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RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

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A Review of Obama's Voting Coalition, Part IV

I'd like to bring my analysis of Obama's voting coalition to a conclusion today by tying together two points made last week. On Wednesday, we observed that voting groups tend to vary their support for one candidate or the other according to region. On Thursday, we noted that Clinton has performed better in the swing states.

The assertion I would like to make today is that this is not coincidence. It is not that Clinton has won the border states, the industrial Midwest, and the swing states. It is that because she has won the border states and the industrial Midwest that she has won more swing states. She is not uniquely capable in swing states. Instead, swing states are clustered in regions that favor Clinton. As we move into regions known to be more favorable to Obama, above all the Pacific West, we find him doing better in those swing states.

To demonstrate this, let's break down demographic groups in just the swing states by region. This time, we'll use broader Census Bureau definitions of region - Northeast, South, Midwest, and West. We'll also take a broad definition of swing states. We'll include all states that have held primaries in 2008 that Bill Clinton won in 1996, and that the Democrats either lost in 2004 or won by less than 5%.

We'll start with gender and age among whites.

Whites By Gender and Age.gif

Three observations are of note.

First, within regions, we see differences in support by demographic group. For instance, white seniors in the Northeast are much less partial to Obama than white youths in the Northeast.

Second, within demographic groups, we see differences in support by region. White voters in any given group are most likely to support Obama in the West, least likely to support him in the South, with the Northeast and the Midwest coming in the middle. We saw something like this for all states in Part II; now we see that it applies to the swing states just as much.

Third, notice that the Midwest appears to be in the middle. This is a deceptive position because there is a wide variation within the region. The following chart has the details for the Midwest.

Midwestern Swing States.gif

What we see here is that Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri tend to fall between the South and the Northeast. The region as a whole is "pulled" toward Obama by the fact that he performed strongly in Wisconsin.

With this caveat in mind, let's examine Obama's swing state performance by region and socioeconomic status.

Socioeconomic Status.gif

We find the same type of results. There is intra-regional variation by demographic groups - e.g. voters in a given region with college degrees are more inclined to Obama than voters in the region without college degrees. There is also intra-group variation by region. The college educated in the West are more inclined to Obama than the college educated in the South.

Once again, we see the regions fall in the same order. Holding socioeconomic status constant, the South is least inclined to Obama, the West the most, and the Northeast and Midwest falling in the middle. If we broke the Midwest down by states, we would again see Wisconsin most favorable to Obama, Ohio and Michigan least favorable to him, Missouri in the middle.

Finally, let's look at voters by region and type of area (urban, suburban, rural).

Residential Area .gif

Again, we find that within a region, type of living area has an effect on vote choice. We also find that within a type of living area, region has an effect. As per usual, the West is most partial to Obama, the South the least, and the Midwest and Northeast fall somewhere in the middle. The only exception is urban populations, all of which seem equally inclined to Obama. This is probably due to the fact that African Americans tend to be concentrated in urban areas regardless of region.

So, what can we conclude? While it is truthful to assert that Clinton has done better in the swing states, this seems to be largely due to the fact that swing states are in her best regions. Regional differences seem to account for a great deal in the variations in vote choice - be it in swing states or otherwise.

-Jay Cost