Researcher: Former Bush voters could determine outcome in 2012 presidential elections

May 21, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- President Obama's campaign brought millions of new voters to polls during the 2008 elections, but the decisions of former Bush voters had a substantial effect on the outcome.

A new University of Michigan analysis indicates that several million formerly Republican chose not to support party nominee , either staying home during the elections or opting for .

If new Obama voters are less likely to go to the polls in 2012, a critical swing vote could be voters who chose Bush in 2004.

"Future presidential hopefuls' attempts to draw lessons from the 2008 campaign should focus not only on how the Obama campaign got so many new people to the polls," U-M political science professor Arthur Lupia said, "but also on why so many people who voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 2004 chose to do something different in 2008."

More than 69 million Americans cast votes for Obama in the November . This number is 10 million more than people who voted for fellow Democrat John Kerry four years earlier.

"Obama's success in attracting new voters was a visible component of his 2008 victory … but these new voters were not a necessary condition for his victory," said Lupia, a research professor at the Institute for Social Research.

Secret ballot prevents people from knowing the exact number of Bush 2004 voters who failed to vote for McCain in 2008. However, Lupia used state-level election returns to determine the minimum number of such voters.

For example, a minimum of seven out of every hundred Bush voters in Ohio in 2004 must have done something other than vote for John McCain in 2008. Winning this state was sufficient for Obama to win the Electoral College, Lupia noted.

"Therefore, Bush voters' decisions in Ohio were sufficient to cause Obama to win the election," he said.

Other survey data reinforces the role that Bush voters played in Obama's victory. The 2008 edition of the American National Election Studies Time Series (American National Election Studies 2008)—a project involving U-M and Stanford University researchers—asked more than 2,000 people for whom they voted in the general elections of 2004 and 2008.

Nearly one in four respondents who self-identified as 2004 Bush voters did something other than vote for McCain in 2008. Fifteen percent of these Bush voters voted for Obama in 2008. Another 7 percent chose not to vote at all, the ANES data showed.

Lupia, the Hal R.Varian Collegiate Professor of Political Science, conducts research on how voters, political elites, and scientific experts make decisions when they lack important information about consequences

The findings appear in PS: Political Science and Politics.

Explore further: Digital native fallacy: Teachers still know better when it comes to using technology

More information: PS: Political Science and Politics - www.apsanet.org/PS/

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User comments : 2

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deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) May 21, 2010
All this has been obvious to the most casual observer since election day 2 yrs ago this coming Nov. The first clue was; the percentage of voters in 2008 was virtually unchanged from 2004 but there were millions of new teenage voters.
mvymvy
not rated yet May 23, 2010
By 2012 the National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president.

see www.NationalPopularVote.com