The election: what really happened

by on November 5, 2008 at 2:46 pm in Political Science | Permalink

We can’t not cover this topic, so here is Andrew Gelman with the bottom line.  The main result, it seems, is that the electoral gap between the young and the old increased by quite a bit.  Hat tip goes to Mark Thoma.

Addendum: Brad DeLong comments.

1 Rich Berger November 5, 2008 at 3:41 pm


The inexperienced got wise and voted for somebody like them. We could learn a lot from our kids.

2 Bob Murphy November 5, 2008 at 4:04 pm

*Sigh* Re-reading my comment above, I now must take pains to prevent being misunderstood… I think Jeremiah Wright’s “shocking” sermons were very provocative; they didn’t offend me at all. If a black person tells me I have no idea what he puts up with on a daily basis (from cops or whatever), I have no reason to doubt him.

What bothers me is having a tenured white professor tell me how enlightened he is, and that a huge chunk of people must have opposed Obama because they are racist, rather than, say, his fairly unorthodox views.

3 simmer down now November 5, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Interesting breakdowns on race:

According to CNN’s exit poll data, McCain carried 55% of the white vote; Obama carried 43%. White voters made up 74% of the total, so McCain’s advantage among whites amounted to 74%x(0.55-0.43) = 8.88% of the total vote.

Obama carried 95% of the African-American vote; McCain carried 4%. African-Americans made up 13% of the total, so Obama’s advantage among African-Americans amounted to 13%x(.95-.04) = 11.83%.

The black/white split swung about 3% of the vote in favor of Obama. McCain would have needed a 16-point advantage in the white vote to have overcome this.

Of course, all of this is subject to the accuracy of exit polls.

(By similar analysis, the white vote gave a 13.09% advantage to Bush, and the black vote gave a 8.47% advantage to Kerry in 04.)

4 Anonymous November 5, 2008 at 5:43 pm

At the end of ‘Planet of the Apes” Charleton Heston comes across the statue of Liberty half-buried in the sand, understands that he has been on earth after man destroyed himself in a nuclear war and utters the line “The fools actually did it.” Well, yesterday, the fools actually did it. If Obama & Co. do as they have promised we are in for a very bad decade. Protectionism, destructive taxes and regulation, etc., etc.

5 John Pertz November 5, 2008 at 7:25 pm

The bottom line is that Obama isnt Bush and Obama was not part of Bush’s political party. McCain was and he lost. In fact, after 2004-2006, it was going to be extremely difficult for any member of Bush’s party to win any elected office.

The fact that Bush will soon be out of office will naturally restore some legitimacy to the Republican party. However, whether they can win back some Congressional seats in 10′ and win back the presidency in 12′ is gonna take some really good politicking by the Republicans. They have the ability to do it but they can not trot out another no-think politician and feel they are justified to win the executive office.

A more evolved classically liberal Republican party would very good for this country. I just dont know if the power base of the party would except the medicine.

6 meter November 5, 2008 at 9:17 pm

To a certain extent this election was a referendum on the influence of religion over politics the past 8 years: a resounding repudiation of Bush and co’s “God had my back” doctrine.

7 svs November 5, 2008 at 9:48 pm

If 98% (or whatever it is) of black people vote for Obama, that’s not racism. But if whites vote for McCain, it’s because of racism.

It is a vote for a black man rather than a vote against a white man. The distinction is in my eyes significant, it is not correct to call this (98% for Obama) racism. (not to mention that a big % of the same black people voted FOR white men in the past 2 elections and have been voting for white men for about 10 elections now?)

8 Ricardo November 5, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Oh why not, I’ll go out on a limb and set myself up… I am getting sick of this constant lecturing. If 98% (or whatever it is) of black people vote for Obama, that’s not racism. But if whites vote for McCain, it’s because of racism.

Bob, shouldn’t you make sure you have all the facts before you “go out on a limb” and casually suggest someone is racist? According to Gelman, 96% of black people voted for Obama — but 89% voted for Kerry in 2004. So the 7% differential may be composed of people who voted for Obama solely because he is black — or it may be because of the myriad of other factors such as the financial crisis, lower overall opinions of the incumbent President, McCain’s pick of Palin as running mate, etc. But the overwhelming majority of the rest voted for Obama because they simply identify with the Democratic candidate.

9 Phil November 5, 2008 at 11:43 pm

To a certain extent this election was a referendum on the influence of religion over politics the past 8 years: a resounding repudiation of Bush and co’s “God had my back” doctrine.

Meter: You are a either a cartoon or escaped mental patient.

10 Andrew November 6, 2008 at 5:39 am


I feel the way you do. However, the media are twits. Not new. People vote expressively and irrationally. Not new. The government is collectivist. Not new.

Nothing to see here, really.

What I get upset about is news stories on the ‘Frisco East (Asheville) news channel where everyone has their panties in a knot over some guns stolen out of the police impound. It’s almost treated like an ebola outbreak.

Anecdotally, I was having a fun discussion (well, I was having fun) with some co-workers (they were getting pissed). I made some comment about gays in San Francisco. They proceeded to lecture me on how you can’t tell if someone is gay. Generalization just doesn’t work, ya see. Then they started talking about how the South is racist. One guy said that in one small town everyone was violently racist. Every single person.

We stopped caring about race a while back. Finally, the pundits catch up.

11 Andrew November 6, 2008 at 6:14 am

After reading more of the comments, I thought it would finally be put to rest, but it seems we can elect a black president, putting the final stamp on the fact that this is probably the best country on the planet for black people, and it still isn’t going to be good enough.

The bottom line for this election was that moderates were ticked off at the mismanagement of the government they perceived in the Republican administration. To me, this explains the slight shift of the highest earners away from the Republicans. It’s as simple as the elites wanting to keep the boat from rocking. McCain wasn’t Bush, and probably would have restored rigor to the government, but the more desperate he got for votes, the more negative he got, the more the claim that he is part of the Republican establishment stuck. He was between a rock and a hard place. Then came the economy. Obama only had to play field position with a lead and not fumble, which he is the best at, just keep Biden locked away where they’ve been keeping Cheney.

12 Anonymous November 6, 2008 at 7:50 am

To a certain extent this election was a referendum on the influence of religion over politics the past 8 years: a resounding repudiation of Bush and co’s “God had my back” doctrine.

Oh hell yes! That’s why they were watching election returns in churches…. and crying and singing Hallelujah to beat the band when Obama was announced as the winner.

Phil: You’re a tool. Or naive. Or both.

13 Andrew November 6, 2008 at 8:04 am

So, the accepted rationale for Blacks to be excited for an Obama win is that since he is black, he will be able to identify better with their challenges. Okay.

But then, why wouldn’t this same rationale work just as well for old white folk?

To use Tyler’s lingo, doesn’t an increase in status for a black constituency have to come at the expense of the white constituency? Assuming status is a zero-sum game, it’s got to come from somewhere.

So, it can be racial for both sides while not being racist.

14 meter November 6, 2008 at 9:11 am

“This election was a matter of the segments of the population with the greatest propensity for dependency demanding to be treated as dependents. I suspect that their demands will be met. I doubt that they will find satisfaction in their “success”.”

Interesting conclusion: did you write that with a straight face? Take a look at net flows of federal tax revenue between blue and red states. Liberals are subsidizing the laggard conservatives.

15 meter November 6, 2008 at 9:34 am

Hell yeah, we need McCain badly!

(To do what again? Rattle our sabers back? Good thinking, genius. In case you hadn’t noticed Obama’s not in power. We still have good ole Bush/Cheney to fix this mess. I feel better already.)

16 eccdogg November 6, 2008 at 10:30 am

“In the SOUTHERN states? I grew up in a few “southern” states, and I never encounted the type of overt, virulent, openly and frequently violent racism there in over 20 years that I encountered almost immediately in both California and New Mexico. Blacks on whites, blacks on Asians, blacks on Hispanics, whites on blacks, whites on Hispanics, Hispanics on whites, Hispanics on blacks …”

Yep, I totally agree. I get really tired of all this “Southerners are Racist” BS. It is just an easy way for liberals to discount why southerners disagree with them.

Blacks and Whites managed to get along very well in my Piedmont North Carolina home town. Much better than when I lived in DC. And in my home town as opposed to many places in the North we actually lived near each other, went to school together (30% of my school was black), shopped at the same grocery stores, and knew each other by name.

My wife on the other hand grew up in rural Michigan and never had to see a black person and yet her town was so racist that at one point it had a sign that said “Don’t let the sun set on your black ass in this town”

Yes there are racist in the South just like everywhere else and yes the South was incredibly racist before the 70’s. But on whole most places in the South have confronted their problems head on over the last 30 years and in my experience from being born in the 70’s to now have made so much progress that they are at least on par with the rest of the country and better in some ways.

I think it is telling that on net Blacks are leaving the rest of the country and moving TOO the South. If it is such a bed of racism that wouldn’t be happening.

17 meter November 6, 2008 at 10:59 am

“Oh hell yes! That’s why they were watching election returns in churches…. and crying and singing Hallelujah to beat the band when Obama was announced as the winner.”

I’m a secularist and pretty much revile organized religion – no secret there. However, I don’t begrudge others the right to practice their religious beliefs.

My comment specifically said “the influence of religion over politics” – an example of which is how Bush crowed that God told him to invade Iraq. Rather than actually putting some thought into it – “should we invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11?”, “maybe we need a long-term plan for this fool’s errand?” – he claimed it was his faith that would prevail.

The American electorate doesn’t want or need a Pope. It wants a President.

18 John S. November 6, 2008 at 12:09 pm

meter: You conveniently ignore the fact that Obama said he was against gay marriage because of his Christian religion.

19 josh November 6, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Whether it’s John Kerry or Barack Obama, the fact that 90% of a huge ethnic group votes as a block is not necessarily a good thing. Factions are probably best when they are based on commitments more easily broken is racial identity and where a shift in strategy by the other coalition could capture a sizable proportion of the faction.

20 PTM November 6, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Tyler, aren’t you at least a little bit embarrassed for Brad DeLong?

21 Anonymous November 6, 2008 at 1:11 pm

meter, I clearly stated that Obama is untested. His actions are yet to be seen. You are correct. With no experience there is no precedence.

I am merely stating that the terror and other military threats go up post election. Even Mr. Biden was clear about that. Obama will be tested. Let’s hope he has a strong administration to assist him with this serious threat.

22 Anonymous November 6, 2008 at 6:30 pm

I wonder if the younger generation will ever figure out that the statists in the older generation are spending all of their money.

My 17 and 30 year olds have, but my 27 year old hasn’t. Yet.

23 Kyle S November 6, 2008 at 10:36 pm

I can’t wait for all of the johnny-come-lately posters who have invaded this blog via it’s election coverage to leave. The quality of discourse was much higher six months ago. I never see many of my favorite frequent commenters, who doubtless have better things to so with their time than argue with some of the folks here now.

24 Steve November 7, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Obama is only half black.

I know, I know, I’m just saying…

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