Skip to comments.THE CASE OF THE MISSING VOTERS (SOME THOUGHTS)
Posted on 11/24/2012 9:28:37 AM PST by SeekAndFind
In the new issue of the Weekly Standard Jay Cost undertakes a retrospective on what happened in the election just passed. Cost detects a mystery. Its the case of the missing voters:
In 2008, some 131.5 million Americans went to the polls; while the votes are still being tallied, this time around there probably were between 127 and 130 million votes cast. Most of the decline came from white voters; in fact, between 6 and 9 million white voters went missing this year, relative to 2008. It is a reasonable guess that the number of white votes in 2004 roughly equaled the number in 2012, despite the fact that millions of new whites have become eligible to vote and the aging white population has entered peak voting years.
Much has been made of the increasing whiteness of the GOP coalition, with the implication being that Mitt Romney lost because he failed to attract enough support from ethnic or racial minorities. Without doubt, this was a problem for the GOP nominee and certainly made a difference in key swing states. In Colorado and Florida, Romneys support among Hispanics was lower than that of George W. Bush and even John McCain.
But Romneys problems were much bigger than this, as he failed to pull enough white voters into his coalition to win. In Colorado, Florida, and Ohio, Romney improved on McCains share of white voters, but these states saw notable declines in white turnout. Meanwhile, in Iowa and Virginiawhere white turnout was roughly constantRomney failed to match the levels that Bush pulled when he won both states.
This suggests that the identity politics explanation is insufficient to explain Romneys electoral problem. It was not merely a failure to attract Hispanics and, to a lesser extent, African Americans into the GOP coalition (preliminary data actually suggest that Barack Obama won fewer African Americans in 2012 than he did in 2008). There seems to have been an overall hesitation among many types of voterswhite or notabout entering the GOP coalition. It looks as though many backed Obama over Romney, and many more simply chose not to vote.
An examination of the exit poll makes it easy to see why. Obamas campaign against Romney, which portrayed him as an out-of-touch plutocrat, appears largely to have been successful. Romneys favorable rating in the exit poll was just 47 percent, with 50 percent holding an unfavorable view. By 53 to 43 percent, voters said that Obama was more in touch with people like them, and by a staggering 53 percent to 34 percent, they said Romneys policies would favor the rich instead of the middle class.
In other words, Romney lost in large part because of a yawning empathy gap. Typically, this plagues Republican candidates to some degree, even victorious ones, but it was pronounced this year, and appears to have been determinative. The voters who showed up on Election Day identified more closely with Obama than Romney, and those who stayed home presumably identified with neither. Importantly, this problem transcended age, race, ethnicity, and gender. Compared with Bush in 2004, Romney simply failed to connect with people.
What of the Democratic performance? There is little for the left to celebrate here beyond the fact that their candidate won a second term in the Oval Office. After all, President Obama won fewer popular votes, a smaller share of the popular vote, and a smaller share of the Electoral College. The last president to be reelected with such a diminished coalition was Franklin Roosevelt in his third and fourth terms. No president in American history but Barack Obama has ever entered a second full term with his coalition diminished across the board.
Costs analysis suggests to me the devastating effect of the Obama campaigns personal attacks on Romney during the months after Romney sewed up the GOP nomination. The Obama campaign turned Romney into dead man walking.
The Romney campaign had no funds to respond to those attacks. Prior to the convention, Romney was prevented by law from accessing the funds he had raised for the general campaign. After the convention, Romney had plenty of money, but many voters had tuned him out. Why didnt Romney self-fund a response to the merciless attacks he was sustaining from the Obama campaign in the battleground states prior to the GOP convention? That is a mystery for another day.
Cost offers this to unravel the case of the missing voters: Voters did not trust Obama to handle the tough issues, but even less did they trust Romney to represent them in the Oval Office. Looking ahead, he sees both hazard and opportunity: It is not hard to see how the nations deep disgruntlement could produce a major upheaval in two or four years time.
FOOTNOTE: For a good companion to Costs retrospective, see John Podhoretzs Commentary essay The way forward, while Pat Caddell offered a variety of related thoughts in his post-election analysis at David Horowitizs Restoration Weekend earlier this month. And Michael Barone is wrestling with the case of the missing voters as well.
JOHN adds a couple of thoughts: First, Romneys tactical error went beyond not using his own funds pre-convention. Money that was raised after Romney had the nomination sewed up could nevertheless have been designated for the primary phase of the campaign, but the Romney campaign believed that money spent during the summer is basically wasted, since undecided voters dont make up their minds until October. The two campaigns followed opposite strategies here, and it seems that the Romney camp was proven wrong.
Second, I fear that Republicans are making a serious mistake if we blame the elections outcome on Romneys failure to connect with voters. Obviously that happened to some degree, but the real question is, why? The most alarming statistic quoted by Jay Cost is that, by a wide margin, voters believed Romneys policies would benefit the rich and not the middle classthis despite the fact that Obamas policies had already proven to be a disaster for the middle class. I am afraid that this demonstrates, not just a lack of support for Romney, but a lack of support for free enterprise.
Despite all of the nonsense that surrounded the campaign, I think nearly all voters understood that Romneys policies favored smaller, less intrusive government and more reliance on free enterprise, while Obama stood for more government. A generation ago, the idea that free enterprise only benefits the rich would have been regarded as ridiculous in the light of history. Today, I fear that a great many Americans believe that free enterprise only favors the rich, or something close to that proposition. This is reflected in the survey done a few months ago that suggested young people have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.
When Ronald Reagan said that in the present crisis, government isnt the solution, government is the problem, he was appealing to something that most Americans already believed. I am concerned that the bedrock belief in free enterprise that was taken for granted in our youth may now be mostly gone. It is not hard to see why that might be the case, since all of the organs of our culture, from the public schools to the television networks to the comedy industry to Hollywood to higher education to the womens magazines have been diligently working to undermine faith in economic freedom for several decades now. I fear that what failed to connect with voters in 2012with enough voters, anywaywas not Mitt Romney the man, but rather free enterprise, the philosophy. There is no way conservatives can undo the baleful effects of our culture on political assumptions in the course of a presidential campaign, no matter how eloquent our candidate may be. And, of course, the problem is compounded by the fact that increasing numbers of Americans live outside the free economy, either as public employees or as dependents on government benefits.
It’s amazing how people will stand in line for hours for black Friday, football games, concerts, the latest iphone, etc. but could care less aboiut voting.
The mentality of this nation has gone to sh!t. Completely.
“This writer essentially verifies Romney’s 47% comment and his free stuff comment as being correct. “
You are quite correct. They (voters) just didn’t want to hear it and prefer to remain in denial.
And, of course, the problem is compounded by the fact that increasing numbers of Americans live outside the free economy, either as public employees or as dependents on government benefits.
In other words, America is dead and gone.
I concur. It is every man for himself now. Good luck.
Someone said recently; Voters don’t learn from day to day events, they learn from disasters. There’s some serious learnin’ coming at us. When the govt. runs out of money, all social programs crash and burn, then they will learn.
Again and again, this is all BS.
The people were shown the contrast between Obama and Romney. They even had Obama on a Newsweek as the empty chair from the convention.
No, the people in general changed.
Many went on endless welfare, endless unemployment, food stamps or the dole.
Other kids were being gifted through money for college.
Most of the various stimulus went to grow government employee union jobs (especially the worst on earth, the teacher’s union).
At schools teenagers and college kids were given reasons to go out and vote Obama.
Our tax money to Auto Unions.
On and on, “THERE WAS AND IS NOW A HUGE COALITION OF THE BOUGHT AND PAID FOR”.
Wasn’t a lack of white people (who should and did know better).
If someone who knew better didn’t go out to vote against Obama and for Romney, then same on them for sure, but in general lots of people don’t pay taxes and get other people’s stuff and we have been dealing with various forms of Santa Clause Democrats for over 40 years. It’s why Republicans went soft, so now what?
However, my take is more pessimistic: I look around me at the type of society we've become, and I've concluded that we are no longer a people capable of self-government, at least on a national level. Granted, Mitt Romney had his flaws, and I never counted myself an enthusiastic supporter. His campaign team in particular I thought a bunch of incompetent dolts - which in fact they turned out to be. But for all his faults, Romney was a decent man campaigning on policies that at one time would have been considered the very essence of moderate. And he lost to Barack 0bama, the nakedly anti-American, anti-free enterprise failure. Could any sane, responsible people reelect an incompetent, sinister fraud like Barack 0bama?
No. But a dependent, selfish, morally corrupt people certainly could.
The mentality of this nation has gone to sh!t. Completely.
Of course it has. The demographic shift tipping point has come and gone and all of the post election "what ifs, shoulda, woulda, coulda" and tactical electoral pontification is so much empty meaningless crap. The nation we were born into, once knew and loved is done. Americans have given into the temptation of "free stuff" and a false sense of security over the blesings and responsibilities of liberty. All that's left now is the impending implosion and aftermath.
Obama was already a disaster. I think most voting for him knew that but had their hands in the Democrat Party’s pocket for taxpayer loot.
How do we deal with that?
Add th decades of stacking the bench with liberal Judges and the punks teaching in schools and you see almost the need for a complete political war.
In one way or another, I think I will live to see political riots in our country.
They will happen due to having to go off the dole (like in Italy, Greece or Spain) or the people will rise up in constant protest of not balancing a budget and growing government and entitlements.
I think first we get the riots over not getting the dole, then riots to balance our budget minus giant government and government handouts.
Think I will live to see a two-for...
The GOP put up a technocratic venture capitalist who parks his money in the Cayman Islands and came across as holding no sincere political philosophy or convictions.
And you wonder why a lot of people weren’t motivated to leave the house to vote for him?
Well, given the massive bailouts to the well-connected rich - bailouts that large numbers of politicians in both parties supported - I can't imagine why so many people became cynical towards corporatism. /sarcasm
IMO the key reason so many people simply didn't vote this time is a perception that no matter which guy won, the same crap would keep getting perpetuated.
And this is why it is so vital that the Tea Party maintain its identity apart from the GOP.
Not "the rich", per se, but those who have initiative and talent. Fewer Americans have either, so they lean toward supporting an alternative system with a guaranteed payout.
People no longer see free enterprise as something that can directly benefit them.
I don’t buy this articles take. Romney rose in the polls late in the race, the voters didn’t abandon him. Long lines were reported in Romney voting districts. The longest that most voters had ever seen. This contradicts the results of the election count. I don’t trust anything the socialist democrats have their commie hands in. NOTHING.
When the govt. runs out of money, all social programs crash and burn, then they will learn.
Even though you’re right about the threat of national bankruptcy, I think a lot of voters don’t buy those warnings from the GOP, when the Romney campaign also continues to support unlimited spending on military budgets and initiatives. There may not be such as thing as a “free lunch,” but to hear GOP candidates and activists tell it, there are “free wars.” At least at first, Romney was criticizing Obama’s announcement that he would get us out of Afghanistan by 2014. Didn’t Romney even criticize the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq? And didn’t some of Romney’s advisors talk as if they wanted a war with Iran? Where’s the money going to come from, for all of that? We’ll have to borrow from China to invade Iran. You can’t really blame voters for tuning out lectures about deficits, from the same politicians who want to spend trillions more on foreign adventures.
I’m sensing a post election slacking of interest, it’s as if the current mood is one of resignation and surrender.
After tallying all absentee ballots, provisional ballots, etc. Romney actually won more votes than McCain.
Is this incorrect?
They have to stop discounting Romneycare. If he had not had Romneycare around his neck, he would not have been radioactive on this site during the primary season. He might well have moved out of his 40% primary election range and swept through the primary season in much better shape. Presumably, not having to attack/defend himself from Republican primary opponents would have saved money to run counter-ads to Obama smears. Even when Obamacare passed some distorted constitutional test in Roberts’ mind by his declaring it a “tax,” Romney was never able to pick up that ax and swing it, though initially from what leaked out ,there was some wavering in the camp to do just that. You really can’t find out from exit polls the reasons that people stayed home, only the reasons for the people who showed up voting as they did. Obamacare was the biggest political issue of the past four years and could have been far more and better exploited by another candidate. I believe that would have pulled millions more to the polls. I also believe Mormonism did hurt Romney, but not in the “evangelicals won’t vote for a Mormon” hypothesis. It was “I really hate it when those Mormon missionaries “ come around the neighborhood crowd. Door- to- door and approach -on -the- street salemanship and evangelism are important to many groups, but they are going to turn off the great majority of people like almost nothing else in everyday life does. I know the visceral “Yeccch” I experience when I’m approached by Jehovah’s witnesses or people trying to sell me siding at the buyer’s club. The very week several years ago that an Islamic extremist murdered a pregnant Jewish women in an attack at a Seattle synogogue, I heard a caller on local call-in show who identified herself as Jewish, complain not of Moslem terror, but of born again proselytizing. Again , I’m not criticizing either side of that transaction, but there is collateral political damage.
Overall turnout as a percentage of the voting age population was down pretty significantly. From the growth of the voting age population, at 2008 participation , there would have been 5 million more votes, but 2012 turnout isn’t even going to match 2008.
Not generally in Virginia. The longest lines were in swing counties like Loudoun that went for Obama (although not by much). In my rural county the longest lines were at the one black/lib precinct (we are only 5% black). The county went 60-40 for Romney and at my white precinct there were stupid-looking fat chicks who I had never seen voting before, likely Obama voters. I also know (from day to day dealings) some of them and they just voting for Obama because they didn't like Romney. Considering that Romney was blasted with millions of dollars of negative ads (Planned Parenthood had their own anti-Romney ads every 10 minutes on the country station) it is no surprise he had such negatives.