` Progressive politics by the numbers — imaginary family values

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Back in the 1980s, there was a heated debate among Democratic partisans regarding how the party could regain its lost power. The argument centered around one annoying fact: members of demographic groups that favor Democrats do not vote in proportion to their numbers. One group of Democrats argued that the party should therefore intensify its registration and get-out-the-vote drives among those groups, and retake the White House without significantly changing the party platform—indeed, some of these Democrats said, the party should give those voters more motivation to go to the polls by taking stances farther to the left. Another group argued that the party was already doing all it could to get its traditional interest groups to the polls, and that in order to have a future, Democrats needed to move closer to the (new?) political center, in order to win back white working- and middle-class voters who had defected to the Republicans.

Now we have a Democratic president-elect who (for the first time since 1976) won with a majority of the popular vote rather than a plurality, whose voting record puts him in the middle of the Democratic party, and who ran a very thorough voter outreach operation. So I thought it might be worthwhile to review a few rounds of exit polls. In the tables below, %v indicates what percentage of votes were cast by each group in the given Presidential election, and %d indicates what percentage of that group’s voters cast their votes for the Democrat. The “non-Xian” row combines the exit pollsters’ information for people whose religion is Jewish, “other”, or “none”.

2008 (Obama) 2004 (Kerry) 2000 (Gore) 1996 (Clinton) 1992 (Clinton)
group %v%d %v%d %v%d %v%d %v%d
all voters 53 48 48 49 43
Women 5356 5451 5254 5254 5345
Afr.-Am. 1395 1188 1090 1084 883
Hispanics 967 853 762 572 261
< $50K/yr 3860 4555 4752 6152 6846
Non-Xian 2075 2070 1965 1664 ??
Union home 2159 2459 2659 2359 1855
Lesbian/Gay 470 477 470 566 ?72

Lots to discuss there, but I’m going to go to bed rather than draw out conclusions myself right now.

However, I do observe that the Republicans are now having their own post-crushing-defeat argument between centrists and, umm, not-so-centrists, and so far the not-so-centrists dominate the party. Lotsa luck, guys.

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