Forget Ohio, it’s all about Virginia…and demographics

In my humble opinion, the biggest news coming out of the election last night was not Ohio.  Instead, the polling results coming out of Virginia, that heavily favored Obama early in the evening, set the tone for the entire night.  The story of what happened in Virginia exemplifies where our politics in this country now stand.  Obama’s repeat victory in the Old Dominion underscores what was probably the biggest factor in the 2012 election: demographics.

For our regular readers, especially those who read our Red State, Blue State report back in July, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.  Ohio, Florida, and other swing states are used to the attention and have been “purple” for a long time now. Obama’s repeat victory in Virginia, however, a state that has voted consistently for Republican presidential candidates before 2008, is really big news.  More than anything else, Obama’s victory in Virginia means that 2008 wasn’t a fluke, but rather represented a fundamental political realignment in the country.

That realignment is bad news for Republicans.  The Republican party has serious demographic problems.  Virginia’s shifting demographics, like that of the nation, have been dramatic in just the last few decades with Hispanics and Asians driving most population growth and changes in the electorate.  Republicans have had considerable difficulty gaining the votes of these groups.  In Virginia, most of the influx and growth in Hispanic and Asian populations is occurring around the Washington D.C. suburbs in Northern Virginia (NoVa).  It was therefore not surprising that NoVa was the focus of the national news media, and results from that region look more like those from 2008 than from 2004.

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“47 percent” and other statistics

Last week’s release of the now infamous Mother Jones video of Romney’s comments  on the “47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay income taxes has everyone talking about the U.S. tax system.  Despite this election cycle’s relative dearth of substantive, detailed policy discourse, the campaigns and the media have indeed provided the public with a lot of useful information on the way taxes work in this country.  The terms “Capital Gains” and “carried interest” have entered the common vernacular and it seems that everyone now knows about the “Buffet Rule” and the tax rates for certain types of income.

If any good has come out of Romney’s comments on the “47 percent,” it is that the public now has a better understanding of those folks who have been labeled by some on the right as “lucky duckies.”  The left has been quick to argue that these lucky duckies are actually not so lucky; and by now many of us have seen or heard the statistics complied by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center: Continue reading

Who’s winning the money game? Understanding campaign finance statistics

The big story right now in the money contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is how the Republican challenger has been out-pacing the President in fundraising in recent months.  In July, Obama and the DNC raised a total of $59 million while Romney and the RNC raised $78 million.  But like all statistics (especially financial ones) the true story behind the numbers is a lot more complicated.

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Red State, Blue State: Demographic Change and Presidential Politics in Virginia

Today, the Cooper Center released a new report  on demographic shifts in Virginia and how they will impact the upcoming election.  Co-authoring this publication has provided me with the opportunity to connect some of the different topics highlighted in this blog and provide much more in-depth analysis on the demographic factors that will come to play a big role this November.  If you have been following us these last few months you will no doubt recognize some of the material, but I encourage our regular Stat Chat followers to take a look.  Michele and I have tried to paint an accurate portrait of the role demography has played in presidential politics in the Old Dominion and have made every attempt at putting all of the data and numbers into context for our readers.

Some of the questions we investigate:

1.  Was the 2008 Democratic victory in Virginia an aberration or a herald of change?

2.  Has urbanization and the growing influence of Northern Virginia finally tilted Virginia from a solidly “red” state to a “blue” state?

3.  Will minority turnout be the deciding factor in Virginia?

4.  Can young voters in 2012 match the electoral strength of their older counterparts?

Happy reading.

Update: First derivative Virginians

Quinnipiac University released its latest poll of Virginia’s registered voters and the news is not good for Obama.  Since 2011, Obama has led Romney in all trial heat match-ups that Quinnipiac released for the commonwealth, sometimes with leads well outside of polls’ margins of error.  This month’s release, however, shows that Romney has closed the gap with Obama and is tied with him 44 – 44 in a hypothetical match-up.

Quinnipiac Poll of Virginia Registered Voters:

If the election for President were being held today, and the candidates were Barack Obama the Democrat and Mitt Romney the Republican, for whom would you vote?

  July 2012 June 2012 March 2012 Feb. 2012
Obama 44% 47% 50%  47%
Romney 44% 42% 42%  43%

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Update: Romney’s economic advantage in Virginia?

Quinnipiac University released it’s latest poll of Virginia’s registered voters with President Obama holding a 47 to 42 percent lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a match-up.  Obama has maintained a consistent lead over Romney in all Quinnipiac polls since the beginning of the year, but there is one question that I, and many other analysts, are looking at just as closely in trying to predict which way Virginia will turn this election…

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Climbing Mount NoVa in 2012

For 2012 election-related commentary, please see these recent posts :

  1. Forget Ohio, it’s all about Virginia…and demographics
  2. Virginia Votes 2012
  3. Virginia Votes 2012:  Turnout across localities
  4. Lower turnout in 2012 makes the case for political realignment in 2008

As part of my larger work on the 2012 election in Virginia (which I plan to release as a Cooper Center publication very soon), I have been wading through Virginia’s historical election data looking for meaningful trends and patterns that might offer some clues for what might happen this November.  The most striking trend over the past 50 years is the growing influence of Northern Virginia in electoral outcomes.

Many are aware of the phenomenon of the “Two Virginias,” but not as many fully appreciate the magnitude of the differences between NoVa (Northern Virginia) and RoVa (The Rest of Virginia).  In many demographic analyses it is often not entirely inappropriate to treat the two as two separate states.  On almost all measures of economic status, racial and ethnic diversity, or even basic demographics such as age or sex, NoVa stands apart.  The counties that make up NoVa (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and the smaller independent cities within) are some of the richest and most educated in the country.

NoVa is also growing increasingly Democratic in its political disposition compared to RoVa, thanks in part to growing minority populations in the region.  Obama’s victory in NoVa was perhaps the biggest contributing factor to his sizable victory in the Old Dominion, a state that has not voted for a Democratic candidate since Johnson in 1964. This seismic shift goes unnoticed when looking at a traditional county results map. Continue reading

Update: Obama pulling ahead in Virginia?

After last month’s Quinnipiac poll release for Virginia, I looked at whether there was a relationship between the improved job numbers (as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)) and Obama’s recent job approval ratings in the commonwealth.  This month, the BLS updated and revised all of its monthly unemployment numbers and Quinnipiac came out with a new poll of registered voters.  The new data still show a close relationship between unemployment rates and job approval in Virginia, but perhaps that relationship is a little more complex than one might think.

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