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Sunday, June 06, 2004

Swing Voters in Swing States Sour on Bush

Posted by DavidNYC

People complain (rightly) that the electoral college narrows the focus of presidential campaigns to just a handful of states - this year, around 20. But it's even worse than that, because in those states, the only voters that candidates really pay attention to are the undecideds in the middle. Sure, there's always a certain amount of "shoring up your base," but the crucial task, it seems, is to capture the center while still holding on to your flank.

And the number of undecided voters is especially tiny: An Annenberg survey says that just 11% of voters are actually swing voters. The population of the 20 battleground states in this poll is some 106 million, according to the 2002 census figures. (Their list leaves out VA and TN, but includes DE.) That's about 36.6% of the overall US population of 288 million. So already we're down to about a third of all possible Americans.

But multiply that 106 million by 11% and you're down to a mere 11.6 million voters deciding this election. That's just 4% of the entire country. The good news is that these folks have more negative views of Bush than the population at large. They give him lower marks on overall approval, approval of his handling of Iraq and approval of his handling of the economy. We should be able to do well among this group.

This is also a good opportunity to take another look at the issue of electoral college reform (previously discussed here and here).

Now, without the electoral college, candidates from both parties would be forced instead to campaign (and advertise) in the largest population centers. If you look at the list of what the Census Bureau calls "Metropolitan Statistical Areas," almost 130 are in or partially in swing states. (And since I'm going by the Annenberg list, I'm not including VA.)

I'm certain that campaigns don't advertise in every single one of these media markets, but they probably hit most of `em. So I'm going to make the following assumption (feel free to disagree): If we had a national popular election instead of the electoral college, campaigns would likely focus their attention on the top 75 to 100 population centers. Yes, this list is more expensive to advertise in because now you're including New York & LA - but you're also hitting a lot more people on this list.

How many, exactly? Using 1997 numbers (the most recent I could find, broken down this way), the 75 largest metro areas (ranging from NYC down to Witchita, KS) had a population of 170 million. That's already a major improvement - that number was 64% of the overall 1997 population of 266 million. Even if you only hit the MSAs with a population over one million (that takes you as far as Palm Beach - sigh), you'd still cover 150 million people, or 56% of the country.

Eleven percent of that most conservative number (150 million) gives you 16.5 million, or 6.2% of the 1997 population. Now, this still isn't a very big number, and of course all elections will actually be decided by a small subset of voters. But it's more than 50% better than the present 4% that Annenberg says matter right now. And of course, a national popular vote is a fairer, more democratic way to vote for president. We can always dream.

UPDATE: Reader Dennis writes in to point out a very obvious error I made: The population figures I used were for the population at large, not just the number of registered voters. So the actual number of undecided voters is far smaller, though I believe overall my argument - that more voters would be targeted in a national election - still holds.

Posted at 05:24 PM in General | Technorati


Here are three groups that often think they want to vote for Bush but are shooting themselves in the foot if they do so:

1. Fiscal Conservatives. When Bush proposed his now infamous tax cuts Ten Nobel Laureates and 450 other prominent economists drafted a letter opposing them, arguing that "there is widespread agreement that the purpose is �Ķ not the creation of jobs and growth" Similarly, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has concluded that half of the 2003 budget deficit of $400 billion is directly due to the tax cuts. On the spending side Bush has been just as bad. He is spending far more than Clinton-its just that instead of investing it in infrastructure, health care, or even paying for the needed reforms in social security, he is spending it largely on infrastructure for Iraq and on the military. And if you think he will be better in the second term, you are wrong. Even William Niskanen, the chairman of the ultra-conservative Cato Institute recently said ���There's no way to accomplish (Bush's) major new measures, including tax reform, without substantial increases in spending.��� Bush just isn���t a fiscal conservative-and if you are, then its crazy to vote for him

2. Libertarians. Libertarians often assume that because the Republican party is ostensibly in favor of ���smaller government��� it will mean less regulation-making everyone more free. But the Republicans are not in favor of a smaller government-indeed under President Bush the size of the federal government has grown faster than inflation and faster than it did under Clinton. And Bush has passed unprecedented restrictions on civil liberties. Did you know, for example, that section 218 of the Patriot Act (which was authored by the Bush administration), permits the government to conduct secret searches of homes and offices without a warrant, and without probable cause to believe a crime has occurred?

3. The Real Middle Class. The Middle Class works hard, saves its money and dreams of getting ahead. So Middle Class voters often vote Republican thinking that the way the Republicans treat the rich ultimately will benefit them, and is morally right because the rich have earned what they have. But, if you are thinking that hard work will make you wealthy, you are betting against the statistics. According to the Federal Reserve Board���s Survey of Consumer Finances, only one in five men ever end up having more money than their fathers-never mind the $200,000 per year it would take to be impacted by Kerry���s tax increases. And while some of the wealthy really did earn their money, the vast majority of wealth in the US is inherited. For example, in 2004, only thirty percent of the 400 wealthiest Americans inherited less than one million dollars. Do you think they would be where they are without the million dollar head start, the paid-for ivy league education and the wealthy connections? They didn���t earn those, they just lucked into them. You didn���t and you can���t change that by voting for Bush. All you can do is vote for someone-like Kerry-who will use your taxes to make sure that everyone gets enough protein (30 million Americans didn���t last year), goes to a good school, and no one loses their chance to get ahead because of a parents��� illness and lack of health care.

Posted by: Clement Roberts at October 14, 2004 07:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment