Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Real News for Republicans in 2014 is in the Youth Vote

Republicans took the Senate and increased their majority in the House. Overall, excellent night for the Republicans. But, in the long term, the real news in the exit poll data, courtesy of the WaPo.

The real important numbers are in voting trends, not the absolute numbers. Midterms and presidential elections aren't anything close to apples to apples. To get a better idea of voting trends, you need to compare midterms to midterms. Luckily, we have something that is pretty close to a natural experiment.

Both 2010 and 2014 saw Republican midterm victories. In 2010, Republicans won by a 7% margin nationally. In 2014, that margin shrunk slightly to 5%. The composition of the 2014 Republican vote was similar but not identical to 2010. These differences are important.

First, Republicans made dramatic inroads among Asians, voting 17 points more Republican than in 2010. Asians are true "Natural Republicans". With high incomes, traditional values, and a strong work ethic, it should be a relief that Asians are finally coming back to Republicans.

Hispanics, on the other hand, are not natural Republicans. And, 2014 provides more evidence for that. While the nation voted 2 point less Republican in 2014 than in 2010, Hispanics voted 6 points less Republican. Hispanics are becoming less Republican.

The other good news for Democrats is that women, like Hispanics, voted 6 points more Republican in 2010 than in 2014 while there was no change in men. So, women and Hispanics are trending Republican.

Most other groups didn't show any significant change. The exception there might be the young. The young voted 2 points more Republican in 2014 while the nation as a whole voted 2 points less Republican. So, young people, as we discussed last time, are slowly moving back towards the center.

My hunch is that young white men are driving this shift. As the Pew chart in my last post showed, Mitt Romney did 19 points better among young white men than John Mccain. Nationally, Romney only improved 3 points on Mccain.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Youth Vote

On the eve of the 2014 midterm election, I'd like to talk about the 2012 presidential election. In particular, I'd like to talk about voters who, largely, won't be voting in tonight's election: young voters. To the extent that young voters vote, they tend to vote in the more publicized presidential elections.

I was inspired to write this post after looking at some exit poll data. Pew research made this chart comparing the shift among young voters from the 2008 presidential election to the 2012 presidential election.

Overall, Obama fell from 66% of the young vote in 2008 to 60% in 2012, a 6% decline. Part of this is cyclical: Obama fell from 53% in 2008 among all voters to 51% in 2012. Still, there was a disproportionate fall among young voters. There are two more factors that probably play a role here:

1.) Young voters are probably more "elastic". That means that the youth vote is more subject to shift when national conditions change. So, if there is a national swing of 2%, one may expect a larger swing among young voters and a smaller swing among older voters because they are more "set in their ways".

2.) Obama won a disproportionately large number of young voters in 2008 because of unpopular Republican incumbents and his own personal charisma. The incumbent Republicans may have been especially off putting to younger voters while Obama's qualities resonated more with them and older voters.

One could also add Obama's turnout operation, but I'm not sure it was really that much stronger in 2008 than in 2012. In 2008, voters of the ages 18-29 made up 18% of all voters. In 2012, this group's share of the vote plummeted to... 19%. Turnout was lower overall, but, proportionally, the youth vote was not any worse than in 2008. The entire electorate, on the other hand, was.

Yet another factor that could play a role in the large shift in the youth vote would be the cohort that was 25 to 29 in 2008 was unusually liberal in 2008 but was no longer "youth" in 2012 since they entered their thirties. Part of this story fits. People in their 30s was the only age group that Obama in 2012 outperformed Obama in 2008. The reason for this isn't that Obama did a great job appealing to people in their 30s. Instead, the people in their late 20s in 2008 who Obama did appeal to simply turned 30 and didn't change their mind.

This explains the strong relative performance of Barack Obama among people in their 30s in 2012. But, that does not necessarily explain the change in the youth vote. If this was a major factor in Republican gains among the young, we would expect Republicans to do much better among the 18-24 group within the youth relative to the 25-29 group in 2012 relative to 2008. In fact, in both elections, both groups voted about the same. Obama won 66% of both groups in 2008 and 60% of both groups in 2012.

So, it doesn't seem that that explanation plays a large role in the vote shift. Perhaps more important is how different groups within the 18-29 cohort shifted. A topic I'll address next time.