Point of Clarification on my 2012 Turnout Piece and the White Voter

An issue has popped up a couple of times in the comments section of my 2012 Voter Turnout post so I wanted to be clear about a few things. First, I am most definitely NOT saying John McCain would have won in 2008 had the White voter turned out at 2004 levels. 2008 was Barack Obama’s year and all the votes mentioned in my write up simply would have made the Presidential race marginally closer and likely only flipping Indiana and North Carolina. I was space constrained (this was originally considered for print publication) so I knew my discussion of vote differentials in 2008 could easily be misconstrued that I was implying John McCain would have flipped many or all of those states mentioned. He would not have.

The thrust of my write up addresses demographic assumptions for 2012 and I use those vote differentials to show just how close many states were and how many votes are missing from one segment of the population (White Voters). Those voters are not evenly distributed across all 50 states just as they are not concentrated in the enumerated Battleground states. It is simply an illustration that small changes in registration (which are occurring), increases in enthusiasm (which is showing up in polls) and turnout (which remains to be seen) could have big impacts with the largest segment of voters (White voters). And when you see the vote differentials and how many voters we already know are missing, suddenly the gap between Obama’s 2008 win and today’s contest gets a lot closer.

Ohio is a perfect example. The aggregate vote totals between the two major parties in the two most recent Presidential contest is strikingly similar:

2004: 5,600,929 votes cast
2008: 5,607,879 votes cast

Per CNN elections website:
2004 Bush (2,859,764) — 51%
Kerry (2,741,165) — 49%

2008 Obama (2,933,388) — 52%
McCain (2,674,491) — 47%

In 2004 non-Whites made up 15% of the Ohio vote and in 2008 non-Whites made up 17% of the Ohio vote. But if the aggregate vote totals are the same, that means 2% of White voters in Ohio who voted in 2004 did not vote in 2008. If the White vote in 2004 totaled 4,760,790 (85% of the aggregate) and 2% stayed home, that’s 95,216 voters who are overwhelmingly likely Republican voters. Barack Obama’s entire margin was 258,897. Give 80% of the stay at home vote to Republicans (76,172) and you’re ~30% closer to flipping the state before you flip one 2008 Obama supporter. For discussion purposes, those figures all assume a static White population in Ohio which is true for neither Whites or non-Whites.

When you see President Obama campaigning in states he won by 14% in 2008 like Wisconsin, giving great evidence that as much as 10+ percent of his 2008 vote has flipped, in Ohio alone if Romney flips ~6% of Obama voters when combined with the missing White vote he erases Obama’s entire lead. This is before factoring in a potential for both increased White population, registration and turnout between 2004 and 2012 — the keys to any election day. Democrats rightly counter this also fails to incorporate increases in non-White population, registration and turnout since 2008. All true but Whites still make up 80+% of Ohio voting population so its a demographic where smaller percentage changes have meaningfully greater impact and the enthusiasm argument (i.e. actually showing up at the polls) overwhelmingly favors Republicans based on all polling up through today.


  1. shane
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Think you bring up a good practical point…Pennsylvania is solid Obama, neither candidate is there. Same with Michigan. This tells me numbers are solid.

    But Obama is actively campaigning in states he won HUGE last time. Not to mention many of these he us supposedly up big according to.polls. campaigns generally dont waste time and money in states they are up big in. That tells me from past personal campaign experience these races on Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire are much closer than they appear. Obama is supposedly up on NC but has almost never campaigned there recently.

    Signs point to Obama doesn’t buy these supposed giant leads

  2. Kevin
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 1:37 am | Permalink | Reply


    His internal polling couldn’t be buying what the pollsters are selling since they’re over sampling Democrats 5 to 9 points, and under sampling Republicans. The latest CBS/New York Times poll is so lopsided, it’s not even funny.

    CBS/NYT has Obama up 12 points in Pennsylvania, but the polling was, 39% Democrats, 28% Republicans, 27% Independents. 11 point over sampling of Democrats to give Obama a 12 point lead.

    They also have Obama up 10 points in Ohio, but the polling was, 35% Democrats, 26% Republicans, 35% Independents. 9 point over sampling of Democrats to give Obama a 10 point lead.

    They have Obama up 9 points in Florida, but the polling was, 36% Democrats, 27% Republicans, 33% Independents. 9 point over sampling of Democrats to give Obama a 9 point lead.

    In the world CBS and the New York Times lives in, there are more Independents, or almost as many Independents as there are Republicans in the three states they polled.

    This is a political weapon the Alinsky Media is using against Romney. They’re trying to dispirit the Romney supporters by putting out false, and misleading polls through over sampling of Democrats. They’re also using these polls as negative ads against Romney.

    Propaganda on display.

  3. Kevin
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 1:39 am | Permalink | Reply

    Here’s the link, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see how CBS/NYT is blatantly over sampling Democrats.


    • Brian D. Gray
      Posted September 27, 2012 at 2:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      and what about Rasmussen polls showing the same 12 pt margin for Obama in Pennsylvania? You keep saying over sampling of Democrats in the NYT polls but if Obama has a 10 point lead in Ohio with an over-sampling of D+9 the question is what is the usual split in Ohio? the same for the NYT Florida poll which shows a 9 point Obama lead and 9 point over-sampling of Democrats but if Democrats normally outnumber Republicans in Florida & Ohio it probably still means Obama is ahead in both states something even Rasmussen has shown lately.

      • Posted September 27, 2012 at 3:09 am | Permalink

        Brian please take a look at any of the state links in the left. You will see in nearly every poll I discuss what the party identification was in 2008 and 2004 for every state. A reasonable turnout is likely the mid-point between the 2 most recent Presidential elections. If someone wants to shade it 0.5 points one way other the other, that’s fine but anything beyond that is overly optimistic based on the available data today.

        As for the Rasmussen poll showing Obama +12 in Pennsylvania, check out what I wrote:

        I’ve very candid in what I think that poll and other well-constructed polls are revealing about Pennsylvania (and Michigan for that matter).

        Thanks for visiting and much better comment than your first…

      • Brian D. Gray
        Posted September 27, 2012 at 3:13 am | Permalink

        Well on my first comment well I just remember what it was like in 2004 when democrats were tearing every poll apart back then and all of us Democrats remember how disappointed we were.

      • Posted September 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        Brian…i understand what you are saying. But 2012 is not 2008 is not 2004. I think that is important to remember. In the end this all comes down to a turnout game. 2004 was evenlu split 38-38. There was no advantage the polls pretty much showed that all along. 2008, was a banner year for Democrats. The polls showed that based on the obvious enthusiasm level of the democrats, new registrations, vote flips and a gutting of enthusiasm for republicans. 2012 the polls NOT WEIGHTED but show a democrat turnout or expectation that is greater in many states than 2008…that just seems unfathomable. Just as 2008 was a forgone conclusion that McCain would lose it was palpable. ANYONE who didn’t see it was stupid. This year there is no palpable push for Obama. Hence why states like Indiana has flipp massive away from him. North Carolina is sure to go against him. He is campaigning in Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, Nevada, etc…states he won handedly. His level of campaigning in some of these states is not the actions of a campaign that truly believes it is up 4-6-10 points comfortabley.

        Obama knows that if he loses Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, New Hampshire, Nevada he is in serious danger of losing Florida AND/OR Ohio. I think both campaigns if under oath and threat of death 🙂 would say their internals show that Obama leads nationally by about 2. And obviously has a leaner based Electoral lead. But again all of it go fly away. States tend to fall like dominos. If what you are selling in Indiana, Wisc, Iowa, and Nevad isn’t being bought there is a real danger you lose Ohio or Florida too. So Obama is not running this like 08 when everyone knew it was in the bag. He is running this like he knows he is in a gut busting race to the last vote.

  4. Kevin
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If Obama was doing so great in the swing states as the polls suggest, then why is he spending so much time and resources in them? If he’s got it in the bag, then he can head back to Washington and present a bill to balance the budget, and meet with his jobs council, something he hasn’t done since the last eclipse of the moon.

  5. Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What do you folks think about this?


    • Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I meant to blog this but things have gotten busy. Fridays tend to be slower days so hopefully I give it a full post then. He shot his whole argument at the end with the following: “So, if one sees a poll saying that Obama is leading Romney by nine points in Florida, then one should ask how likely it is that Obama will exceed his 2008 margin by six points. That is a reasonable discussion. But one need not attempt to say that the nine-point lead in the poll is suspect because there were too many Democrats and not enough Republicans in the sample compared to 2008.” That is a foolish and ludicrous statement not worthy of even Internet tripe let alone under the pen of the Gallup organization. Our entire argument is you are seeing Obama with a 9-point lead BECAUSE you have too many Democrats. He has the tail wagging the dog by saying Obama has a 9-point lead because more people identify with Democrats. If believes that, then fine. But give me an argument for my more Democrats identify with Obama today versus 2008 with then he had countless advantages then but today he has countless baggage. He totally dodged the subject and misrepresented our complaint.

      • Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. I shall sleep better tonight. I do note that data from Ohio early voting samples that show higher numbers of Republicans and lower numbers of Democrats than in 2008. I suspect that the Republicans will tend to vote for Romney and the Democrats will vote for Obama, regardless of why they obtained those ballots.

  6. Gary
    Posted November 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A few quibbles- What about the fact that 100000 people die in Ohio each year, and based on your statements most would be Republican (white and old)? The new voters replacing them are skewed more non-white (about 25% versus 10% for 65+ population) who will likely vote D instead of R by at least 2:1 based on polls etc. therefore can’t you reasonably assume the missing 2% are merely younger and more non white voters replacing dead white voters?
    Also, the highest vote ever for R was in 2004. Demographics have not helped at all in the intervening 8 years so what possible reason could you give for a sudden increase in white turnout voting Republican? It does not work unless you posit a sudden burst of enthusiasm for a candidate who seems to be uninspiring at best for the typical Republican. I just don’t see the logic here. We will see on Tuesday I suppose but I for one would be stunned if Romney got 2.8 million votes and very surprised indeed if Obama got under 2.8 million votes: by definition then Obama wins under that scenario.
    One more thing: aggregate vote totals are NOT the same in 2004 vs 2008 because you neglect the 3rd party votes- 2004 -27000 (.5%) versus 2008 -104,000 (1.8%). Add it all up and the difference is 94000 or just about the number you claim is missing- 95000! So your argument fails on at least 2 levels.
    One more point from this info- what about all the unhappy campers who will vote Libertarian? Probably temperamentally more likely Republican and not Democratic thus pulling votes from Romney.
    I admit it is entirely possible that many Obama supporters could theoretically switch or not vote and allow Romney to win but to posit that there are secret white Republicans hanging out in the bushes who will magically appear on Tuesday to save the day is a little sad- reminds me of the exact argument used by Kerry supporters in 2004 to convince us they would win Ohio. They were wrong and I think you are as well. Notice no polling data at all need be invoked to make this argument so forget any supposed media bias and just look at the actual data.

    • Brian D. Gray
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Well Gary I guess they don’t want to get back with you or me do they? the exit polls show white participation going down from 74% in 2008 to 72% this year sort of shoots their pet theories down doesn’t it? The youth turned out iin even greater numbers it seems doesn’t it? The Black turnout nationally was 13% the same as ’08 but in Ohio it went from 11% of the electorate in ’08 to 15% for 2012. The Hispanic vote went from about 9% of the electorate in ’08 to 10% this year.

      Yoohooo are you people who were proven wrong still out there? What’s your excuse? has the excuse went from “secret white electorate will turn out to save the day” turned to “The Democrats suppressed the Republican vote this time” ??????

  7. Brian D. Gray
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hey Keithbacker guess what??? Obama just got re-elected!!!! Oh he won Ohio & Pennsylvania both and the pollsters using all of those 2008 demographics were right!!!!! Those minorities showed up didn’t they? The young voters got out and voted didn’t they?

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Please see this clarification regarding the White vote potential impact on 2008 and 2012. John McCain would not have won in 2008 if the White vote had shown up in 2008 as they did in 2004. […]

  2. […] home in that election but appear to be more than enthusiastic this time around. In 2008 that was over 95,000 Ohio voters with a proclivity towards voting […]

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