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
|Florida||12||15||McCain||47%||Illegal Democratic primary vote|
|Michigan||50||16||Obama||46%||Illegal Democratic primary vote|
|New Hampshire||46||45||Obama||46&||Clinton McCain|
|New Jersey||28||17||McCain||43%||Clinton McCain|
|North Dakota||24||46||Obama||46%||Obama Romney|
|Rhode Island||43||31||Obama||53%||Clinton McCain|
|South Carolina||17||4||McCain||48%||Obama McCain|
|Texas||10||19||McCain||47%||Clinton won vote, Obama the caucus
|West Virginia||49||37||McCain||53%||Clinton Huckabee|
|District of Columbia||56||1||—||—||Obama McCain|