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Monday, December 29, 2003
Partisan ID

By Steven Taylor @ 3:54 pm

Chuck Todd has a piece on swing voters in today’s NYT. The main argument deals with the youth vote. However, the following jumped out at me:

It is a time-honored tradition in campaigns, this quest for the swing voter. But ask yourself: do you know anyone who really vacillates between the two political parties with each election? It’s not common. The vast majority of people always vote the same party-when they vote.

Further, all those people who like to say “I vote for the person, not the party” because it sounds more high-minded than admitting to a *gasp* partisan point-of-view, almost certainly ends up voting, oddly enough for persons in the same party election after election.

Indeed, the idea that large numbers of people are “independent” is simply not true. Sure, they may self-identify as such, but truth be told their voting patterns are usually skewed quite heavily to one party or the other.

Yes, there are voters who will change from one party to the other, especially for President, but they represent a fairly small number of people. I will grant that they can be an important set of persons, however.

The real issue in 2004, however, is likely to be turn-out, but in terms of the base of each party, but also for the non-habitual voters, which is part of Todd’s point.

Filed under: 2004 Campaign

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8 Comments»

  1. Swing voters are out there. They just don’t swing back and forth. They are Republicans who start voting Democrat because they are getting older and want more Social Security/ Medicare stuff. They are Democrats who are getting richer (or want to) and think the Republicans are better on the economy. They are female business owners who have always voted Democrat on social issues, but now are considering financial issues more. They are men who are laid off from their jobs who have always voted Republican but now think the Republicans only want to help the rich.

    It’s usually not “swing” in the sense of back-and-forth. It’s the sizeable number of converts each side gets every year.

    In 2004, I predict the Republicans will get a lot of “foreign policy issue” votes from people who had never voted Republican before. If the Democrats can’t steal back a comparable number of voters, they will be out of luck for while.

    Comment by Rv. Agnos — Monday, December 29, 2003 @ 4:16 pm

  2. Further, all those people who like to say “I vote for the person, not the party” because it sounds more high-minded than admitting to a *gasp* partisan point-of-view, almost certainly ends up voting, oddly enough for persons in the same party election after election.

    That’s because of our 2 party system. If we had a multi-party system you would see people vote more accordingly with their viewpoints. But because we frame only two viable candidates every 4 years, people are forced to “settle” between two watered-down candidates. The one that sloshes closer to your view points will be the one you pick. So what you say may be true, but trying to say that people are being cynical by claiming to vote by person, but voting party lines is wrong. People in this country just don’t have much of a choice.

    Comment by Eric — Monday, December 29, 2003 @ 4:27 pm

  3. There’s lot of choice-there are nine Dems to choose from right now, for example. Plus, I am talking about across offices, not just presidential elections. Face facts, it sounds small minded to be partisan and open minded to “vote the person, not the party.”

    Comment by Steven — Monday, December 29, 2003 @ 4:33 pm

  4. My recollection (not sitting in front of any NES data) is that only 1/10 of the electorate are self-identified true independents, if you use the “branching” version of the question for a 7-point scale; IOW, 9/10 of the electorate are either partisans or leaners (and there is some evidence that leaners are actually stronger partisans than “weak” partisans). However, it jumps to 1/3ish when you don’t branch.

    Of course, the stability of partisanship has led to a giant peeing match in political science. The as-yet unsolved problem is that you can’t empirically distinguish between genuine respondent instability and measurement error.

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Monday, December 29, 2003 @ 5:12 pm

  5. 10% is the numbers that sticks in my mind as well-indeed, I want to say that it may indeed be as low as 7%. I did a little looking, but not much.

    Comment by Steven — Monday, December 29, 2003 @ 5:16 pm

  6. Swing low, sweet Democrats
    Coming forth to carry Dean home!

    Comment by John Lemon — Monday, December 29, 2003 @ 11:36 pm

  7. I have to both agree and disagree with you. I do believe that independant voters are vitally inmportant during Presidential elections. Voters are innudated with information about each candidate. However, as you approach the local level unless there is a breakout issue (corruption or for the Northern VA area taxes or traffic) each person tends to vote for their reflexive party. Especially at the local level where each voter has very little information about the candidate except for their name and affilation.

    Comment by Jim — Tuesday, December 30, 2003 @ 12:45 am

  8. We have a multi-party system in this country, Eric; 100 state parties (for the moment I discount Puerto Rico, D.C., and the like) that, every four years, briefly give the illusion of coming together to form two national party-federations.

    The problem is not in the much-maligned “two-party system"; it is simply that progressives hate politics. Their definition of “democracy” is their winning every election and ruling unquestioned thereafter.

    Thus, if we had a presidential system where a President was elected by a plurality of the popular vote, a progressive candidate who won with, say, 10% of that vote would result in the progressives’ shouting, “We won! We won! Now shut up and let us trample you for four years!” On the other hand, if a non-progressive candidate won in the same way, they would scream, “90% of the electorate voted against him! He has no legitimacy!”

    Likewise, a parliamentary system that did not include the progressives in the governing coalition would result in cries of “Disenfranchisement!” Including them, however, would result in demands that their entire platform be implemented, lest they withdraw…leading to cries of “Disenfranchisement!” because they are not part of the governing coalition.

    Comment by John “Akatsukami” Braue — Tuesday, December 30, 2003 @ 9:46 am

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