Election data dive


By CHARLES M. BLOW

New York Times News Service

Since this may be my last column about the 2012 elections, let’s have some fun. Allow me to arm you with a collection of facts and data about the election results that you can use at your next cocktail party, during your next coffee break or during your next PTA meeting.

First, a comment about the exit polls from which most of these data are drawn: They were conducted only in 30 states. And, unfortunately, the balance of states polled tilted heavily toward those won by President Barack Obama. Of the 25 states Obama won, exit polls were conducted in all but three. Obama also won the District of Columbia, which had no exit polls. Of the 24 states Mitt Romney won, exit polls were conducted only in eight.

(Obama is leading in Florida, which would be a 26th state won by Obama and a state for which there are exit polls. However, The New York Times had not yet called the state for Obama at the time of publication.)

With those caveats, let’s dive in:

My analysis of the 2008 election found that even if every black person in America had stayed home on Election Day, Obama would still have won the presidency. That’s because the white vote and Hispanic vote were strong enough to push him over the needed 270 votes to win the Electoral College.

This year is a different story. This year, his path to victory required a broader coalition.

Without the Democratic black vote joining with that of liberal whites and Hispanics on Tuesday, Obama would likely have lost half the states that he won. This fact may embolden those who say that the president should more directly address issues facing the African-American community.

There may have been a backlash against voter suppression laws, bringing more minorities to the polls, not fewer. Hispanics as a share of all voters were up in many states won by Obama. That can be attributed both to the surging Hispanic population in the country and to the Obama campaign’s incredible get-out-the-vote operation. It is less clear why the black vote held steady or grew in many of those states. In Ohio for example, blacks jumped from 11 percent of the voters in 2008 to 15 percent this year. Threaten to steal something, and its owner’s grip grows tighter.

Romney won nine of the 11 states that were once in the Confederacy. Romney also won eight of the 10 states with the lowest population density: Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. Obama won New Mexico and Nevada. (Hello. Hello. Hello. Is there an echo in here?)

This year was the first presidential election in which there were more Asian-American voters (11 percent) in California than African-American ones (8 percent).

Among the states in which exit polls where conducted, Obama won the lowest percent of the white vote in the state with the highest percentage of black voters. That state was the ever-reliable Mississippi, where Romney made his famous “I like grits” comment. Thirty-six percent of the voters in Mississippi are black. Obama won a mere 10 percent of the white vote there.

Conversely, Obama won one of his highest percentages of white voters in the state with the fewest minority voters: Maine. Ninety-five percent of Maine’s voters were white, and 57 percent of them voted for Obama. That ties with one other state for the highest percent of whites voting for Obama: Massachusetts, where 86 percent of the voters are white.

In fact, Obama won the white vote only among states with small minority voting populations. The others Obama won were Iowa (93 percent white), New Hampshire (93 percent white), Oregon (88 percent white), Connecticut (79 percent white) and Washington state (76 percent white).

This is quite a curious phenomenon.

Obama won all four states that begin with “New” (New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York), but he lost all five that begin with a direction (North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia). OK, I just threw that one in for fun.

Now, political junkies, go forth and spout facts!

 

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