Obama's GOTV and voter identification was about a whole lot more than hustle. It was about research, the scientific method, and scholarly expertise. You know, "pointy-headed intellectuals"? According to a Sasha Issenberg Slate article "A Vast Left-Wing Competency", Obama's team harnessed a whole lot of brain power like no campaign before, and it points to yet another long-term, demographic advantage for Democrats.
What Issenberg describes is how Democrats have successfully countered Rove's use of consumer data analysis techniques, techniques businesses use to identify and target different sectors of the customer base, and to find and win over new customers. Those techniques were a big help enabling the Republicans to win an election in 2004 that at first glance they should have lost.
But those techniques weren't exactly secrets, and Democrats would master them quickly.
Following their 2004 loss, Democrats found it relatively easy to catch up with Republicans in the analysis of individual consumer data for voter targeting. By 2006, Democrats were at least at parity when it came to statistical modeling techniques, and they were exploring ways to integrate them with other modes of political data analysis.But not all pollsters are cut from the same cloth. Whereas those on the Republicans side were mostly former political consultants, the Democrats drew from a different demographic:
Those who went into the polling business on the left were political consultants, too, but many of them also possessed serious scholarly credentials and had derailed promising academic careers to go into politics. Now that generation—Stan Greenberg, Celinda Lake, Mark Mellman, Diane Feldman, among others—preside over firms that see themselves not only as vendors of a stable set of campaign services but patrons of methodological innovation. When microtargeting tools made it possible to analyze the electorate as a collection of individuals rather than merely demographic and geographic subgroups, many of the most established Democratic pollsters in Washington invested in developing expertise in this new approach. Their Republican rivals, by contrast, tended to see the new tools as a threat to their business model.In other words, we have the PHds on our side. The Democrats, when they needed research done, turned to people actually trained to do real research -- political scientists, behavioral psychologists, mathematicians -- anyone with real and useful expertise. The Republicans do focus groups -- the Democrats do "randomized-control experiments, used in the social sciences to address elusive questions about voter behavior."
And this is where demographics come in to it. The right is always complaining about how the universities are bastions of leftism indoctrinating our students, explaining of course why every college graduate is a Socialist. But that, it seems, is not the real threat. Yes, it's true -- the academic tribe definitely leans left. Not entirely, but strongly. In voting numbers, it's a small demographic, but through expertise they can have an outsize influence.
And it's one more demographic group that the Republicans have gone out of their way to alienate, attacking "inconvenient truths," attacking teachers, slashing Pell grants, slashing universities, and celebrating know-nothingness. And because of this, they are going to have a hard time replicating what the Democrats have done here. The "pointy-headed intellectuals" noticed someone was trying to stomp on them, and have turned the tables but good.
9:08 PM PT: Hmm, seems my link is messed up. See chimene in the comments for a working link.
9:09 PM PT: Hmm, seems my link doesn't work. See chimene in the comments for a working link.