Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Demographic and State Shifts: Temporary Change or Realignment???

Charles Franklin of has created the above visual showing the performance of Obama versus Kerry across a range of demographic groups. What we see as a broad shift across virtually every group in the direction of greater Democratic support. Thus, like we saw at the state and county level, the movement toward the Democrats was quite impressive. What is no doubt the more fundamental question, however, is the duration or permanence of this shift. In the academic discussion of "realignments," what is necessary for a fundamental re-orientation of the electorate is not just movement of numerous social groups from one party to the other, but the durability of this movement. Also, with every demographic group here moving more Democratic, save three, one must wonder the degree to which the economic downturn and not other factors was ultimately responsible for the magnitude of Obama's win. Should many of these groups move back to their previous levels of partisan support over the next few years then November 4th's results won't seem so dramatic. In other words, with one election we don't have enough evidence to conclude we've had a realignment. These can only be viewed in the rear view mirror. However, much of the analysis of the exit polling that's been done over the past few weeks suggests that Democrats should be very happy about the trend lines. John Judis, who wrote "The Emerging Democratic Majority" with Ruy Teixeira discusses the possibility of this enduring majority here.

The above image of the state by state change compared to 2004 was created by Andrew Gelman at Princeton.

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