2006 Election Demographics And How They Apply To 2008

The WAPO’s “The Fix” blog is featuring some demographic information supplied by, “Third Way, a centrist Democratic group.” There’s a lot of good data in the post, starting with this,

Let’s start with the overall shape of the electorate as laid out in the Third Way survey. “Compared to 2004, the 2006 electorate was wealthier and whiter, and more religious, male, married and rural,” the authors write.

The average 2006 voter had a median income 13.4 percent higher than that same voter in 2004; the percent of white voters went from 77 percent in 2004 exit polls to 79 percent in those same polls in 2006. Men made up 48.3 percent of the 2006 voting pool, a two percent increase over 2004; married people accounted for nearly 70 percent of the 2006 vote as compared to 63 percent in 2004.

“Note that the increases are all in groups where Republicans are stronger than the Democrats. So, how did the Democrats win? They won because these groups switched sides in 2006…

“Not only did Democrats win, they picked up nearly all of their new votes among those who fall into the typical Republican profile of voters,” says the study. “Millions of voters from constituencies that had given up on Democrats in the past — whites, men, couples, the well off, rural Americans, and yes, even the middle class — switched sides in 2006.”

Of the 4.7 million new Democratic voters in 2006, nearly 90 percent were men wand five out of six were white. Half of the new Democratic votes came from rural areas where Democrats lost the overall vote to Republicans by less than three percent — far less than the 13 percent margin Republicans claimed in 2004 among rural voters. (Interestingly, just 12.4 percent of the new Democratic voters came from cities with populations of 500,000 or more.)

Economically, these 4.7 million new Democratic voters came overwhelmingly from households earning more than $75,000 a year. In fact, approximately 70 percent of new Democratic voters were part of a household that earned $100,000 or more. Democrats won the “middle class” (as defined as those voters earning between $30,000 and $75,000) for the first time in more than a decade, according to the survey, and the so-called economic tipping point — the median income where white voters go from Democratic to Republican voters — rose from $23,700 in 2004 to more than $40,000 in 2006.”

Why did these voters change sides? According to “Third Way,” the war in Iraq was the biggest factor, but not the only one…

“Voters felt better about the economy and their own finances, but they felt far worse about Iraq, corruption in Congress and President Bush,” the Third Way authors write. “Their strong dissatisfaction with Iraq, the President, and corruption trumped their modest satisfaction with the economy.”

That conclusion shouldn’t shock anyone paying even a little bit of attention to the political landscape. And it’s important to note that even among the demographic groups where Democrats made major gains in 2006, they didn’t win a majority of votes from those groups. Democrats lost white voters by four percent in 2006 after losing that group by 17 percent in 2004. The party lost voters making $100,000 to $150,000 by four percent in 2006, an 11 percent net gain over 2004; it lost rural voters by three percent in 2006, a big jump from the 19-point thumping they took in 2004.

Again, take this data with a grain of sand because it comes from a Democratic group, but if it’s spot-on, it’s probably bad news for the Democrats.

The war isn’t likely to be as helpful to the Democrats in 2008 as it is today because either we will have made dramatic improvements and pulled troops out, which the GOP will get credit for, or the Democrats will have surrendered to Al-Qaeda and the country will be starting to go to hell in a handbasket, which will be blamed on the Democrats, not George Bush.

Speaking of George Bush, he’s a lame duck who isn’t going to be on the ticket again. Certainly he’ll be a drag on the GOP, but we’ll have a GOP candidate by then who will be considerably more popular than Bush is today.

As to corruption, well again, that should be a temporary issue if the GOP does what it needs to do to clean house. Abramoff, Cunningham, and Foley will have lost their resonance by 2008.

Moreover, the Democrats are in charge and the voters think they’re stinking up the Hill. The Dems in Congress currently have a disapproval rating that is higher than the GOP numbers before the 2006 election.

That means the playing field in 2008 may still have a slight tilt towards the Democrats, but the issues that gave them a huge advantage in 2006 probably won’t give them anywhere near the same advantage in 2008.

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