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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira on Trends

Over at the Century Foundation’s blog, TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira has some interesting observations on the November 4 exit polls, particularly with respect to the White Working Class vote:

They lost these voters by 18 points, a significant improvement over 2004 when they lost them by 23 points, but somewhat worse than I thought they’d do based on preelection polls. In my paper with Alan Abramowitz, The Decline of the White Working Class and the Rise of a Mass Upper Middle Class, we allowed as how Democrats needed to get the WWC deficit into the 10-12 point range to be assured of a solid victory. As it turned out, they were able to achieve a solid victory even with a higher deficit than 10-12 points. This is because the simulations we were working with made pretty conservate assumptions about white college graduate support for Democrats and about minority turnout and support for Democrats. As it turned out, minority turnout and support were through the roof and white college graduates also exceeded our conservative assumptions. So an 18 point WWC deficit was in the end adequate for a solid victory, rather than a squeaker as I thought. And a 10-12 point deficit would have translated into a true landslide….
The stubbornly high deficit for Dems among WWC is mitigated by the fact that there are now far fewer of them in the voting pool. According to the exits, the proportion of WWC voters is down 15 points since 1988, while the proportion of white college graduate voters is up 4 points and the proportion of minority voters is up 11 points.
The Dems did manage a fairly solid 7 point improvement in their deficit among whites with some college, the more affluent, upwardly mobile and aspirational part of the WWC. But they only managed a 3 point improvement among the less educarted segment, those with only a high school diploma or less. So that held down their overall performance among the WWC.
On the state level, Obama did stunningly well among WWC voters in four of the five highly competitive states they won in 2000 and 2004 (MI, MN, OR and WI). The average WWC deficit for Kerry in these states in 2004 was 8 points. In 2008, Obama had an average advantage in these states of 6 points, a pro-Democratic swing of 14 points. In PA, however, the other highly competitive state the Democrats won in 2000 and 2004, Obama did worse than Kerry, losing the WWC by 15 points as opposed to Kerry’s 10 point deficit. But college educated whites in PA swung Obama’s way by 17 points, turning a 12 point ’04 deficit into a 5 point ’08 advantage.

Among other things, Ruy’s post provides yet another data point for the proposition that Obama really changed the demographic map in states where his presence, his ads, and his field organization, focused their attentions.

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