Monday 8 November 2004


I haven't commented on Bush's win yet, because, well, what's to say? The better candidate won, as anyone with half an ounce of sense knew he would. Nyer nyer nyer. But the post-election analysis-cum-bollocks is worth a word or two.

We've been hearing a lot about how Bush's win had nothing to do with the War on Terror and everything to do with gay marriage and extremist evangelical Christianity. Listening to some commentators, it is clear that, over the next four years, Bible study will be made compulsory, Darwinism and abortion will be banned, gay men will be forced to wear yellow armbands, and illegitimate children will be confiscated. Obviously, this is tripe, but it's nice to see that proven with numbers.

In Slate, Paul Freedman writes:

The evidence that having a gay-marriage ban on the ballot increased voter turnout is spotty. Marriage-ban states did see higher turnout than states without such measures. They also saw higher increases in turnout compared with four years ago. But these differences are relatively small. Based on preliminary turnout estimates, 59.5 percent of the eligible voting population turned out in marriage-ban states, whereas 59.1 percent turned out elsewhere. This is a microscopic gap when compared to other factors. ...

It's true that states with bans on the ballot voted for Bush at higher rates than other states. His vote share averaged 7 points higher in gay-marriage-banning states than in other states (57.9 vs. 50.9). But four years ago, when same-sex marriage was but a twinkle in the eye of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Bush's vote share was 7.3 points higher in these same states than in other states. In other words, by a statistically insignificant margin, putting gay marriage on the ballot actually reduced the degree to which Bush's vote share in the affected states exceeded his vote share elsewhere.

... the morality gap didn't decide the election. Voters who cited moral issues as most important did give their votes overwhelmingly to Bush (80 percent to 18 percent), and states where voters saw moral issues as important were more likely to be red ones. But these differences were no greater in 2004 than in 2000. If you're trying to explain why the president's vote share in 2004 is bigger than his vote share in 2000, values don't help.

In The New York Times, David Brooks writes:

As Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center [whose final poll nailed the election result dead-on] points out, there was no disproportionate surge in the evangelical vote this year. Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.


Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that phrase can mean anything - or nothing. Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.

Will any of these inconvenient facts get in the way of left-wing whinging and slander over the next four years? The recount in 2000 never stopped them, so I doubt it. Then again, I reckon all the whinging is at least partly to thank for this year's result, so let them go to it. David Brooks again:

But the same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?


Now here's Michelle Malkin, taking apart another popular myth, this time that increased turnout always benefits the Democrats:

It has long been conventional wisdom that nonvoters tend to be liberal, and that getting more people to the polls would be better for Democrats than for Republicans. As social scientists Gerald Wright and Jeanette Morehouse noted, the basis for this logic goes back at least to the formation of the New Deal coalition, where the Democratic Party was able to achieve majority status nationally by expanding its former base in the South to include the poor, unemployed and urban ethnic voters. The implicit assumption has been that modern nonvoters, like their New Deal counterparts, remain disproportionately poor, non-white and predisposed to vote for the Democrats.


And now, we have Election 2004 -- which should put the high turnout-helps-Democrats myth to rest once and for all. Take Missouri, where voter registration was up 10 percent from 2000. President Bush won by a whopping 8-point margin. Take Florida, where black and Hispanic turnout was higher than expected -- and where President Bush won by a convincing 5-point margin.

Over at The Edge Of England's Sword, Drake goes into more detail:

There were 8.5m extra votes for Bush and 4.5m extra for Kerry (over Gore). If we assume no net change among the 2000 voters from Bush to Kerry and visa versa, Bush had to get the lion's share of the extra votes in order to keep parity with Kerry and then overtake him. That sounds bad enough for the Democrats but it is worse: Nader.

Nader dropped 2.5m votes between 2000 and 2004. Where did they go. Sure some went to odd destinations or stayed home but it is pretty clear that, for the purposes of this rough calculation, they all went to Kerry. That would mean that Kerry's real extra votes (i.e. people who voted in 2004 but did not in 2000) were a paltry 2m. That fits the maths of a 10.5m increase in turnout incidentally.

Which means that at the top end, Team Bush delivered 80% of the new voters in this election.

There is an alternative assumption that can be tried, which is where one assumes that Nader's votes went to Kerry and Kerry in turn lost a similar number of Gore voters to Bush. If you do that you credit Kerry with all of his new voters and reduce Bush's by 2.5m. Even when you do that, Team Bush is responsible for 60% of the new voters.

Heh heh heh.


David Aaronovitch writes some emminent common sense on the religious-vote myth and the European reaction to it:

The ayatollah Sistani, representing the Shia of Iraq, is a venerable figure of considerable wisdom; the Reverend Jesse Jackson is all the better for being a man of God. All those lovely gospel choirs! All those Hallelujahs! But the appearance of any (mainly) white religiosity either in America or here sets off an alarm system as clamorous as would have sounded at, say, the appearance of a topless Princess Alexandra in a 1937 travel mag. What can be allowed, happily to those of a different (now, how shall we put this?) culture is the beginning of the end if any of our own lot show similar pious tendencies.


So what about the religious? The populist 'uprising' from the red states noted by Thomas Frank turns out, on inspection, to be more or a less a mirage, a self-inflicted liberal nightmare. Twenty-two per cent placed 'moral values' as the number one voting issue, of whom four- fifths voted for Bush, making around 17 per cent of those voting. Eighty-three per cent of voters did not fall into this camp at all.

Furthermore, the percentage of voters describing themselves as evangelical was the same as in 2000. The proportions in favour or against abortion were no different - 55 per cent are broadly in favour of abortion with 42 per cent opposed. A majority supported either gay marriage (which we do not have here in Britain, or in most countries in Europe) or of gay civil unions. In fact, among these latter, there was a 5 per cent lead for Bush. (Equally unexpectedly, those most scared by terrorism actually voted for Kerry.)

And Harry reminds us all where Christianity really pervades politics:

... isn't it odd that "liberal Britain" is having kittens about the religious right in the United States while hardly raising a murmur about the fact that unelected Bishops are granted an automatic place in our political system or that creationists are being given a role in the education system?

Aaronovitch and Harry are both left-wingers, so perhaps there's hope for the movement yet. Dim, distant, hopelessly outnumbered hope, but hope.

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