OP-ED | Changing Electorate Choses Status Quo
Elections serve as a giant mirror held up so that the electorate can see who they really are. The results of this year’s elections, and the electorate that delivered them, confirm this truth. Exit polls conducted for CNN reveal the image of the electorate that supported Democratic candidates for President, U.S. Senate, and all five of the state’s congressional seats.
Though it is now a bromide nationally, the results highlight the importance of the growing nonwhite population. Virtually the entire margin of victory for President Barack Obama in the Nutmeg State is attributable to African-American and Latino voters as they gave an incredible 84 percent of their votes to the President. White voters, by contrast, were virtually split with 51 percent voting for the President and 48 percent for Gov. Mitt Romney.
Interestingly, there were just a few more liberals than there were conservatives in Connecticut’s electorate, with 28 percent describing themselves as liberal compared to 24 percent calling themselves conservatives. President Obama’s dominance with self-described moderates, however, winning 56 percent compared to Gov. Romney’s 42 percent, highlights the extent to which the Republican brand in New England is damaged by perceived extremism.
A stark contrast in economic perceptions defined Obama and Romney voters. Among the 45 percent of voters who told an exit pollster that U.S. economic conditions are getting better, 93 percent said they voted for Mr. Obama while 82 percent of those who said the economy was getting worse went for Mr. Romney.
Another sharp divide existed between those voters who want a leader who cares about them versus a leader with a vision for the future. Fully 20 percent of the electorate cited “cares about people” as their most important candidate quality and 85 percent of that group voted for the President. Having a vision for the future was the most important quality for 26 percent of voters, 57 percent of whom supported Romney.
It is also revealing to look at who now comprises the Republican base in Connecticut. The profile of the Romney voter is a conservative white male, Catholic, deficit hawk. Mr. Romney won among Catholics by a margin of 51 percent to 41 percent. Deficit hawks made up just 14 percent of those voting, but Mr. Romney won 57 percent of their support. White men voted 54 percent to 44 percent for the Republican nominee and made up 38 percent of the electorate. Mr. Romney did not win a majority of any other age, race, gender, or ideological group. They must make inroads in other groups if they ever want to win again in Connecticut.
There are numerous lessons to be learned from the election results. It is most striking though that in an era of transformative economic and social change, Connecticut’s voters mostly endorsed the status quo. Virtually every incumbent up and down the Connecticut ballot won re-election on Tuesday with very few exceptions from the Presidency to the State House. The data does not reveal whether the cause is fear of change or fear of the alternative. That remains for the electorate to determine on their own.
Heath W. Fahle is the Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com.