Thursday, November 8, 2012

State polls had it right

There were numerous polling controversies of 2012. They included whether established pollsters were accurately capturing the likely electorate in partisan and demographic terms; whether poll aggregators were missing the boat with their probabilistic interpretations of various state projections; and whether state or national polls are more accurate. The election outcome confirmed that the state polls, as is usually the case, had it right.

National polls with more generous non-white shares of the electorate more accurately forecast the national popular vote as the non-white portion of the electorate reached a new high of 28%, according to exit polls. The Republican Party's inability to compete among the non-white portion of the population threatens to relegate it to minority party status for a generation. Democratic strength continues growing in more demographically diverse areas of the nation. The Democratic strength in industrial states Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin attests to the continued inclusion of white union workers, a staple of the traditional Democratic New Deal coalition, in the evolving 21st century coalition. Unmarried women also continue as a staple of the Democratic coalition.

This election was one in which Democrats had both the superior campaign and the superior candidate, plus the advantage of an incumbent President running with a united party. Exit polling indicated that voters considered President Obama the candidate who most understood people like them and who most favored the middle class by wide margins. Unsurprisingly, he won handily among voters for whom those were important concerns.

These perceptions were likely attributable to several first-term policy decisions invoked throughout the campaign, and to devastating media advertising characterizing his Republican opponent as a plutocrat. Among the previous policy choices that were emphasized most were the Auto Rescue, his executive order allowing immigrant youth to avoid deportation, and his health care requirement that employer-provided insurance cover contraception, and passage of the landmark Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. His quest for "tax fairness," requiring the wealthy to do their fair share, further reinforced his identification as the candidate of a battered middle class.

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