Friday, November 21, 2014

The Battle for Texas (Part I)

The results on November 4th were not what Democrats had hoped for, and as a result, there are many assessments of Wendy Davis’ campaign and the efforts of Battleground Texas that assign blame for the poor showing (see this , this , this or this ). That is not the purpose of this post. I want to move forward—to indicate what might be different about 2018. In Part I, I will assess what happened in 2014.

First, what was the composition of the electorate and which gubernatorial candidate did each category favor? From the exit poll, we get a good idea of who voted and for whom they voted. So here are the salient data.

Females were more prominent among voters than males, but the expectation that Wendy Davis would do better than Republican Greg Abbott was incorrect: Abbott received 54 percent of the female vote, and Davis received 45 percent. A closer examination of the vote by gender reveals Davis’ strengths as well as her weaknesses. First, Davis did best among African American women (7 percent of the electorate), winning 94 percent to Abbott’s 5 percent. Among Hispanic women (9 percent of the electorate), Davis bested Abbott 66 percent to Abbott’s 39 percent. Among Anglo women (33 percent of the electorate), Abbott won 66 percent to Davis’ 31 percent. Second, Davis won women who were not married (19 percent of the electorate) with 57 percent to Abbott’s 42 percent. However, Davis lost married women (33 percent of the electorate) with 36 percent of the vote to Abbott’s 62 percent. Third, Abbott won Republican women (19 percent of the electorate) with 95 percent of the vote as well as independent women (14 percent of the electorate) with 57 percent of the vote. Clearly, Anglo women and married women presented a challenge to Davis’ hope of victory. Furthermore, whereas Davis expected to do well among independent women, she lost them badly.

Next, consider how Davis performed among various ethnic groups. As expected, she won the African American vote (12 percent of the electorate) handily, receiving 92 percent of the vote to Abbott’s 7 percent. She also won the Hispanic vote, but the margin was not what was needed to result in a Davis victory. Davis won 55 percent of the Hispanic vote (17 percent of the electorate) to Abbott’s 44 percent. Among Anglos (66 percent of the electorate), Davis was trounced—Abbott’s 72 percent to Davis’ 25 percent. Previously, I maintained that Davis needed 70 percent of the Hispanic vote and their percentage of the electorate needed to be 22 percent as well as 38 percent of the Anglo vote to win. Only among African Americans was Davis’ support sufficient and their percentage of the electorate large enough to support a Davis victory.

Davis also fell short among the age categories that she had to win in order to win the governorship. According to the exit polls, Davis tied with Abbott among the 18-29 year olds who voted, barely lost the 30-44 year olds, and lost the 45-65 year olds (32 percent to 67 percent) and voters over 65 (29 percent to 69 percent). Voters who were 18-44 years old constituted 41 percent of the electorate—the same percentage as voters who were 45-65 years old. The only age category won by Davis was the 30-39 year olds (53 percent to 45 percent).

Finally, among family income categories, Davis won only those families who earned less than $30,000 annually (51 percent to 47 percent). As family income increased, Davis’ percentage of the vote decreased as Abbott’s percentage of the vote increased.

 What do the exit polls from the 2014 general election indicate for future Democratic Party efforts in Texas? There are several groups that are not voting in the numbers necessary for Democratic candidates to win, and several categories do not support Democratic candidates sufficiently to result in Democratic victories. Consequently, Democratic appeals to voters must be sharpened and groups that are likely to support Democratic candidates need to be motivated to vote. Elections are about who participates and what choices those who do participate make. In Part II, I'll consider how the electorate might change for 2018.

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