Where Bush’s Swing Voters Came From

In this post, I examined the national popular vote and concluded that, comparing of the increased number of Bush voters from 2000 (about 8.66 million) and the increased number of Kerry voters as compared to Gore voters in 2000 (about 4.56 million), one of two things had happened – either:
1. Bush had won the votes of 65.5% of “new voters,” defined as people who – regardless of whether they had voted in past elections – didn’t vote for either Bush or Gore in 2000; or
2. Bush had won less than 65.5% of such voters but had stolen away so many Gore voters (even over and above Nader voters who switched to Kerry) that he could approximate the same effect.
As more poll data comes in, I’m more convinced now by some of the commenters to the prior post who argued that it was more the latter than the former, and that the Gore voter switch is particularly pronounced when you consider the likelihood that most of Nader’s voters from 2000 went over to Kerry. (I heard someone on TV claim that exit polls showed Bush won 10% of Gore voters). This is a conclusion that should cause ABC’s The Note great embarrassment for its now-famous declaration, back on August 11, that “we still can’t find a single American who voted for Al Gore in 2000 who is planning to vote for George Bush in 2004.”
I calculated the 65.5% “marginal votes” figure by applying the following formula to the national popular vote:
((Bush 2004 votes) – (Bush 2000 votes))/(((Kerry 2004 votes) – (Gore 2000 votes)) + ((Bush 2004 votes) – (Bush 2000 votes)))
As noted, Bush won an additional 8.66 million Republican votes, whereas Kerry won something on the order of 4.56 million additional Democratic votes. I computed these figures by ignoring third-party candidates, figuring that people Kerry won over who had voted Nader last time are, in many ways, equivalent to bringing new people into the process, and by comparing the official FEC tabulations from 2000 and the latest running tallies so far. I would caution that the 2004 figures are still moving targets; returns are coming in daily. The 65.5% figure, for example, is down to 64.5% as of Friday, and may go up or down as more absentee and provisional ballots are tabulated in various states.
Anyway, I thought I’d take a state-by-state look to see where it was, precisely, that all of those 8.66 million new Bush voters came from. The numbers that follow were computed Friday, November 5, following the call of Iowa, the last contested state, for President Bush. It’s a particularly interesting question for me, as a New York City Republican listening to my fellow New Yorkers rage at what they saw as the provincialism of the red-staters who gave Bush his victory (See here and here for examples): where was it that all these extra Bush votes came from? What state led the charge to Bush?
New York
That’s right, New York. The single largest percentage of marginal voters swinging to Bush came among the benighted, provincial, knuckle-draggin’, Bible-thumpin’, troglodytes of the Empire State itself. New York was one of only three states in the Union (along with Rhode Island and Alabama) to see an increase in Bush votes and a decrease in Kerry votes as compared to Gore, and the only one in which the decrease was significant. Bush gained nearly 400,000 additional votes in New York while Kerry lost more than 120,000 – a swing of nearly half a million votes. That swing, by the way, all but eliminated Gore’s 540,000 advantage in the national popular vote all by itself. Before New Yorkers fume at Bush voters in the South and the Great Plains states they should look around at their neighbors and ask themselves how many of them have been strangely quiet about this election.
It wasn’t just New York, of course; the fourth-largest marginal swing was New Jersey, and Bush won over 80% of the marginal votes in Connecticut. Can you say, “September 11”? And, come to think of it – when you combine those states with the nearly 1 million new Bush votes in Florida – there may have been another factor at work in 2000, much noted in the media at the time and much ignored in the media this time: Joe-mentum. Without the presence of the first Jew on a national ticket, Kerry may not have had the same oomph in states with a large Jewish population (“Where have you gone, Joe Lieberman, your party turns its lonely eyes to you . . . “) Of course, these are basically Democratic states, so Bush still didn’t win them. But he won over a lot of people here in the past four years, and that showed in the final tallies.
I list the states in order of the percentage of the marginal vote won by Bush:

State Bush + Kerry + Bush % of +
New York 390,371 -121,525 145.2%
Rhode Island 31,099 -2,101 107.2%
Alabama 233,175 -618 100.3%
New Jersey 303,321 10,470 96.7%
Nebraska 51,916 2,460 95.5%
Oklahoma 215,318 29,801 87.8%
Louisiana 173,425 25,863 87.0%
Tennessee 319,988 51,456 86.1%
Kansas 95,175 21,570 81.5%
Connecticut 125,819 31,007 80.2%
Utah 97,527 24,233 80.1%
Indiana 228,639 58,919 79.5%
West Virginia 81,678 26,144 75.8%
Kentucky 196,833 73,838 72.7%
California -163,934 -434,148 72.6%
Arizona 126,559 49,986 71.7%
Mississippi 98,183 40,982 70.6%
Arkansas 93,738 41,389 69.4%
Hawaii 56,264 26,032 68.4%
Georgia 470,112 228,968 67.2%
Wyoming 19,182 10,139 65.4%
Missouri 262,791 142,741 64.8%
Texas 719,384 394,010 64.6%
Maryland 138,168 79,925 63.4%
Delaware 34,243 19,819 63.3%
Idaho 71,317 42,283 62.8%
South Carolina 137,278 84,313 62.0%
Florida 999,035 622,356 61.6%
South Dakota 41,845 30,421 57.9%
North Dakota 21,146 15,378 57.9%
Virginia 224,994 178,979 55.7%
Illinois 293,994 237,731 55.3%
North Carolina 279,773 226,466 55.3%
Pennsylvania 475,234 397,866 54.4%
Iowa 111,607 94,247 54.2%
Michigan 353,185 301,580 53.9%
New Mexico 84,289 75,557 52.7%
Massachusetts 188,661 177,429 51.5%
Nevada 113,364 113,394 50.0%
Wisconsin 239,843 245,948 49.4%
Ohio 445,784 476,036 48.4%
Minnesota 235,509 275,298 46.1%
Colorado 174,292 205,825 45.9%
New Hampshire 57,289 73,671 43.7%
Washington -96,414 -68,386 41.5%
Montana 25,295 36,237 41.1%
Oregon 109,633 170,356 39.2%
Maine 31,379 54,868 36.4%
DC 934 11,953 7.2%
Vermont 935 34,599 2.6%
Alaska -15,522 7,060 -83.4%

A few thoughts:
*I had to tweak the formula a bit to adjust for the two states with declining turnout and Alaska (where I used Kerry as the numerator).
*California’s turnout was probably down for at least two reasons: Bush had campaigned there in 2000, creating an impression of being in play, and ignored the state this time; and voters may have been a bit burned out after the 2003 governor’s race. But I also suspect that the numbers will come up a bit when the final tallies crawl in. The declining California turnout compared to booming turnout in the dark-red states had a lot to do with Bush’s national popular vote gains.
*Alaska’s swing towards Kerry I would attribute mostly to voter anger at Frank and Lisa Murkowski (anger Republican voters felt safe venting, given how safe the state was for Bush).
*You can see that Bush lost ground in Ohio and New Hampshire and Colorado, but only enough to lose him New Hampshire.
*I have no idea what was up in Montana.
*Unsurprisingly, the real battleground states were closer to 50% on the marginal turnout scale.
*Bush winning 55% of the marginal turnout in Illinois seems particularly impressive; not only did he cede the state to Kerry, but Election Day saw juiced-up state Democrats and depressed state Republicans due to Barack Obama’s landslide victory over Alan Keyes.
*Note that booming turnout in states like Texas, Florida and Georgia may also be a sign of population growth in those states.

9 thoughts on “Where Bush’s Swing Voters Came From”

  1. Jesusland Flavored Kool-Aid

    I do believe the Democrats have just switched one brand of Kool-Aid for another. Their new drink is Jesusland flavored and they are swallowing it by the gallon. If you read them correctly – and I’m not just talking about…

  2. Good work.
    By the way, do all the disconsolate New Yorkers complain about the disproportionate numbers of people from �red states� who are in the military? The people who fought to avenge 9/11, overthrowing the Taliban and removing al Qaeda�s sanctuary? The people who are storming Fallujah as we speak and comprising much of the special forces hunting bin Laden and his ilk all around the world?
    People in NY and DC like to say that they are on the �front lines� of the War on Terror, and there is some truth in that, but the people on the real front lines tend to be the much-despised denizens of fly-over country. And military voters, once again, voted overwhelmingly for the President.
    If people in �red states� are so oblivious and insensitive to the danger of attacks posed to NY and DC, how come so many of them are out risking their lives to prevent their reoccurrence?

  3. MAd H.,
    I’ve been reading Crank since he was just a guest on the old BSG. I think that was one of the best points I’ve seen made on any blog. You can’t say that enough.

  4. To the Mad Hibernian…
    Have recruits coming from the red states increased since 9/11? Honestly curious. My guess is no.
    If not, then I’d hardly say that they volunteered to risk their lives to prevent there reoccurrence and that whether or not they are oblivious and insensitive to the danger of the 9/11 attacks is a moot point.
    If recruits, relative to the rest of the country, have not increased, then I’d say that people from the red states have always been more inclined to join the military for whatever reason. Tradition. Honor. An education. A chance to escape their small town. Employment. Family history. Religion.
    Basically, what they are doing is no less honorable regardless of the reason for doing it. But your tying their service to 9/11 is a questionable act unless you have the numbers to back you up.
    And even if recruiting has increased, it still may not be tied to the prevention of the reoccurance of a 9/11 so much as it might be simply tied to the fact the nation was at war. In other words, how many GIs really knew the geopolitics behind Vietnam and how many were simply, and honorably, joined the armed forces to serve and defend their country regardless of where the battle was?
    Had the battle been somewhere else, and not related to communism, do you think that many would enlisted would actually decline because were more oblivious or insensitive to the danger to the risks posed and at stake in another battle?
    Oh, and as for your “much despised” label, I wouldn’t go throwing that around loosely either. From what I gather it would appear that the feeling is as mutual as it is oversimplified and misunderstood. You don’t hear to many interviewed from the midwest who talk glowingly or envyingly (is that a wrod?) about the lifestyles of people on the coasts.
    One other small note….gays on the coasts are not trying to prevent people in the midwest from partaking in what the rest of humanity enjoys while the people in the midwest are trying to prevent the gays from leading normal lives. Unless of course midwesterners believe that what the rest of humanity enjoys is freedom from homosexuals getting benefits that the rest of us do.

  5. My point was actually a rather more positive one and I don�t want to overstate the red/blue thing too much. Basically, I was distressed hearing people in NYC saying that voters in red states were callous towards the dangers that people in New York face because they ultimately went for Bush, while NY did not. That is quite unfair, for a number of reasons, including the military service issue.
    Basically, we�re all in the War on Terror together. The fact that the military is largely made up of people from more rural areas, doesn�t mean they don�t also contain, and represent, those who live in urban areas. Likewise, the fact that people in major urban areas face a greater risk of terrorism, doesn�t mean people who live elsewhere don�t care about their well-being. I hate the idea of partisanship clouding that view.
    Anyway, all of this is tangential to the Crank�s analysis above.
    (P.S. � I have no data at hand about more military people coming from the �red states� but, from my anecdotal experience, that certainly seems to be the case. I honestly don�t know about recruiting since 9/11 either, I was just saying that the troops we sent to answer the attacks were probably heavily composed of people from other areas.)

  6. I appreciate the time you must have spent. Let me help you make sense of the data.
    The top 33 states – with the exception of Florida (at #27) are all states that were not contested by the candidates. The winner of these states were known to all weeks and months in advance.
    In some cases, such as New Jersey, the President made repeated appearances whereas Kerry did not. Some of these appearance were in Southern New Jersey, and not wasted by Pres in that they were covered by the Philadelphia TV market.
    All the battleground states are in the next 11 positions (ranging from #34-44). Just what you’d expect in a razor-close elction– percentages ranging from 54%- 44% in the states where votes were fought over.
    The chart is useful in that it indicates that the election was as close as it seemed in the battleground states and the effort expended there by both candidates was necessary –(look what happened when money wasn’t spent, e.g. Alabama, Vermont).
    As for the anamoly with Florida, I’d keep an eye on the news.

  7. I know this is apples and oranges, but…I’d really like to see a detailed comparison of Jeb Bush’s votes in 1998 vs. 2002 against Dubya’s votes in 2000 vs. 2004. I was thinking Bush was likely to take a state which a) had re-elected his brother with a 13 percentage point victory margin; and b) in which every vote really did count last time. But it would be interesting to see how the Jeb votes and the Dubya votes cross-compare. Maybe not significant — I know that people vote for governors for different reasons than they vote for presidents — but still, ‘twould be kinda cool to see if there’s any sort of correlation.

  8. In previous post, forgot to clarify that I was thinking of Dubya’s votes in Florida specifically…

  9. SoreLoser: Please, please tell me you are not talking about this nutjobbery.
    Also, note that Kerry got slaughtered in a bunch of states he had tried to contest but then was forced to abandon (Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia – Democrats were still talking up Arkansas as late as Election Day and even sent Clinton there), and that almost as big a chunk of the non-competitive blue states broke Bush’s way as the non-competitive red states.

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