COST and not CHANGE should be the Key Word for the 2008 US Presidential Election

A March 6, 2008 SurveyUSA survey of an Obama-McCain Presidential election match-up shows McCain winning 26 States and 258 electoral votes, with Obama winning a fewer 24 States but 280 electoral votes, enough for election. Since a number of States are very close calls, the race at the moment is surely a toss-up. Things have changed and may change even more between then, now and November.

What factors will determine the ultimate outcome of the election?

Economic and demographic statistics about the US States (see further below) pose several interesting questions as to prognostications of voter behaviour in the upcoming US Presidential Election 2008:

QUESTION 1. Will changes that have occurred in any US State’s real GDP (here using statistics from 2003 to 2006) have any significant impact on the voting?

CALCULATIONS: The 26 States that SurveyUSA shows as being won by McCain have an average rank of 25 in terms of the change in real GDP from 2003-2006.

The 24 States that SurveyUSA shows as being won by Obama have an average rank of 26 in terms of the change in real GDP from 2003-2006.

ANSWER: To our great surprise, the real changes in a State’s GDP in recent years appear not to have any visible correlation with the way that people will vote in this upcoming election. This may contradict what we wrote here. Can voter behaviour truly be this bizarre, that they are not even capable of voting their own pocketbooks, or do they simply not understand economics?

QUESTION 2. Will the percentage (%) of African-American population in a State have any significant impact on whether a State votes for Obama or McCain?

CALCULATIONS: The 26 States that SurveyUSA shows as being won by McCain have an average rank of 23 in terms of the % of their African-American population.

The 24 States that SurveyUSA shows as being won by Obama have an average rank of 29 in terms of the % of their African-American population.

ANSWER: To our great surprise, States with a higher percentage of black population are somewhat more likely to vote for McCain than for Obama. Race, in any case, will not decide this election one way or the other.

So what factors and issues WILL decide this election. If “actual” economics are not determinative and if “race” is not a predominant factor, then what is? What motives are behind current voting behavior?

If we take a look at the candidates on the issues, the differences between them are not significant as regards most issues thus far polled as allegedly being significant for voter behavior.

The election will thus be decided by something else. But what?
What about other, more subtle human factors?

Fear of Change and Fear of the Unknown

Your average man is not someone who is gung-ho for change, and when push comes to shove, many voters will stick to a known commodity or “brand”, good or bad. A major problem that Obama is facing is that he is the “new kid on the block”, which makes him suspect to the majority of the more poorly educated classes in the population, whose voting behavior abides by the German saying that the common man does not eat what he does not know (was der Bauer nicht kennt, frisst er nicht). This is one reason that Hillary Clinton, a more or less known commodity in the primaries, could count on many of the uneducated blue-collar workers to vote for her, whereas the more highly-educated voters, who are more open to the world and who call upon a broader base of experience and independence, tended to favor the more unknown Obama. In the upcoming Presidential election, fear will remain a strong motivator, and fear favors McCain.

A Vision of Change

Let us take a look at Barack Obama’s message of “change”. How many voters want change, and if they want change, what kind of change do they want?

We posted previously about a poll which indicated that a staggering 81% of Americans were of the opinion that the country was on the wrong track. Accordingly, a need for change would appear to be a nearly universal desire in the country as whole, but the voting in the primary elections did not support that otherwise obvious conclusion at all, as millions of voters supported the “old guard”, both in the Republican and Democratic primaries.

John McCain, continuing to use the fear of terrorism effectively, has pledged to continue what the current administration has been doing and that gives a feeling of security to a lot of people – and secures McCain a lot of votes.

Change is a Double-Edged Sword

“Change” is thus a double-edged sword. Fear of change counters the desire for change, often in the very same voter.

Perhaps not a single “suit of change” fits everyone, and perhaps the proclamations of change that Obama is trying to spread must be adapted to fit the various messages of change that the different voters want to hear.

Youth and Change

One potentially critical voting group is composed of the young voters, who in past elections have avoided the voting booths as not relevant to their lives. In this election, the importance of young voters is dramatically increasing, but what change do they want? Youth, as adults can verify by experience, has no fear of change, but youth is often equally inexperienced to know what change is needed.

Change for Unmarried Women

Another very significant segment of the voting population is composed of unmarried women, an increasingly growing group which now accounts for about 26% of the electorate. What change, if any, do they want? and who is talking about what is important to THEM?

Women Voters and the Key Word COST vs. Change

Liz Halloran writes at the U.S. News & World Report about a poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research:

The poll showed that married and unmarried women were united on a number of issues. Seventy-seven percent believe the country is on the wrong track; and more than three quarters of both groups said they want to “make sure every American has healthcare insurance.” A majority of all women surveyed also said that candidates of both parties have failed to address their top concern of economic security. They are feeling the financial squeeze, Greenberg says, and are “overwhelmingly focused on cost—cost, cost, cost.”” [emphasis added]

Economic security is the domestic side of national security.

Perhaps the key word for the upcoming election should not be CHANGE but rather COST.


Below are the results of the SurveyUSA surveys and New York Times primary election results which we have put into a new unique table. We discuss these in our discussion above.

of the United States
State Rank by per capita change in the
Real GDP 2003-2006
Rank by % of African-
Presidential Vote Winner according to SurveyUSA
March 6, 2008
% of Projected Vote won according to SurveyUSA, March 6, 2008 Democratic and Republican Primary
New York Times
Alabama 23 7 McCain 54% Obama McCain
Alaska 48 35 McCain 48% Obama Romney
Arizona 3 38 McCain 51% Clinton
Arkansas 34 13 McCain 53% Clinton Huckabee
California 13 27 Obama 51% Clinton McCain
Colorado 8 33 Obama 50% Obama
Connecticut 33 22 Obama 55% Obama McCain
Delaware 21 10 Obama 50% Obama
Florida 12 15 McCain 47% Illegal Democratic primary vote
Georgia 20 5 McCain 54% Obama Huckabee
Hawaii 11 41 Obama 61% Obama
Idaho 1 50 McCain 52% Obama
Illinois 26 14 Obama 60% Obama McCain
Indiana 40 23 McCain 50% Clinton
Iowa 32 39 Obama 50% Obama Huckabee
Kansas 19 28 McCain 50% Obama Huckabee
Kentucky 36 25 McCain 54% Clinton McCain
Louisiana 45 3 McCain 54% Obama Huckabee
Maine 41 48 Obama 53% Obama Romney
Maryland 29 6 Obama 53% Obama
Massachusetts 27 30 Obama 49% Clinton
Michigan 50 16 Obama 46% Illegal Democratic primary vote
Minnesota 30 34 Obama 49% Obama Romney
Mississippi 35 2 McCain 54% Obama McCain
Missouri 39 20 McCain 48% Obama
Montana 9 51 McCain 47% Romney
Nebraska 37 32 McCain 45% Obama
Nevada 15 26 Obama 46% Clinton Romney
New Hampshire 46 45 Obama 46& Clinton McCain
New Jersey 28 17 McCain 43% Clinton McCain
New Mexico 5 40 Obama 50% Clinton
New York 18 12 Obama 52% McCain
North Carolina 14 8 McCain 47% Obama
North Dakota 24 46 Obama 46% Obama Romney
Ohio 47 18 Obama 50% Clinton
Oklahoma 4 24 McCain 57% Clinton McCain
Oregon 7 42 Obama 49% Oregon McCain
Pennsylvania 44 21 McCain 47% Clinton McCain
Rhode Island 43 31 Obama 53% Clinton McCain
South Carolina 17 4 McCain 48% Obama McCain
South Dakota 16 47 McCain 47%
Tennessee 25 11 McCain 54% Clinton Huckabee
Texas 10 19 McCain 47% Clinton won vote, Obama the caucus
Utah 2 43 McCain 50% Obama
Vermont 31 49 Obama 63% Obama McCain
Virginia 22 9 Obama 47% Obama
Washington 6 36 Obama 52% Obama McCain
West Virginia 49 37 McCain 53% Clinton Huckabee
Wisconsin 42 29 Obama 51% Obama McCain
Wyoming 38 44 McCain 54% Obama Romney
District of Columbia 56 1 Obama McCain