The Numbers

I’m getting mostly heat but a little support for my discussion at TPMCafe about our “fossilized” 2-party system and the rise of the independent voter.  It’s surprising how many people are either a) satisfied with our electoral system, or b) just assume its inevitability.  Then there’s a group of commentators who are yammering on about baby boomers and libertarians – they sort of lost me in the thread.

My impetus for the post was the changing demographics of the electorate.  As a virgo urban sociologist, I’m easily enthralled with demographics, and love trying to understand the bigger picture of electoral politics in Arizona, for instance, equipped only with the knowledge that the place is 60% white and 30% Hispanic, and full of retirees and along the border of Mexico.  When I was a toddler my favorite toys were pots and pans; these days, they’re census data. 

So you can imagine how much I’m loving this fabulous graph on nytimes.com. Data on voters in the midterm House elections – who went Democrat, who’s stickin’ with the GOP.  Some funny observations: level of education and a vote for Democrats is an inverted bell curve – as people become more educated, from high school graduation through secondary school, votes for the GOP rise.  But beyond secondary education, it’s all about the Dems again.  Essentially, Dems have staunch support from people with less than a high school education, and those in graduate school and beyond.  Basically, any group sociologists, etc. are sticking under our microscope is more likely to vote Democrat: Blacks, Hispanics, urbanites, gays and lesbians, etc..  Perhaps we should host a get-out-the-vote drive when we roll up in urban and ethnic communities with our surveys and questionaires.

Some other unsurprising trends: higher income groups have more Republican voters.  So does the South.  As areas grow (from rural to cities), so does the # of Democratic voters. 

I love data.  I’d build an excel sheet about all this, but at this midnight hour, that’d be one of those projects where suddenly it’s 3 am and I’m color coding data and building graphs from a newspaper graphic.  And who says MIT’s full of nerds!


1 Response to “The Numbers”

  1. November 12, 2006 at 1:17 am

    I thought we were going to spend the night talking about me… 🙂

    Anyway, this is another place where you and I have always been in synch, and I like your points. One thing that I would point out, though, is that your description of Democrats natural base as being in the areas sociologists study is a reminder that there’s an under-served population ripe for further study – the ones that cleave to the GOP (i.e. I suppo, well off white people).

    Second, I agree about the digressive nature of the baby boomer discussion over at TPM; but there’s a grain of useful truth there – a new generational divide as the demographic of people behind the baby boom grows, and their disdain for the “me me me” nature of baby boom navel gazing reaches its natural end point. I wouldn’t lose sight of tghat resentment, or the sense that popculture and its identifications have left them behind. Like your meta-reference to “come the revolution” – some of this just whizzes right past a large number of them. And keep in mind that baby boomers are about to take on aging issues as if they invented them – with the potential backfire of screwing up their own Medicare and Social Security… never mind ours.

    As you say, a lot of people accept the two party system and/or its inevitability, me included. But my acceptance – and others – presumes that the parties continue to grow and adapt. As the recent election demonstrated, Democrats have adapted significantly from where we were even 10 years ago. But the current generational divide may, as you suggest be more than one or both parties can really fully adapt to; and in that, I’d suspect, lays a truth in what you bring up – an independent energy that can’t be contained in the way it has been previously.

    But it is now late and more discussion would need that color coded Excel chart. 🙂

    Best WB

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