New York Times polling editor charts transitioning electorate
Minority voters are impacting the outcome of elections more than ever, some political analysts realized after looking at demographics from exit polls post-Election Day.
President Barack Obama received a loss of 20 points from white supporters in this election, said Allison Kopicki, polling editor at The New York Times.
White voters are becoming less influential than they have been in the past, she said.
“Whites are a shrinking percentage of the electorate,” Kopicki, a University alumna, told a crowd of 20 people in the Civic Square Building yesterday. “Among the nearly three of 10 voters who weren’t white, Obama won 80 percent of their vote.”
Hispanic, black and unmarried female voters once again proved to be a decisive group of supporters for incumbent Obama, she said.
The growth of minority groups like Hispanics, who now represent 10 percent of voters nationwide, means the Republican Party has to rethink the way it approaches the changing electoral body, Kopicki said.
“[Republicans] can’t just put up Hispanic or women candidates,” she said. “They have to stand by the issues.”
While Kopicki said political commentators rightly stress the importance of certain demographic groups in elections, she thinks they underestimate how these portions of the population view key issues.
“Obama reflected the issues that people in these demographic groups hold dear,” she said. “Yes the groups are shifting, but it’s because of the issues they believe in.”
Kopicki said the polls show voters felt the economy was the most important issue of the 2012 elections, with 41 percent of respondents labeling economic conditions in the country as “not so good.”
While Obama’s economic policies faced constant attacks from Romney’s campaign, Kopicki said the nation remained split on the issue. When asked, “Who would better handle the economy?” 48 percent of voters chose Obama while 49 percent chose Romney.
Kopicki said health care issues were a recurring theme throughout his campaign. She said Romney’s vow to get rid of “Obamacare” was one of the reasons he lost the election, as only 25 percent of voters said they want to repeal the bill.
Later polls also included “breaking news” questions concerning the effects of Hurricane Sandy on voter opinion, something Kopicki said is done
“[Breaking news questions] are usually to catch any October surprises and this year it was Hurricane Sandy,” she said.
When asked how important Obama’s response to the hurricane was in deciding which candidate they voted for, 64 percent of voters said it was a factor in their decision, according to an Edison Research fact sheet.
Whether or not the hurricane had a substantial effect on the election, Kopicki said the Republican Party would blame the storm as a factor that led to their loss.
“I think the Republicans will blame it on Sandy,” she said. “They’ll also point to the issues and the changing demographics and how that demographic is skewing more liberal with issues such as same-sex marriage.”
Karyn Olsen, director of Communications at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, said the event offered students better insight into how the elections are determined.
“For a lot of undergraduates, this might be their first presidential election,” Olsen said. “Many people now, especially young people, don’t really look deeply into the issues. [These events] might give them the incentive to look closer at the next election.”
James Sinclair, a graduate student at Bloustein, agreed and said more students can benefit from the different talks hosted at the University.
“The [events] are really informative and it’s a good networking opportunity,” he said. “A lot of people stay after the talk and they give you their business card when you meet them.”
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