolina. Newt Gingrich, not exactly the strongest politician, won South Carolina with 40% of the vote. Huckabee probably would have broken 50%.

Here things get tricky. After South Carolina would have been Florida. This would have been one of those “must-win” states for Huckabee. At the same time, demographically Florida would have pretty unfriendly territory. Could Huckabee have developed momentum after two big victories in Iowa and South Carolina? Perhaps; Florida did give Gingrich some very good numbers before Romney started spending money.

After Florida the most symbolically important states would have been the Midwestern consortium of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. Rick Santorum lost all of these states, which is why he’s not the nominee.

There’s a decent chance that Huckabee would have won Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Add 10% or 20% to Santorum’s score in the rural counties, along with higher turn-out by voters excited to vote for Huckabee rather than merely against Romney, and things start looking pretty bleak for Romney.

So it looks like Huckabee would have won quite a bit more than Santorum.

But that doesn’t mean that he would have won the nomination.

In 2008 Huckabee was quite weak in urban and suburban areas. There’s no reason to think that he would have done much better in 2012. It’s hard to imagine Huckabee winning in big-city states like California, New York, and Illinois. Losing those three states is pretty devastating for a campaign. To this you have to add Romney give-mes like Arizona, Massachusetts, and Utah.

Huckabee would have had to rely on winning the big states Florida and Texas. Both of these are quasi-Southern states, but they’re also home to a lot of non-Southern voters. Winning these states would not have been a cake-in-the-walk for Huckabee.

But more important than this are two structural weaknesses which doomed Santorum – and which Huckabee would also have had.

Firstly, Huckabee would have been heavily outspent. This was a big reason why Romney won: he outspent Santorum by outrageous margins. Unfortunately for Huckabee, the same thing would have happened with him. In 2008 Huckabee’s campaign was consistently on the brink of going bankrupt. There’s no reason to think that anything would have changed in 2012.

Secondly, the Republican establishment would have backed Romney. The establishment went heavily against Huckabee in 2008 (for reasons that are mysterious to me). It would have been firmly in the camp of Romney in 2012. By the end of the campaign, Fox News was pretending that Rick Santorum didn’t exist. Something similar might have happened with Huckabee.

All in all, it’s a roll of the dice whether Huckabee could have won. The best case scenario: Huckabee pounds Romney in Iowa, runs a close second in New Hampshire, breaks 50% in South Carolina, and then Mitt Romney says that he doesn’t care about poor people. It’s an open question whether momentum for Huckabee would have started setting in at this point, but let’s say it does and Huckabee takes a double-digit national lead. Huckabee wins Florida and then Michigan at the end of February. On Super Tuesday, Romney’s final stand, Huckabee breaks 65% in the South and wins Ohio by double-digits. Romney drops out and endorses Huckabee.

All in all, it’s fun to guess what would have happened in this alternate scenario. I personally would have preferred the Republican nominee to be Mike Huckabee rather than Mitt Romney. In the end, Huckabee stayed out because he thought that Barack Obama would win. That was probably the right reasoning.

by inoljt

What’s Behind Romney’s Sincerity Problem

9:45 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

In a previous post, I wrote about a very revealing video of Mitt Romney. This video was filmed without Romney’s knowledge during an off-the-air conversation. In it, Romney talks sincerely and frankly in a way which we do not normally see him.

Here’s the video:

The first half of the video has the combative radio host asking Romney a series of tough questions. The second half has Romney speaking off-the-air, mostly about his church. My previous post talks a lot about this.

Aside from the religious discussion, there is another particular and very revealing thing that Romney says. It’s at the point 17:04 of the video. Here’s the transcript:

Jan Mickelson: …I take this stuff really seriously.

Mitt Romney: Oh I don’t though. For me it, this is all frivolous. *laughter* Oh come on, come on, I’m running for president…

This is a very interesting thing that Romney says, and it’s especially interesting given the way he laughs when he says it and his body language.

What Romney’s implying is that all “this stuff” – all the campaigning, all the television and radio interviews – is “frivolous.” It’s just a bunch of stupid stuff that he has to do in order to become president. It doesn’t really matter.

Now, Mitt Romney has a very big image problem. His critics accuse him of being willing to say and do whatever it takes to become president. Democrats say that Romney will flip-flop on any issue as long as it benefits him. This problem has deeply hurt Romney; it is a big reason why he lost the 2008 Republican primaries and why he’s taking so long to shake off the opposition right now.

There are a number of reasons why Romney has this problem. But one of the big reasons, and one of the most subtle of them, is illustrated in the quote above. That is, Romney’s attitude towards campaigning is a big reason why people don’t think he’s sincere. To Romney, campaigning is just a bunch of bullshit that he has to endure in order to win election. When you get down to it, that’s what means when he says “this is all frivolous.”

And it’s not the first time Romney has said this. Remember when Romney was accused of hiring undocumented immigrants? Here’s what he said in defense of himself:

So we went to the company and we said, look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals. It turns out that once question, they hired someone who had falsified their documents, had documents, and therefore we fired them.

Of course, this is a terrible attitude to have. Voters are not stupid. They can tell things like that very quickly. People are very good at intuiting what a person feels. If a candidate thinks that campaigning is dumb, they notice. Romney has that attitude. Unsurprisingly, he’s now developed a reputation of being insincere and a flip-flopper.

by inoljt

An Interesting Way in Which Barack Obama’s Race Helps Him

7:57 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be an election highly focused on economics and class. It seems that one of the main themes of the election will be class, or the gap between the rich and the poor. At this point, it’s pretty likely that the main Democratic attack on Mitt Romney will be an attack based on class. Mitt Romney will be portrayed as rich and out-of-touch, a Wall Street banker.

Now what does this have to do with the title of this post?

Well, obviously this critique of Mitt Romney wouldn’t work if his opponent was also a billionaire businessman. The attack against Mitt Romney relies on the fact that Barack Obama is not rich, is not out-of-touch, and is not a Wall Street banker.

Except one of these things is false. Barack Obama is rich. His income level squarely puts him in the top one percent.

One can make a good argument, of course, that Obama’s wealth is a very different thing from Romney’s wealth. Obama is wealthy mainly due to the success of his books. He has never been and will never be rich in the way Mitt Romney is. Before gaining political success, Obama was pretty heavily indebted. Not to mention that he deliberately chose to be a community organizer after college, not the most high-income of jobs.

But more importantly than all these facts, there is the fact that Barack Obama just doesn’t look very rich. The typical American does not think of Obama as belonging to the top one percent when they look at him. Obama just doesn’t exude wealth in the way Mitt Romney’s very presence does.

Why is this? The answer is pretty simple: it’s because Obama’s black.

Despite the occasional successful black entertainer or athlete, the black community is still very strongly associated with poverty. Think about, for instance, the first image that usually comes to mind when people talk about poverty in America (and especially urban poverty).

The result is that Americans almost never associate Barack Obama with being rich, even though today he has become quite wealthy. This is one of those subconscious things which most people don’t even realize is happening in their minds. Nor even do many political experts realize this. Nor did I for the longest time.

But the fact that Obama is African-American, and the fact that very few people associate African-Americans with wealth, will end up making a huge difference in the 2012 presidential election.


by inoljt

The Secret Behind Mitt Romney’s Hawaii Landslide

9:59 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

It was late in the night of Tuesday March 13th, 2012. For most people it was just another normal day.

For Americans in three states, however, it was election day. The good folk of Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi were voting for the Republican 2012 presidential nominee.

Alabama and Mississippi voted first. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney had a rough time in both primaries, coming third in both. Late at night, the returns from Hawaii started coming in. Romney did better there: he held a small but consistent lead as the precincts started trickling in. By 1:19 a.m. Pacific Time, Romney held 35% of the vote to second place Rick Santorum’s 29%. Things looked good, but not great, for Romney.

Then this came in:


Romney won an astounding 92.5% of the regular ballots in this precinct. His lead jumped to 46%. The Republican ended the night winning Hawaii by a landslide, taking 44.4% of the vote to second place Rick Santorum’s 28.1%

What happened?

The picture above indicates the caucus results in Laie, Hawaii. These were held in Laie Elementary School. You can actually take a look at list of caucus locations at the Hawaii Republican Party’s website; Laie is near the bottom. Laie is located on Hawaii’s main island, Oahu. Specifically, it’s on the island’s north shore.

Laie is one of the most conservative places in Hawaii. In the 2008 presidential election Republican John McCain won three precincts in Hawaii. One of these was Laie:


It was pretty close, however. John McCain took 50.0% of the vote, barely edging the 48.1% of the vote Obama took.

Laie is not the most populated place; 6,138 people live in the CDP that the Census uses for the area. 1,360,301 people live in Hawaii. So it’s about 0.45% of the population.

In the 2012 Hawaii Caucus, however, Laie dramatically overperformed its share of the population. In fact, the word dramatic is somewhat of an understatement. As the picture above indicates, 1,110 people cast regular ballots in Laie. In total, 10,288 Hawaiians participated in the caucuses. So Laie composed 10.9% of the votes cast in the caucus.

Without the votes from this one place alone, Romney would only have won 38.6% of the vote. His margin over Santorum would literally have been cut in half.

So why are the good folk of Laie so passionate about Romney, perhaps one of the least inspiring presidential candidates in recent history?

Well, I think most of you guessed the answer long ago: Laie is home to a Mormon temple. Indeed, the Mormon Church has had a long presence in Laie. The church writes:

Defrauded by Gibson of its property in Lanai, the Church purchased 6,000 acres at Laie, on the island of Oahu, on 26 Jan. 1865. Soon thereafter, a colony, school and sugar factory were started.

Mormons in Laie voted overwhelmingly for a person of their fellow faith. Their support for Romney was almost certainly also a reaction to the hostility Romney has encountered amongst other Christians. This recalls the 80% of the Catholic vote JFK pulled in 1960, when many Protestants opposed him on religious reasons. Since then no politician has ever come close to that level of loyalty amongst Catholics.


The Mormon vote in Laie is reminiscent of the margins that Democrats often pull in inner-cities. It’s pretty stunning.

This result, however, is not actually that unique in the wider context of worldwide voting patterns.  There is a long history of extremely polarized voting based on religious voting. For most of the 19th century in America, you could guess pretty accurately who somebody would vote for by their religion. In Nigeria Muslims in the north and Christians in the south consistently vote different ways. In Israel a similar divide occurs with Muslims and Jews.

In Hawaii, white and Asian Mormons in Laie ended up giving 93% of their vote to Mitt Romney. Put any group under a particular set of (usually adversarial) circumstances, and it end up giving 90+% support to a certain side in an election. Hawaii’s Republican caucus is a perfect example of this.


by inoljt

Romney’s Shifting New Hampshire Coalition

11:46 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is part of a series of posts analyzing how Mitt Romney’s 2012 coalition has changed from his 2008 coalition. Hopefully such analysis will provide clues as to Romney’s performance in the general election. A previous post, which I will refer to multiple times, looked at Iowa. This post will analyze New Hampshire.

New Hampshire

To do that, this post will examine exit polls of the New Hampshire primary in 2008 and exit polls of the New Hampshire primary in 2012.

We should also note, as has been stated before many times, that these exit polls should be taken with two heavy grains of salt. Exit polls consistently fail when it comes down to something as simple as predicting who will win the election. This fact should always be taken into account when using exit polls to examine much more complex relationships (such as the relationship between income and support for Romney). Only when a pattern appears again and again in multiple exit polls should it be possibly noted as valid.

With that said, let’s begin:

Gender Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Male 31% 39%
Female 32% 40%

Not much of interest here. Romney’s strength amongst males and females is virtually identical, as it was in Iowa.

Let’s take a look at age:

Age Romney 2008 Romney 2012
18-24 17% 28%
25-29 33%
30-39 28% 34%
40-49 31% 42%
50-64 30% 42%
65+ 44% 42%
Oldest vs. Youngest Support Gap 27% 14%

Romney does considerably better amongst elderly voters, which is something that occurred in the Iowa exit polls as well. Interestingly, however, the age gap has narrowed since 2008. The opposite occurred in the Iowa exit polls.

Education next:

Education Romney 2008 Romney 2012
High School or Less 28% 39%
Some College/Associate Degree 32% 35%
College Graduate 31% 43%
Postgraduate Study 35% 39%
Most vs. Least Education Support Gap 7% 0%

Education is something that the Iowa exit polls didn’t look at. In general, Romney seems to perform slightly better amongst more educated voters. On the other hand, the relationship isn’t very clear. It could very well be sampling error. For what it’s worth, the education gap seems also to have narrowed in 2012.

Next is marital status:

Married? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Yes 34% 42%
No 27% 35%
Married vs. Unmarried Support Gap 7% 7%

This is something else which the Iowa post didn’t look at. Romney does slightly better amongst married individuals. Not very surprising, considering his strong family record. Interestingly, the difference in support he draws between married and unmarried individuals is completely unchanged.


Income Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Less than $30,000 18% 31%
$30,000 – $49,999 28% 31%
$50,000 – $99,999 31% 35%
$100,000 – $199,999 33% 47%
$200,000 or more 34% 52%
Highest Income vs. Lowest Income Support Gap 16% 21%

As was the case in Iowa’s exit polls, Romney does substantially better amongst higher-income families. The income gap has also widened since 2012. Something to watch for the general eleciton.

Here is the polling on party affiliation:

Party Affiliation Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Republican 35% 49%
Independent 27% 30%
Republican vs. Independent Support Gap 8% 19%

Romney does better amongst Republicans than Independents, and the gap has widened since 2008. This is something that also occurred in Iowa.

Here is a similar question on political registration:

Voter Registration Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Republican 33% 49%
Independent 30% 33%
Republican vs. Independent Support Gap 3% 16%

The difference here is that this question asks what party people are actually registered with, while the previous question asks what party people mentally identify with. This question is less accurate; for instance, many people registered decades ago as Democrats but now vote consistently Republican. They merely have been too lazy to change their registration, which is why conservative states like Kentucky or North Carolina still have massive Democratic registration advantages.

Anyways, we see basically the same thing as before. Romney does better with Republicans than Independents, and the gap has widened since 2008.

Next is political philosophy:

Political Philosophy Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Very Conservative 43% 33%
Somewhat Conservative 35% 48%
Moderate 27% 40%
Somewhat Liberal 15% 33%
Very Conservative vs. Somewhat Liberal Gap -28% 0%

In 2008, the more conservative the voter, the better Romney’s performance. This had a lot to do with John McCain’s candidacy (the same pattern didn’t exist in Iowa). However, in 2012 Romney’s support crests amongst somewhat conservative voters. This is different from Iowa, where he did best in 2012 amongst moderate voters.

Let’s take a look at born-again evangelical Christians:

Born-Again Evangelical Christian? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Yes 27% 31%
No 34% 40%
Non-Evangelical vs. Evangelical Support Gap 7% 9%

Non-evangelicals, as in Iowa, are more likely to support Romney. The evangelical versus non-evangelical support gap has slightly widened, again as happened in Iowa. However, New Hampshire’s evangelical versus non-evangelical support gap is substantially narrower compared with Iowa.

The next question is very interesting, and it wasn’t asked in Iowa:

Religion Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Protestant 31% 35%
Catholic 38% 45%
None 22% 23%

There’s pretty substantial variation on Romney’s support depending on one’s religion (this recalls the elections of the nineteenth century, when religious affiliation was a powerful indicator of one’s political party). Atheists dislike Romney the most, Protestants are lukewarm, and Catholics are fans.

It should be noted that this same pattern occurred in 2008. However, in later primaries (such as California), the exit polls showed Romney doing better amongst Protestants (even white Protestants) than Catholics. One should be cautious about concluding that Protestants like Romney less.

Here’s a question which tells a lot about the 2012 campaign:

More Important Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Issues 33% 31%
Personal Qualities 28% 55%
Personal Qualities vs. Issues Support Gap -5% 24%

On voters who find issues more important, Romney’s doing about the same as in 2008. However, he jumps double-digits ahead amongst those voting based on personal qualities.

Next is another question on income:

Family’s Financial Situation Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Falling Behind 26% 32%
Holding Steady 32% 36%
Getting Ahead 32% 45%
Good Financial Situation vs. Bad Financial Situation Support Gap 6% 13%

Romney’s doing better amongst those who are getting ahead. The support gap has also widened. Both are unsurprising considering how much more this year Romney has been attacked on class. It bodes poorly for him for the general election, however.

The next question almost contradicts the previous one:

Worried About Economy? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Not Too Worried 35%
Somewhat Worried 33% 36%
Very Worried 24% 41%
Most Worried vs. Least Worried Support Gap -11% 5%

In 2008 Romney did steadily better amongst voters less concerned about the economy. In 2012, however, he actually does slightly better amongst those most concerned (unsurprisingly, the number of people not too worried about the economy has declined to basically zero). Apparently a lot of wealthier voters who are getting ahead are still very worried about the economy.

How important are debates?

Importance of Debates Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Very Important 31% 39%
Somewhat Important 34% 32%
Not Important 32% 38%

Not very.

What about when voters decided who to support?

Decided Whom to Support… Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Today 33% 31%
Past Few Days 29% 32%
Last Week 25% 41%
In December 32%
Before That 33% 56%
Earliest Decision vs. Latest Decision Support Gap 0% 25%

In 2008 there wasn’t much of a relationship. However, this year Romney opens an enormous gap between voters who decided late and those who decided early.

Finally, there’s the rural-urban gap:

Size of Community Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Rural 27% 33%
Suburban 34% 43%
Urban 34% 42%
Urban vs. Rural Support Gap 7% 9%

Romney does somewhat poorer amongst rural voters. The support gap hasn’t changed much since 2008.


In the 2008 New Hampshire Republican primary Romney did best, out of all these categories, amongst voters older than 65 (44% of the vote) and worst amongst voters describing themselves as somewhat liberal (15% of the vote). In 2012 Romney did best amongst voters deciding whom to vote for before December (56% of the vote) and worst amongst voters aged 18-24 (28% of the vote).

In 2008 the greatest gap in support for Romney was between conservatives and somewhat liberals (a 28% support gap); in 2012 it was between voters who decided before December and voters who decided on election-day whom to support (a 25% support gap).

There are several interesting similarities to the Iowa caucuses here. In 2008 Romney’s weakest Iowa supporters, amongst the categories examined in the Iowa post, were also those who decided whom to support on election-day. In 2012 his weakest supporters were voters aged 18-29. In addition, the greatest gap in support in 2012 occurred between conservatives and moderates.

So it seems so far that Romney is weak amongst young people and people who decide on election-day whom to support, and that Romney’s appeal differs substantially between those of different political philosophies.

A next post will examine the differences between Romney in 2008 and Romney in 2012 with respect to the South Carolina primary.


by inoljt

Romney’s Shifting Iowa Coalition

11:47 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Mitt Romney has famously been running for president for the past four years. He seems to be having more success this time; at the moment, Romney is the unquestioned frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

A previous post analyzed Romney’s voting coalition based off of exit polls. Given that Romney also ran for president in 2008, there are also a lot of exit polls which provide information of Romney’s coalition in 2008.

Exit polls were conducted in both the 2008 and 2012 Iowa Republican Caucuses; the 2008 exit poll can be found here, and the 2012 exit poll can be found here. This post takes all the questions which the two exit polls had in common and then places them side-by-side. The fact that Romney got 25.2% of the vote in 2008 and 24.5% of the vote in 2012 makes the comparison especially interesting. By examining the exit polls one can get a sense of how Romney’s 2012 supporters are different from his 2008 supporters.

The results are quite revealing.

Let’s start with a pretty basic question:

Gender Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Male 26% 23%
Female 24% 25%

This is probably the least interesting of the polls. There is essentially no gender gap in Romney’s support. The differences in support are minuscule enough to be a function of sample size error.

Here is the next question, which asks about something much more interesting:

Born-Again Evangelical Christian? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Yes 19% 14%
No 33% 38%
Evangelical vs. Non-Evangelical Support Gap 14% 24%

These exit polls indicate that Romney does substantially better amongst evangelicals than amongst non-evangelicals. In fact, in 2008 the gap between evangelical support for Romney and non-evangelical support for Romney was greater than any other divide in the 2008 exit poll questions this post examines.

What is even more revealing is that in 2012 this gap widens. Evangelical support for Romney is even less in 2012; non-evangelical support is even greater in 2012. The 2012 evangelical versus non-evangelical divide in support is also greater than all but one in support amongst the questions examined in this post.

One should be a bit cautious, of course. Saying that Romney is doing worse amongst evangelicals in 2012 than in 2008 is very premature. Exit polls are notoriously unreliable, and to draw firm conclusions from unreliable polls of just one caucus is ill-advised.

The next question also shows something very interesting:

Age Romney 2008 Romney 2012
18-29 22% 13%
30-44 23% 20%
45-64 25% 25%
65+ 28% 33%
Oldest vs. Youngest Support Gap 6% 20%

Unlike religion, age has not often been thought of as a factor in whether or not one supports Romney. Yet as these results make clear, there is actually a substantial age gap between support for Romney amongst the elderly and amongst the young. Older voters like Romney more; younger voters are less enthusiastic.

In 2008 the gap is not very wide. Romney’s support does rise slightly with voter age, but the divide is small enough to perhaps be a function of sample error. In 2012 the divide has widened considerably. Romney almost falls into single digits with young voters, while gaining a healthy third of the elderly vote. Much as evangelicals became less likely to vote for Romney in 2012, younger voters – cool to Romney in 2008 – are even less enthusiastic in 2012.

Let’s take a look at income:

Income Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Less than $30,000 19% 15%
$30,000 – $49,999 16% 16%
$50,000 – $99,999 27% 21%
$100,000 or more 32% 36%
Highest Income vs. Lowest Income Support Gap 13% 21%

There have been considerable attacks on Romney on the basis of class; Romney is one of the richest Americans, and it is fair to say that he has never really experienced hardship. Unsurprisingly, poor voters are not exactly enamored of Romney. As with age, there’s a steady progression of increasing support as income increases.

This was so true in 2008, where the lowest income voters were actually more likely to support Romney than the income tier above them. In 2008 the wealth attack was used much less against Romney (back then the main issue was his flip-flops on social issues). In the 2012 campaign Romney has been criticized much more on the issue of wealth, and unsurprisingly the income divide in support has correspondingly increased.

The next question deals with political philosophy:

Political Philosophy Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Very Conservative 23% 14%
Somewhat Conservative 27% 32%
Moderate 26% 38%
Moderate vs. Very Conservative Gap 3% 24%

In 2008 Romney ran as the conservative religious candidate, attempting to win Iowa by running to the right of all the major candidates. His strategy backfired when Mike Huckabee began rising in the polls, and Romney actually did worst amongst very conservative voters that year. Still, 2008 didn’t really feature a big divide in support for Romney; all three numbers are pretty much within the margin-of-error.

In 2012 Romney ran as something quite different: a moderate, business-oriented Republican. Moderates were thus much more likely to support Romney in 2012. Conservatives, however, were turned off by the similarity of his Massachusetts health care plan to “Obamacare.” Their support, always lukewarm, plummeted. In 2012, the moderate-conservative gap thus tied the evangelical versus non-evangelical gap as the largest divide in support for Romney. Out of all the divides in support for Romney, this divide widened the most between 2008 and 2012.

The next table is a bit puzzling:

Party Affiliation Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Independent 19% 19%
Republican 26% 27%
Republican vs. Independent Support Gap 7% 8%

Republicans are more likely to support Romney than Independents. Unlike the case with most of the other questions, the gap in support hasn’t really widened since 2012. This is actually a strange result; it seems to contradict the fact that moderate voters are the most enamored of Romney. It also would suggest some weakness in the general election.

The next questions involves depth of support:

Opinion of Candidate You Support Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Strongly Favor 24% 22%
Some Reservations 26% 29%
Some Reservations vs. Strongly Favor Support Gap 2% 7%

Romney’s share of voters who strongly favor their candidate and his share of voters who favor their candidate with some reservations was essentially the same in 2008. In 2012 the gap has widened somewhat (a pattern that’s coming up again and again). This is perhaps not so surprising considering the many attacks that Romney has received since 2008.

Finally, another question of some utility:

Decided Whom to Support… Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Today 18% 22%
In the last few days 26% 23%
In December 23% 22%
Before That 29% 28%
Earliest Decision vs. Latest Decision Support Gap 11% 6%

This table indicates that Romney generally does best amongst those who make their decisions earliest. This is one of two categories in which the gap between Romney’s strongest and weakest supporters in 2008 narrowed (the other being gender).


The differences between Romney’s 2008 coalition in Iowa and Romney’s 2012 coalition in Iowa can be revealed just by examining his strongest and weakest supporters out of all these categories. In 2008, out of these nine categories, Romney’s strongest supporters were non-evangelicals; he got 33% of their vote. His weakest supporters were people who decided whom to support on election day; Romney got 18% of them. The greatest gap between Romney supporters and opponents was the 14% gap between evangelicals and non-evangelicals.

In 2012 things were somewhat different and similar at the same time. This time, out of these nine exit polls questions, Romney’s strongest support was with non-evangelicals and moderates. The candidate took 38% of their vote. On the other hand, his weakest supporters were voters aged 18-29; Romney won a mere 13% of them. The greatest divide was amongst evangelicals versus non-evangelicals and very conservative voters versus moderate voters. In both, there was a 24% gap.

Consider these statistics in light of the fact that Romney got essentially the exact same share of the vote in both caucuses.

Nevertheless, his coalition has changed in several interesting ways. In general, Romney is doing better with the voters who supported him the most in 2008. On the other hand, he is doing worse with the voters who were most lukewarm towards him in 2008. His coalition has become less broad but more deep.

Of course, it should be noted that one should hesitate before drawing firm conclusions. This is, after all, an analysis of a form of surveying which has proven to be flawed in the past, which has very high margins of error, and an analysis of only one caucus.

A next post will examine the differences between Romney in 2008 and Romney in 2012 with respect to the New Hampshire primary.


by inoljt

Previewing the Florida Republican Primary

2:45 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

Newt Gingrich’s thorough pounding in South Carolina has set up Florida as the next important primary. If Gingrich is able to win Florida as well, then Mitt Romney will be in a heap of trouble.

At this point a Gingrich victory is an eminently possible event. Throughout November and December Gingrich was posting enormous leads in Florida; for some reason the seniors there seem to really like him. Romney’s strong performances in Iowa and New Hampshire lifted him to the lead for a while. But now Gingrich is leading again. The example of South Carolina, where Romney lost a steady lead in less than a week, shows how quickly things can shift.

Florida is a very diverse state, much more so than any of the other states which have voted so far. Its population is large enough, and each part of the state different enough, that it could very easily be split into several different states with unique cultures.

Below are some thoughts the voting patterns of each part of Florida.

Northern Florida

Northern Florida is the part which has most in common with the South; indeed, much of it is an extension of the Deep South. As the example of South Carolina indicates, Romney for some reason does very poorly in the South. In 2008, he placed a poor third in a number of Deep South states.

It’s interesting to ask whether Gingrich has any special appeal to the South. Gingrich is a Southerner who spent most of his life in Georgia. On the other hand, he doesn’t sound like a Southerner.

One would expect Romney to do especially poorly in northern Florida, given his weakness in the South. There is a catch, however. In 2008 Romney actually won the Jacksonville area by double-digits while losing the Panhandle badly. Whether he can replicate this performance this year is open to question. Of course, given that Romney lost Florida to John McCain, he must.

The I-4 Corridor

Covering most of Central Florida, the I-4 Corridor refers to the I-4 highway running through the region to connect all the major cities.

This is generally swing territory in the presidential election, and it will probably be swing territory in the upcoming primary as well. Romney did decently in the Orlando area in 2008, tying John McCain. He did worse in the Tampa and Hillsborough region. Whoever wins the I-4 Corridor in 2012 will probably win the Republican primary. It will be where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

The Miami Metropolis

South Florida is the most populous and diverse part of the state. Mitt Romney cratered in this region during the 2008 Republican primaries; in Miami-Dade County, he actually did worse than Rudy Giuliani (remember him?) According to exit polls, Romney failed to break into double-digits amongst the Cuban-American vote.

Obviously, if this happens again Romney will lose the state. As for Newt Gingrich, it will be very revealing to see how he does in this part of the state. Gingrich might be attractive to conservative retirees who remember his battles with Bill Clinton. His strength with Cuban-Americans, on the other hand, is completely a mystery. Gingrich has never had to appeal to Hispanic voters in his life before; it will be a very fascinating to see how he does with them.

All in all, the way that South Florida will vote is pretty much up in the air.


The good news for Romney is that absentee voting has been continuously going on throughout the period in which he held the polling lead, before his loss in South Carolina. If there is anything that will lift him to victory, this is it.

Finally, there is the Hispanic vote in Florida. While most voters so far in the Republican primary belong to hard-core Republican constituencies, Hispanics do not. The performance of the eventual Republican nominee among Hispanics in Florida (especially non-Cubans) will provide an extremely important insight to the general election.


by inoljt

Looking at Romney’s Voting Coalition

6:39 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

It’s quite probable that Romney will be the person facing Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

Both Iowa and New Hampshire have provided detailed exit polls of the Republican electorate. These paint a good picture of the coalition that Romney is assembling.

Of course, exit polls are notoriously unreliable. If exit polls were trustworthy, President John Kerry would just be completing his second term right now. Any exit poll thus ought to be taken with an enormous grain of salt.

Nevertheless, there are some patterns that are appearing pretty consistently in the exit polls of the Republican primaries. These are large enough to be of some note.

  • Romney’s support increases steadily as a voter’s age increases.
  • Similarly, support for Romney increases steadily as income increases.
  • Very conservative voters are not fans of Romney.
  • Neither are born-again Christians. Which is not to say that their support is nonexistent; plenty of born-again Christians are still voting for Romney.
  • Those with college degrees appear slightly more disposed to voting for Romney.
  • Similarly, so are Catholics.
  • There is one final pattern which the exit polls don’t show, but which also appears consistently in the results: rural voters do not like Romney. He has done the worst in the rural parts of Iowa and New Hampshire.

    Not all of these patterns occurred in the last 2008 Republican primaries. During 2008, for instance, very conservative voters gradually became the strongest supporters of Romney. In fact, while there are great similarities between the voters Romney is winning now and those he won in 2004, there are also substantial differences. These are fascinating enough to be the subject of another, much more detailed, post.

    Nor should one expect all these patterns to hold throughout the primary season. This is particularly true with respect to religion. In 2008 Catholics were more likely than Protestants to vote for Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire. In later states such as California and Florida, however, Protestants were more favorable to Romney than Catholics (this was true even counting only white Catholics and white Protestants). Why this is so is somewhat of a mystery.

    There is one very important consideration which has not appeared yet: race. So far, the voters in the 2012 Republican primary have been overwhelmingly white. Asians and blacks do not vote in Republican primaries in numbers large enough to be counted by exit polls. Hispanics, however, do. In 2008 Romney won 14% of the Hispanic vote in Florida, compared to the 31% he took statewide; he failed to break single digits amongst Cubans. It will be very revealing to see whether Romney can do better than that this year.

    Implications for the General Election

    Romney appears to do best in the more traditional wing of the Republican Party. His support is concentrated amongst the wealthier, more urbane voters in the party – the part of the party that is commonly represented by the sophisticated businessman. This, I know, will come as a shock to everybody who has been following politics these past few years.

    During the general election, Romney will probably do well in places filled with people of the above description. These include areas such as suburban Philadelphia and the northern exurbs of Atlanta. He may struggle to raise much excitement amongst the rural evangelical crowd, the red-hot conservatives who in bygone days voted loyally Democratic. Unfortunately for the president, these voters probably loathe Obama more than any other segment of the electorate.

    Probably most useful for a political analyst is the fact that Romney’s support increases in proportion to a voter’s wealth, age, and closeness to a major urban center. These are things about Romney’s coalition which political analysts haven’t known about before (especially the facts about voter income and age).

    It will be interesting to see if Romney’s coalition remains the same throughout the next few primaries, or whether it changes. Indeed, Romney’s coalition is actually somewhat different from the one he assembled in the 2008 Republican primaries. The next few posts will compare the exit polls from those primaries and those from the current primaries.

    They will examine:



    by inoljt

    Ron Paul Is Lying

    9:20 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

    Libertarian Ron Paul is doing quite well in the 2012 Republican primaries; he has taken third place in Iowa and second place in New Hampshire. Perhaps the greatest controversy that Ron Paul has run into is a series of newsletters published under his name. These newsletters are written in a racist and hateful tone.

    Ron Paul has defended himself by saying that he never wrote or even read the newsletters. Here is one fairly typical interview of this defense.

    In this interview, the media has tended to emphasize the fact that Ron Paul abruptly walked away from the interview, although it seemed to be ending anyways.

    What is much more interesting is to watch the parts of the video in which Paul specifically denies having read or written any of the newsletters. Specifically, look at 7:20. At 7:20, Paul says:

    You know what the answer is, I — I didn’t read — write them. I didn’t read them at the time. And I disavow them. That is the answer.

    Look at Paul’s body language when he’s saying these words. It’s fascinating. He refuses to meet Gloria Borger’s eyes. Rather, Paul looks at the floor. This is in contrast to the rest of the interview, when Paul does confidently meet the reporter’s eyes.

    Ron Paul is lying.