Thursday, October 18, 2012

Swing states where evangelicals matter the most

Parsing demographic blocs is a very faddish thing, and various blocs often go in and out of style, but that doesn't mean the blocs disappear or become less influential.

For example, we used to hear about "Soccer moms" incessantly, but it's not chic to talk about them anymore. Thus, "Soccer Moms" have disappeared from nearly all the headlines, even though they're still just as vital and ubiquitous now as they were in past elections.

The same goes with white evangelicals. Their presence is massive in swing states, but the media already had its fun picking the bloc's brain, and has moved onto other chic blocs ("Walmart Moms!").

But guess what -- white evangelicals are still one of the most politically savvy, highly mobilized, and influential demographics out there.

One way to predict how they'll affect this year's election is by looking at the 2008 presidential election.

So let's quickly take a peak at a) how they voted in swing states and b) how much of the voting electorate they comprised in those swing states.

In other words, in what swing states, are they most influential?

The stats are below, but here are the big take-aways for swing states, based on 2008 results.

1. White evangelicals are most conservative in Virginia, Florida, and Colorado.

This fits perfectly with the conventional wisdom that Romney is the growing favorite in Florida and Colorado, and might even have the edge in Virginia.

Those three states gave McCain his largest margins of the evangelical vote in 2008 among swing states. In fact, McCain performed stronger with evangelicals there than he even did in North Carolina, which is usually considered the most southern state of the batch.

To show just how conservative the evangelical vote skews in Virginia, consider this: Only 20% of white evangelicals voted for Obama in 2008; whereas, 33% of white evangelicals voted for him in Iowa and 35% in Wisconsin.

The numbers are similar in Florida and Colorado.

During the primary, Romney obviously struggled with white evangelicals, but there's nothing to suggest he'll have any problem underperforming with them in the general.

In fact, earlier this month, I showed that Romney is actually performing better with white evangelicals than John McCain. The idea that he isn't or won't is just a media-inspired narrative that's used to gin up drama from a situation where there is none.

2. White evangelicals are most Democratic in Midwestern states.

This isn't surprising, considering unionization among the working class and just how much less conservative whites are in the Midwest. But it's still hugely important, considering the election will be won or lost in the Midwest.

Obama picked up 35%, 33%, and 27% of the evangelical vote in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio, respectively. So while Colorado, Florida, and Virginia were delivering his worst numbers, the Midwestern states were delivering his best.

The difference between Obama winning 20% of the evangelical vote (as in Virginia) and 27% (as in Ohio) might be enough to tip a state into his column, particularly when white evangelicals make up 30% of the vote in Ohio.

Simply put, if Romney were able to get evangelicals to behave in Ohio as they do in Virginia, it could be the difference.

3. North Carolina and Virginia have the most powerful evangelical dynamics for Romney among the swing states.

Sure, evangelicals comprise a higher percentage of the vote in Ohio, but not enough to offset Romney's much bigger margins in Virginia.

When you consider evangelicals' share of the Virginia electorate (4th highest of the swing states) and the margin for Republicans (highest), you can see what friendly ground it is for Romney.

But North Carolina is the electorate bonanza. White evangelicals made up a stunning 44% of the vote in the state. That being said, McCain's margins were slightly lower there than in Colorado, Florida, and Virginia. That means you can't necessarily say it's the strongest evangelical state for Romney.

So without further adieu, here are the swing states where white, evangelicals made up the largest percentage of the vote, in order, along with the margins from 2008.

1. North Carolina = 44% of the vote. McCain 74% Obama 25%.

2. Iowa = 31% of the vote. McCain 65% Obama 33%.

3. Ohio = 30% of the vote. McCain 71% Obama 27%.

4. Virginia = 28% of the vote. McCain 79% Obama 20%.

5. Wisconsin = 26% of the vote. McCain 64% Obama 35%.

6. Florida = 24% of the vote. McCain 77% Obama 21%.

7. Colorado = 21% of the vote. McCain 76% Obama 23%.

8. Nevada = 16% of the vote. McCain 72% Obama 27%.

And, based on how they voted in 2008, here are the swing states where the white, evangelical populations seems to skew more Democratic.

1. Wisconsin = Obama 35%.

2. Iowa = Obama 33%.

3. Nevada and Ohio = Obama 27%.

5. North Carolina = Obama 25%.

6. Colorado = Obama 23%.

7. Florida = Obama 21%.

8. Virginia = Obama 20%.