Thursday, July 23, 2015

Evidence of the missing conservative voters

A claim I frequently read is that Romney lost the 2012 election because he was too moderate and turned off conservative voters, who stayed home in droves. I've always doubted this claim, and the commenters have never supplied any evidence.

Finally I found links to some pieces that provide some evidence for this assertion. I have to admit that the main article discussing this is two years old. (Well, better late than never.) The author, Sean Trende, is a data-obsessed analyst, as demonstrated by him declining to 'unskew' his reading of poll data in 2012.

Trende reports that demographic projections show that 6.5 million white voters sat out the 2012 election unexpectedly. The map below shows lower turnout in blue and higher turnout in red:


Trende found that areas with a strong Perot vote in 1992 showed declines from expected turnout. He describes a particular kind of voter who seemed to stay away:
[They were] secular, blue-collar, often rural voters who were turned off by Bill Clinton’s perceived liberalism and George H.W. Bush’s elitism. They were largely concentrated in the North and Mountain West...
However, this 'Perot' effect was hardly the biggest factor. The Perot vote was a smaller factor than Hurricane Sandy in keeping people from the polls.

Despite an interesting analysis, Trende has perhaps identified only a small part of the reason for the missing white voters. Still, no one has shown why so many whites stayed home. So those claims about the candidate 'not being conservative enough' are quite empty, no matter how loudly made.


Extras. Poorly done appeals to blue-collar workers here. Site with easy to read statistics. The coal miners shown above and their incentive to attend the Romney rally or else.

Update 2/25/16. More evidence that True Conservatives didn't stay home in droves. Of course, you have to care about data and evidence to be swayed by this information. No True Conservative or True Believer would allow themselves to doubt the legend of the golden horde of lost conservatives.


Kylopod said...

This is part of the whole "silent majority" myth that the right clings to despite there not being a shred of evidence to support it. The formula I always hear from conservatives is "When the GOP nominates a true conservative they win, but when they nominate a moderate they lose." Of course it always turns out that the only "true conservative" they ever point to is Ronald Reagan. They don't much discuss Barry Goldwater, much less the victories of Eisenhower, Nixon, or both Bushes.

They also don't ever seem bothered to look at what the exit polls have said about the composition of the electorate. According to the Roper Center, just 28% of voters in the 1980 election identified as conservative, compared with 34% in 2008 and 35% in 2012. That doesn't seem to support the thesis that it was conservatives who were responsible for Reagan's victory on the one hand, or McCain's and Romney's defeat on the other.

Despite all these facts, it has become practically an article of faith on the right that the key to GOP victory is "bringing out the base." The actions of independents and moderates is deemed somehow irrelevant, much less the reams of data indicating that American voters are more likely to support candidates viewed as moderate. I actually agree that moderate Republican candidates have one weakness over conservative ones, though not in the way the right sees it: the moderates have a tendency to overcompensate to prove their right-wing bona fides. That's how we ended up with Sarah Palin and "self-deportation," among other things.

ModeratePoli said...

@Kylopod, I was going to write how I think the conservative mob is worse about this, but on reflection I don't know that's true. I've seen plenty of liberals/progressives holding views that they didn't question and didn't fact-check.

Thinking liberals use the cursory fact-check. They stop questioning or looking for additional information once they have a statistic to back up their belief. Maybe thinking conservatives do the same--I haven't been exposed to enough of them to know. (I'll have ponder this.)

Do you see this pattern in your observations too?