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Presidential Election Takeaways

Among the reasons for Obama’s victory and Romney’s defeat are: the bad repute of Wall Street; Romney’s inability to combine economic and social issues into a believable whole; Obama’s likeability; Obamacare; Obama’s national security competence; Sandy; and evidence of the beginning of economic recovery.

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The results of the presidential election revealed a few things that might be relevant to New York City. We have taken this analysis from the exit polls and other surveys. Undoubtedly, the analysis is a preliminary “something to think about.”

Among the reasons for Obama’s victory and Romney’s defeat are: the bad repute of Wall Street; Romney's inability to combine economic and social issues into a believable whole; Obama's likeability; Obamacare; Obama's national security competence; Sandy; evidence of the beginning of economic recovery.

Presidential vote analysis:

  • The bad repute of Wall Street certainly affects us here in New York City. Religious congregations and ministries with a high percent of members from Wall Street should take pause at this message from the voters.

More than ½ of the electorate said Romney would favor the rich; 43% said Obama’s policies will be good for the middle class. Americans don’t mind the rich being rich, but they seem to think Wall Streeters never repented and can’t be trusted to go beyond their own interests. Obama’s ad campaign effectively tapped this sentiment.

  • The inability of Romney to combine economic and social issues into a believable whole. Consequently, the margin in favor of Romney among White non-Hispanic Protestants and Catholics was not large enough in states like Virginia and Ohio.
  • Obama’s likeability. The candidate’s integrity, niceness and how he handles his family matter to the public. In various polls we see that a majority of people in all demographic and religious groups like Obama personally, and they like his way of relating to his family.
  • Obamacare.  18% of the electorate said that this was important reason for their vote. Romney was unable to appeal to the majority of public who don’t like some aspects of Obamacare.  Romney also didn’t make any appeal to the debate over the religious freedom issues raised by Obamacare (whether some faith-based organizations can get an exception to the contraception and abortion requirements).
  • Obama’s national security competence. 5% said reason for vote was foreign policy. To many Americans Obama has proved to be a tough military commander. Romney’s attacks on cuts in military spending got no resonance among anyone except defense contractors. There continues to be high antagonism to Bush’s Iraq policies. We guess Obama doesn’t seem to have lost many anti-war votes.
  • Sandy. 40% said this was an important or very important reason for voting for Obama. Obama’s performance was seen as a contrast to Bush’s and FEMA’s performance during Hurricane Katrina. Bush’s former head of FEMA made an idiotic criticism that Obama had acted too fast during Hurricane Sandy. Also, Sandy stopped a trend toward Romney in last few weeks.

In NYC we judge mayors by how fast they direct the recovery from a storm or snowstorm. On the one hand, this is a competence issue. But there is also a moral dimension on how much we can trust the mayor and does he care for people like us or our neighborhood. These issues come to the fore among religious leaders also. In our survey of over 1200 NYC religious leaders it was notable that in areas of dirty streets and messy trash the religious leaders cited this as one of the top things that they would handle if they were mayor of NYC.

  • Evidence of beginning of economic recovery. 88% who said that they felt that the economy is improving voted for Obama. 59% said the economy and unemployment was top reason for vote.

Other takeaways:

  • Independents switched back to the GOP. Romney won 58% of the independents. So, the independent vote wasn’t factor in Obama’s victory. The Obama campaign ran a “base election,” ignoring independents. This was a successful strategy.
  • Hispanics made a big difference in Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. There were not enough Hispanics to determine this national election. However, in NYC, Hispanics are important factor in local elections; 79% favored Obama; and anti-immigrant views are not popular in here.
  • White non-Hispanic male voters in Ohio didn’t break enough for Romney.

Obama lost young white non-Hispanic males but not as much as in rest of country.

Obama lost white, non-Hispanic male Catholic voters in Ohio but not as much as rest of country

Romney won proportionally fewer born-again Christians than he did in other states. For example, in Ohio he won the support of 69% of born-again Christians but in Florida he did better at 79%.

  • Virginia. Faith played a role in Obama’s victory (if current counts hold up). Romney needed 4% more of the white non-Hispanic women, 4% more of white non-Hispanic men or 4% of the very religious Christians (attend ch 1+/week).

He only got 54% of active church goers, lower than national average.  This likely is partly the result of the African American vote (20% of electorate in VA). 61% of Virginia voters are White non-Hispanic Protestant, 15% Catholic.

White non-Hispanic women make up 37% of electorate and voted 58% for Romney, and white non-Hispanic men voted 63% for Romney. Both of these figures are low compared to national averages.

All religious groups and segments dislike VA governor’s ultra-sound requirement for pre-abortion examinations. Maybe, this sentiment impacted the White non-Hispanic religious vote.

African Americans increased their share of the Virginia vote to 20%. However, they were never were going to vote against Obama.

  • Romney lost many White Hispanic voters and the evangelical Hispanic voters. But that didn’t make a national difference.
  • Rise of Asian American voter switching. Obama increased his share differential from 27 points to 49 points. However, the demographic is too small to have an effect on vote total.

Muslims in 2000 and Asian American evangelicals 2000 voted for Bush. However, we suspect that these two groups switched in significant numbers to Obama. The Asian Americans are a relatively young leadership cohort that will be important to religious groups in the future.

  • The moderate GOP lost. Romney was a classic GOP moderate with an incoherent platform that changed according to which election he was in. Consequently, he lost moderate-conservative women.
  • Obama’s ground game was indeed better than Romney’s ground game. With a relatively low voter turnout the ground game to turn out the base assumed greater importance.

  • Across the country a majority of males voted for Romney and females for Obama. However, females split a few percentage points more for Obama. In VA and maybe elsewhere the female evangelicals and Catholics were an important reason that Obama won the state (we don't have very good data of other religious groups because of sampling size). This conclusion, of course, may need refinement as we get deeper into the numbers.

    The divisiveness in the country is a cycle of left and right attacking each other without respect. For conservatives the defining moment was the ghastly tv ad against Goldwater that portrayed a little girl being blown up by a nuclear bomb. The conservatives believe that this event ushered us into a divisive culture war. Richard Nixon saw this ad as evidence that the left would stop at nothing to destroy conservatives. The left points to Nixon's second term campaign in 1972 and Watergate scandals.

    Sometimes, I catch myself reverting back to the culture wars rhetoric.

    I like your comments on the moral question of the election: "Am I my brother's keeper?"

  • Very interesting. Thank you. Do you have more detailed info by gender, age and region of the country?

    So it looks like Romney should have distanced himself from people like Rove and the Tea Party, the racists and all those nut jobs in the GOP shooting their mouths off about women's health issues, rape, etc. But he couldn't because he needed their vote. He never distanced himself from these attacks on different demographic groups. With the economy looking like it's in recovery, the issues floating around the last few weeks were social; one could make the argument that this was an election about social issues, values of respect, tolerance and acceptance. The Hurricane brought to the surface issues of "am I my brother's keeper", issues of social responsibility. Romney shot himself on the foot in that one. There is a certain uncertainty floating around,even among the middle classes as one time middle class families are now part of the working poor or have experienced a decrease in their quality of life. Romney spoke for the rich, not for these people. There was nothing in all he said to give confidence that we are in effect a society that cares. On the contrary, his words and demeanor were such that this was not his concern. If he really did/does care, it was not communicated to the voters. The religious left did not vote for him precisely because of these issues and the religious left is growing numerically and in visibility.

    He couldn't run as the moderate that he is because the right wouldn't vote for him. And why not? The GOP has in effect defined the debates in American politics for the past 30 years. And it is still run by people who should have been kicked out long ago and kept apace with changing needs, demographics, etc. The crazies in the GOP are single handedly responsible for the divisiveness in the country beginning in the 80s with Gingrich and has culminated during these elections with the Tea Party rooting for the GOP. Losing the national elections and losing some seats was the best thing for them and the country. They need to redefine, get the libertarians out of there, become a more socially responsible party. They are exploiting people in our midst who have been most hurt by changes in the global economy, etc. The vocal segments of the GOP sound more like the Tea Party these days than the GOP. As for Romney, it was a no win situation from the get go. All this now with the hindsight, of course.

    OK, this is my two cents worth, lol.

  • I like this analysis.

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