Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pew Voter Survey: Takeaways

The reliably establishment liberal Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has a new study of the US electorate, and David Paul Kuhn at has a good all-round review of its findings.

In this study Pew divided the electorate into nine categories. Mostly Republicans were divided into Staunch Conservatives and Main-Street Republicans; Mostly Independents were divided into Libertarians, Disaffecteds and Post-Moderns; Mostly Democrats were divided into New Coalition Democrats, Hard-Pressed Democrats, and Solid Liberals. On the side-lines and not really connected to politics at all were Bystanders.

This "typology" contrasts with the groupings in the Pew 2005 voter survey which came out with the following: Republican-leaning groups were Enterprisers, Social Conservatives, Pro-government Conservatives; middle groups were Upbeats, Disaffecteds, Bystanders; and Democratic leaners were Conservative Democrats, Disadvantaged Democrats, and Liberals.

It's interesting to ponder on the changes to the typology. Pew has pulled Libertarians out of the Republican camp and Conservative Democrats out of the Democratic camp. They have rearranged the Republicans, blurring the ideological line between social and economic conservatives and identifying conservatives by intensity. They have created two Obama era groups, the independent Post-Moderns and the New-Coalition Democrats. It seems to me that those two groups are the most loosely attached to the Democratic camp.

But here are two interesting takeaways from the data in the new survey.

  • Once a liberal, always a liberal. Pew shows the age distribution of each group and it shows, e.g., that Staunch Conservatives (like me) are older than adults generally. One group, Post-Moderns is heavily weighted with young adults. But Solid Liberals and New Coalition Democrats track almost exactly with the national age profile. In other words, they don't become more or less Democrat as they age.
  • Hispanics aren't "hard-pressed". Looking at the numbers by race, blacks are heavily represented in the New-Coalition Democrats and Hard-Pressed Democrats (and non-existent in Staunch Conservatives). Hispanics are different. They are heavily represented in the New-Coalition Democrats but underrepresented in the Hard-Pressed Democrats category. The implication is obvious. Hispanics are much less tightly bound to Democrats. They are open season for 2012.

It is troubling for this conservative to look at the questions and their phrasing. One question asks whether corporations make too much profit. Are people really exercised about that? And there are no questions about social programs other than helping poor people too much or not enough. Are issues like education and entitlements "off the table?" Or are pretty well all voters except Staunch Conservatives agreed on the wonders of big government? And how about a question on "government has too much power" rather than government has too much waste? The answer is, of course, that if Pew were ahead of the game, asking questions that exercised 2012 voters, we would already know who is going to win.

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