President Obama's last-ditch attempt to turn out his voter base worked — and saved the 2010 election from a being a total disaster for the Democrats.
John Zogby's postelection polling reveals that voters who made up their minds about how to vote within the last week voted Democrat by 57-31 while those who made up their minds earlier backed the Republican candidate, 53-44.
Zogby's data indicated that it made no difference whether the voter decided for whom to vote two or three weeks before the election or more than a month before.
Both groups backed Republicans by 10 points. But those who decided in the voting booth or in the week immediately before voting backed the Democrat by large margins.
Fortunately for the GOP, only 8 percent of the electorate were late deciders. A full 46 percent were early voters.
These Democratic late deciders were all straight from the party's base:
- 15 percent of single voters decided late, and singles voted 64 percent Democratic.
- 14 percent of under-$25,000-income voters decided late, and voters in this income category voted Democratic by 59-36.
- 20 percent of voters 18-29 decided late, and this group backed Obama by 56-37.
So Obama's appearances on "The Daily Show" and in youth-oriented media worked well to his party's advantage.
Race, age, and marital status were the key predictors of how a person would vote.
Racially, the Zogby poll shows that blacks cast only 10 percent of the vote and Latinos only 8 percent in the 2010 elections. In 2008, they cast 13 and 10 percent, respectively.
Obama did well among Latinos. His appeals based on immigration worked. Hispanics voted Democrat by 58-37. But, surprisingly, Zogby showed erosion among black voters, who backed the Democrat by only 72-24, well below their percentage for Obama himself in 2008.
Age played a key role in determining one's vote:
- Among the youngest voters, 18-24, Democrats got 66 percent of the vote.
- More broadly, those aged 18-29 voted Democrat 56-37.
- Those aged 30-49 were split fairly evenly, with Democrats winning 47 percent and Republicans 50 percent.
- Voters 50-64, the baby boomers, have shifted to the Republicans, backing them by 54-43.
- Thanks to Obamacare, the over-65 voters backed Republicans by 57-38.
But voters under 30 constituted only 11 percent of the vote, and those 18-24 were just 3 percent. The failure of these groups to turn out in larger numbers did much to doom the Democratic candidates.
Marital status continued to be one of the key variables in our politics:
- Married men voted Republican by 60-35.
- Married women followed suit by 58-40.
- Unmarried men voted Democrat by 50-42.
- Unmarried women voted Democrat by 61-34.
Oddly, Obama's last-minute appeal seems to have been effective based largely on demographics, not on union membership. The unions are the Democratic Party's financial base, but not their voters. Union members broke evenly, with 49 percent backing Democrats and 47 percent voting Republican.
Historically, Democrats "come home" as Election Day approaches, and those whose involvement in politics is most marginal — who tend to be poorer, less educated and more Democrat — make late decisions to support Democrats. The 2010 election was no exception to this trend.
I had thought that it would be. Based on the solid Republican trend that continued well into October, I believed that the late deciders would tend to side more with the GOP than usual.
I felt that those who normally voted Democrat would stay at home. They didn't. And Obama's last-minute campaigning had a lot to do with it.