The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

PROPORTIONNNN, PROPORTION!

(sorry, a lame Fiddler reference indeed!)

Jack points to a chart put together by the folks at RealClear Politics comparing the state-by-state popular vote in 2000 with that of 2004.

What Jack notices is that two states, Vermont and South Dakota, are "the only states in which George Bush received a smaller proportion of the popular vote in 2004 than in 2000".

Thus, in every other state, from California to Texas to New York, Bush had a better percentage total of the popular vote last week than in 2000. These results aren't entirely unexpected, given that Bush won the popular vote by a 51-48 margin.

This raises questions and invites speculation, but before we get into that, let's do the same comparison between Gore in 2000 and Kerry this year.

States in which Kerry gained ground proportionally (% gained in parentheses):
Alaska (7.4)
California (1.2)
Colorado (3.7)
Idaho (2.6)
Illinois (0.1)
Iowa (0.6)
Maine (4.0)
Massachusetts (2.3)
Minnesota (3.2)
Montana (5.2)
Nevada (1.9)
New Hampshire (3.6)
New Mexico (.9)
North Carolina (0.3)
North Dakota (2.4)
Ohio (2.0)
Oregon (4.3)
Pennsylvania (0.2)
South Dakota (0.9)
Texas (0.3)
Utah (0.2)
Vermont (8.5)
Virginia (0.8)
Washington (2.7)
Wisconsin (2.0)
Wyoming (1.4)
District of Columbia (4.2)
States in which Kerry lost ground proportionally (% lost in parentheses):
Alabama (4.7)
Arizona (0.3)
Arkansas (1.4)
Connecticut (1.6)
Delaware (0.6)
Florida (1.9)
Georgia (1.6)
Hawaii (1.8)
Indiana (1.9)
Kansas (0.8)
Kentucky (1.7)
Louisiana (2.7)
Maryland (1.2)
Michigan (0.2)
Mississippi (1.2)
Missouri (1.0)
Nebraska (0.8)
New Jersey (3.5)
New York (2.3)
Oklahoma (4.0)
Rhode Island (0.4)
South Carolina (0.3)
Tennessee (4.8)
West Virginia (2.3)
Hmm. It appears that while Bush gained percentage points in every state but two, Kerry gained ground in just over half of the country, while losing ground in the rest. One possible explanation for Bush's across-the-board gains is that given the moderate image Bush assumed in 2000, chunks of the Republican base did not turn out for him in 2000, but did so this year for the new, *improved* conservative Bush.

But let's take a look at those Kerry numbers...

Some of Kerry's largest gains (Alaska, Maine, Montana, Vermont) are partially explained by a decline in support for Ralph Nader, though given the increased turnout this year, that can't account for everything. Remember, Ralph tells anyone with a microphone that most of those Nader voters "would've stayed home" had he not been on the ballot. (this is probably true only for some of his supporters) That said, if Kerry and the Democrats were able to bring in former Nader supporters, that counts for something.

Anyway, in looking at these numbers, I noticed two trends.

1) A small but noticeable gain throughout the Rockies. Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, and even the Dakotas (particularly North) showed proportional gains for Kerry, many by a few percent. Obviously Kerry was never going to be that competitive in that region, yet the gains are there. Explanations?
-Former Naderites
-The civil libertarian tendencies of the region (i.e. concerns with the Patriot Act, and so on) yielded Kerry an extra couple percent.

2) Kerry gained in virtually all the swing states. With the glaring exception of Florida (-1.9), and a pretty-much even showing in Michigan, Kerry gained ground in pretty much the rest of the battleground states in this election: Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The problem for Kerry, though, was that it wasn't enough: he lost 4 of those 9 states, effectively costing him the election.

Soooooooo, what's going on? One thought is that the Kerry campaign was more battleground-focused than Bush's campaign, which increased support across the board. Yet turnout increased across the board, so an inescapable factor in the election, overestimated youth turnout notwithstanding, must be that, as Eric Alterman put it on November 3rd, there are more of "them" right now then there are of "us". Not much more (51-48), but enough that 2004 was always going to be an uphill battle for the Dems, and perhaps some election polling obscured this reality.

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