Thursday, November 10, 2016

Demographic note

Aritzona primary, August 2016, via AZCentral.
Yesterday I posted my picture of big lines around my polling place, and all over the country journalists and twitterati were doing the same, in the liberal equivalent of measuring a candidate's popularity by the number of yard signs (forgetting, among other things, that more Democrats live in urban settings and/or have less money and are therefore less likely to have a yard to put their sign in), and assuming a massive, groundbreaking turnout, the most ever, because everyplace I went seemed to have a pretty fantastic turnout, and what's that you say? I only went to one place?

And a lot of people probably still think there was a heavy turnout, but there wasn't, as it happens. In fact it was pretty mediocre all round, as we learn from the numbers collected by the US Elections Project, and by a considerable way the lowest since the dreadful year 2000 (though far from as bad as it was in 1996, the year of the Great Triangulation):

1992: 58.1% of the Voter Eligible Population (VEP)
1996: 51.7%
2000: 54.2%
2004: 60.1%
2008: 61.6%
2012: 58.2%
2016: 55.6%

If I'd known that, instead of being told the opposite by the media—

Americans may have just crushed a voter-turnout record

(said a headline in Business Insider, though the story itself made it clear nothing of the sort had happened)

—I'd have had a much better idea of what was going on yesterday, because I've long felt that elections in the United States are won and lost by those who decide it's not worth the trouble of showing up, above all those who are in real need and don't get a sense that there's a candidate who cares and has an idea of what to do about it. This year they kept telling us that the "forgotten man" was that underqualified white worker whose life is going nowhere and who's going to vote for Trump because only Trump understands him—and I've kept saying that underqualified white worker isn't voting at all, or isn't voting in numbers enough to make a difference, or is making a marked difference by staying home; the Trump voter, in contrast, is just a traditional old petit-bourgeois racist, and now I think I've seen some evidence that this is the case.

This is thanks to the excellent graphics in CNN's report of the exit polls, credit where credit is due (especially since none of the tweeps, as usual, linked to the source), with particular attention to the charts of voters by age and income:

Where you can see in the first place that yes, the age divide was very strong, Clinton winning solidly with people under 40 (in spite of a predilection for third parties) and Trump a bit less solidly with those older; and also that the income divide was very strong, Clinton being the clear favorite of those earning under the median income (approximately) and Trump the somewhat closer favorite of those earning more.

That second thing is what people are getting excited about, because we've been hearing so much about that miserable white working class voter who is not at all racist but voted for the Trump out of pure economic anxiety because Nafta stole his job 25 years ago, and these data on their face suggest the more conventional thought that Trump is a normal Republican, who appeals especially to those who pay a lot of federal tax. Which is just what I want to hear, of course, but people need to be careful with it, because race is a factor as well.

That is, black and brown people will presumably be more present at the lower income levels than the higher ones, because that's how American society has always been arranged, so maybe it only looks as if poor people overall prefer Clinton, when it's just the black and brown people that do. Unfortunately CNN doesn't give us a breakdown of income level by race, so we can't really test that directly.

They do, on the other hand, give us a breakdown of age by race, and what that shows you is that younger white voters were both more likely to vote for a third party candidate than their white elders and much more likely to vote for Clinton. But there weren't, as we know, that many of them; people under 40, we know from the first chart, made up just 36% of the total number of voters, as against 64% for the over-40s whereas in the total voting eligible population 44% are 18-44 and about 40% are 45 and up.

Similarly 36% of the voters have household incomes of $50K or less, compared to 64% making more, but in the total VEP, 48% of the population is at $50K or under. So people with less money simply vote a lot less.

Oh, also nonvoters are more liberal than voters on the whole:

I know nobody wants to talk about this any more, but they are why Bernie Sanders didn't win the nomination—he said they'd come out en masse for primaries and instead he mostly only won limited-attendance caucuses. They didn't believe Clinton and they didn't believe Bernie either. Now it looks as if the same relatively poor guys have elected Trump, not by voting for him, but by not troubling to vote against him, which is what made it a relatively crappy turnout on Tuesday.

I don't mean to be casting blame on them for it, either—it's really true that nobody thinks to communicate with these people, even when we have ideas that would benefit them, and they've got very good reason for being cynical, and many or most of them stayed home on Tuesday because they hadn't found a reason to go out. I'm just really sick of everybody suggesting that they are active and enthusiastic Trump voters, or that Trump "resonated" with them or made them "feel heard". As long as liberal-minded politicians keep thinking like that and failing to understand the character and behavior of the nonvoter, they will keep failing to get their votes.

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