I woke up this morning with a strange, unfamiliar feeling. I immediately called my therapist, who informed me that I was experiencing the “state of being wrongness.” Never having felt this way before, I was understandably concerned, but he informed me that it was normal and that everyone goes through it at some point, although some more than others.
On the eve of the election, I predicted that Mitt Romney would win the election with 295 electoral votes and predicted which states would go which way. All in all (discounting Florida, which is still counting) I had an 88% accuracy rating. That sounds good, but when you consider only the all-important swing states of Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Florida, and Colorado, that number might drop to zero, depending on how Florida ends up going.
Now here is the funny thing. Looking back over the numbers, I would probably call it the same way again, at least 90% the same. I wasn’t alone. The University of Colorado electoral prediction model, which has correctly called every race since 1980, had Romney winning with an even greater margin than I predicted. Many respected pundits were calling the race for Romney. Dick Morris, Bill Clinton’s former political adviser and 1996 campaign manager, for months predicted a Romney landslide almost on par with those of Ronald Reagan.
So why did things go wrong for all of these predictions? There are various reasons, including an increasing level of government dependence, stable and growing Democratic voting blocs, overestimated Romney support, and a morphing complexity of national demographics.
To take them one by one, there are more people on welfare than ever before. To the over 56 million people who are either on food stamps, welfare, or unemployment insurance, it is understandably frightening to imagine voting for a candidate they fear might cut these programs. They were probably right about Romney’s intentions in that regard. Government dependency was an issue in the 2012 election that cannot be ignored.
Second, it was assumed that Barack Obama’s voting base, including younger people and minorities, would not turn out in as great of numbers as they did during the fervor of the 2008 campaign. As it turns out, they held fairly steady. Not only that, but the number of minority voters, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic, has been steadily increasing and they showed up on November 6th.
Third, the level of enthusiasm among Republican voters was overestimated. It is difficult to reconcile both this point and the one above with the current state of the economy and the show of support at party rallies. Obama consistently experienced smaller crowds than 2008, while Romney appeared to be drawing greater support than John McCain did four years ago. The support for Romney appeared to be there, but they just didn’t show up to vote.
Finally, the face of the nation is changing. While more people still identify as conservative than liberal, the basic ideals are changing. According to a May 25, 2012 Gallup poll, the number of people who self-identified as Economic Conservatives was 46%, Economic Moderates 32%, with only 20% identifying as Economic Liberals. When the same question is asked in terms of social issues, the numbers change quite a bit. Social Conservatives drop by eight points to 38% and Social Liberals rise by eight points to 28%, with Social Moderates remaining about the same. These numbers indicate that, while a clear majority of people are conservative when it comes to economic issues, the number of social liberals is quite competitive with a sixteen point swing. Therefore, people like myself who are economically conservative, yet disagree with candidates like Romney on the vast majority of social issues are going to have a difficult time getting really excited about that person as a political candidate.
So what does this tell us going forward? Not a whole lot, really. However, it should send a warning to the Republican Party that, if they want to remain a viable party or, perhaps, even remain a party at all, they are going to have to find a way to reach across that economic and social divide to woo voters. It should also tell the ultra-conservative demographic that they are likely going to have to accept future candidates with whom they disagree at least 50% of the time to avoid getting ones with whom they disagree 100% of the time. With the country becoming more polarized, I suspect the days of having that “perfect candidate” may be over and we are all going to have to compromise going forward.