The Elastic States And Swing Voters

Interesting. From The New York Times' Nate Silver:

Elastic states are those which have a lot of swing voters — that is, voters who could plausibly vote for either party’s candidate. A swing voter is very likely to be an independent voter, since registered Republicans and registered Democrats vote with their party at least 90 percent of the time in most presidential elections. The swing voter is also likely to be devoid of other characteristics that are very strong predictors of voting behavior. For instance, he is unlikely to be African-American, which very strongly predicts Democratic voting. And she is unlikely to be a Southern evangelical, which very strongly predicts Republican voting, at least recently.

The classic example of an elastic state is New Hampshire. It has a very high percentage of independents, and those voters are also independent-minded in practice. Almost all of New Hampshire’s voters are white, but very few of them are evangelicals, characteristics that roughly balance out (Mr. Obama won about 55 percent of the nonevangelical white vote in 2008).

The numbers you see below reflect my estimate of the elasticity of each state and the District of Columbia. If a state has an elasticity of (for example) 1.1 points, as Wisconsin does, that means a one-percentage-point change in the national numbers would be expected to change the Wisconsin numbers by 1.1 points. Or, likewise, a five-point change in the national numbers would change that state’s voting preferences by 5.5 points.

The more elastic states are those in the left-hand column of the chart. Some of them, like New Hampshire, aren’t so surprising. But others like Rhode Island, which actually tops the list, may be less expected.

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published this page in In The News 2012-05-21 11:52:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy