Sean Trende has posted a new analysis on RealClearPolitics: The Case of the Missing White Voters. Warning: includes actual math to reach a conclusion quite different from what most pundits of both wings have been saying for the past day and a half.
Trende begins by pointing out similarities between the 2012 and the 2004 presidential elections:
George W. Bush won by 2.4 percent of the popular vote, which is probably about what Obama’s victory margin will be once all the ballots are counted. Republicans in 2004 won some surprising Senate seats, and picked up a handful of House seats as well. The GOP was cheered, claiming a broad mandate as a result of voters’ decision to ratify clear, unified Republican control of Congress and the presidency for the first time since 1928. As Bush famously put it, “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.”Pivoting to 2012, he writes:
Democrats, like Republicans today, were despondent. Aside from having a president they loathed in the White House for four more years, they were terrified by what seemed to be an emerging Republican majority.
For Republicans, that despair now comes from an electorate that seems to have undergone a sea change. In the 2008 final exit polls (unavailable online), the electorate was 75 percent white, 12.2 percent African-American, 8.4 percent Latino, with 4.5 percent distributed to other ethnicities. We’ll have to wait for this year’s absolute final exit polls to come in to know the exact estimate of the composition this time, but right now it appears to be pegged at about 72 percent white, 13 percent black, 10 percent Latino and 5 percent “other.”Then comes the big surprise. Trende crunches the numbers to reveal that even though there is a clear demographic trend in the direction of more minority voters, the 2012 results appear to have a different explanation entirely: Millions of white voters failed to turn out:
Obviously, this surge in the non-white vote is troubling to Republicans, who are increasingly almost as reliant upon the white vote to win as Democrats are on the non-white vote. With the white vote decreasing as a share of the electorate over time, it becomes harder and harder for Republicans to prevail.
In other words, if our underlying assumption -- that there are 7 million votes outstanding -- is correct, then the African-American vote only increased by about 300,000 votes, or 0.2 percent, from 2008 to 2012. The Latino vote increased by a healthier 1.7 million votes, while the “other” category increased by about 470,000 votes.It will be interested to see if and when this hits the pundit-o-sphere what they make of it. Trende's hypothesis boils down to "a pox on both your houses" due to negative advertising and lack of enthusiasm for either candidate.
This is nothing to sneeze at, but in terms of the effect on the electorate, it is dwarfed by the decline in the number of whites. Again, if our assumption about the total number of votes cast is correct, almost 7 million fewer whites voted in 2012 than in 2008.