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Hullabaloo


Friday, January 16, 2004

 
Swingers

While I'm on the subject, SKBubba turned me on to this article in the Atlantic about the sophisticated new methods being used to find and understand these wacky swing voters. There is much of interest in the article, but I was particularly struck by this:

The New Democrat Network, a centrist political organization, was among the first in this election cycle to use polling to sketch out a profile of the latest generation of swing voters. Data shared with each of the Democratic candidates (and provided to The Atlantic) describes them as mainly white and also younger, less likely to vote, and more likely than self-identified Democrats or Republicans to characterize themselves as "workaholics." They are most heavily concentrated in suburbs and small cities, and though they disapprove of many Bush Administration policies, they tend to be more religious and to admire military service more than most Democrats do. "On many issues their attitudes correspond strongly with the Democratic Party even though demographically they are closer to Republican voters," says Peter Brodnitz, of the firm Penn, Schoen and Berland, which conducted the poll.

The New Democrat Network identified civil liberties and the environment as the two issues on which independents and Republicans most strongly disagree—and, indeed, many of the Democratic candidates have sounded precisely these themes. (Buried in the report's "tactical recommendations" is information that both sides in the next campaign may find useful: independents listen to a disproportionate amount of country radio, and they watch SportsCenter more often than other Americans—a taste, the poll reveals, that corresponds more closely with Democrats' than Republicans'.)

Other organizations, including Emily's List, have conducted broader studies to sort independents into smaller "lifestyle clusters," the better to target them in the fall. Emily's List has identified four basic groups: disengaged "Bystanders," who when motivated to vote lean Democratic; "Senior Health Care" voters, whose gender (predominantly female) suggests an inclination to support Democrats; "Education First" voters, 64 percent female and 66 percent pro-choice but currently more supportive of Bush and the Iraq War than the typical Democrat; and the "Young Economically Pressured," many of whom work more than forty hours a week and may care for an elderly parent. Though this last group tends to support the Democratic position on funding public schools and other issues, its members live predominantly in small towns or rural areas and are culturally conservative.

The challenge for the next Democratic candidate will be reaching all these independents, many of whom live in small cities and suburbs that are gradually abandoning the Democratic Party. The suburban vote, which Bush won narrowly in 2000, continues to grow. Suburban women already tend to vote Democratic, so the nominee must make a special effort to appeal to men, whose vote fluctuates more than women's in presidential elections and who have lately deserted the party in large numbers: men now prefer Republicans over Democrats by 19 percentage points.


Read the whole article. It's got a lot of food for thought.



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