Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

The Democracy Corps: Why the Dems Lost

In Election Analysis on December 1, 2010 at 10:13 am

Democratic strategist James Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg often come together to conduct electoral studies for the purpose of public education under an organization of their founding called The Democracy Corps. Their new 2010 post-election analysis was just released, which provides some interesting findings and may help explain the election’s “upside-down” effect.

The study was developed from a sampling universe of 2,587 voters from across the country. The live interviews were conducted by telephone, 333 of which were via cell phone. The data was accumulated through three different surveys during the November 1-3 period. The results of the first post-election study (Democracy Corps-Resurgent Republic) came from a subset of 1,000 voters, 111 of whom were using cell phones. The second (Democracy Corps-Campaign for America’s Future) used a different 1,000 voters from within the larger universe, 115 on cell phones, and the third (Democracy Corps-Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes) chose 804 voters, 107 of whom were using cell phones.

While turnout was down for Democratic voter groups across the board, the drop in support among certain subsets was very telling. While the traditional minority group Democratic vote within the African-American and Hispanic communities remained virtually constant when compared to 2006 and 2008, several other voting segments where Democrats did particularly well in the two previous elections did not come through for them in 2010. Among unmarried women, Democratic support was off 12 points, the largest negative number of any group tested. The Dems dropped nine points from their 2008 mark in the industrial Midwest, and eight points among non-southern white rural voters. Their strong ’06 and ’08 showing among suburban voters also receded eight points in 2010.

But, as was detected throughout the 2010 election cycle, the biggest switch away from Democrats and toward Republicans came within the Independent voter sector. When matched against the 2006 and 2008 electoral results, we can now see just how intense the swing became, and it appears the Independent pendulum made a rather unexpected complete and total swing during the four-year period just elapsed.

According to the various Democracy Corps data, Democrats enjoyed an 18-point advantage over Republicans in the 2006 election among Independent voters. This dropped to an eight-point edge in 2008. For the election just past, the Republican surge within this voting group was so large that it also reached the +18-point plateau, signaling that the Independent segment rather astonishingly made a complete full circle in just a four-year period. This confirms that the Independent voting behavior is the number one reason for the difference in the 2010 results as compared to the previous two elections.

The ideological make-up of the three voting universes (2006, 2008, 2010) also reveal a pattern. In 2006, according to previous Democracy Data information, those comprising the voter turnout model described themselves as 47% moderate, 32% conservative, and 20% liberal. In 2008, the segmentation was similar: 44% moderate, 34% conservative, 22% liberal. This year, it was the conservatives who surged to the top, with 42% of the sampled turnout self-identifying with this ideological group, as compared to 38% who claimed to be moderate and 20% liberal.

The ideological breakdown within the 2010 turnout model as compared to the previous two years is also not particularly surprising based upon the electoral results, but may help explain why the GOP landslide actually got stronger as voters moved down the ballot. With a larger and more intensely energized conservative voter block, it is more likely that they continued voting for the less publicized offices in greater numbers than the moderates and liberals. Thus, as predicted before the election, the conservative energy did prove to be the defining factor, but particularly so when analyzing the election’s “upside-down” effect. We are using this phrase to describe the landslide of 2010 and how it actually gained Republican strength down the ballot as opposed to losing it, which is more typical.

Expect more such data to be released by other sources in the coming weeks that will help fully explain why the American people voted as they did on November 2, 2010.

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