Is Wisconsin a Weathervane for November?
June 6th, 2012
The political class will inevitably spend today discussing what last night’s elections in Wisconsin mean for President Obama in November. Simply, the exit polls show that if he was on the ballot last night, President Obama would have won. But there are two main reasons to pause when attempting to extrapolate the results to make Presidential predictions.
- The recall electorate looked much more like the 2010 midterms than a presidential election turnout in the state.
- Most Wisconsin voters deemed recall an extraordinary measure and made their decisions accordingly.
President Obama Still Ahead in Wisconsin
Even if the November electorate in Wisconsin looks exactly like it did in last night’s recall, President Obama is winning over Romney by 7 points. Further, 17% of Walker voters say they plan to vote for the President—proving that split ticket voters do exist, even in a hyper-partisan election! For November, last night’s results do not yet portend a permanent red shift in Wisconsin, but at this point a specific response to local politics and the recall process.
Recall Electorate Not At Presidential Levels
In size and composition, this electorate looked more like 2010 than 2008:
- Turnout was about 2.5 million, higher than the 2.1 million in 2010, but not close enough to the 2.9 million of 2008 to result in a Democratic advantage.
- In 2008, Democrats composed 39% of the Wisconsin electorate, Republicans 33%, and Independents 29%.
- In 2010, Democrats were 37%, Republicans 36%, and Independents 28%, with Democratic and Independents losses.
- In the recall, Republicans outnumbered Democrats 35% to 34%, and Independents reversed their decline, rising to 31%.
- Youth turnout was down, likely because the recall took place in June and school was already out. In 2008, 22% of Wisconsin voters were under 30. In 2010, 15% were under 30. The recall electorate looked more like the midterms than the presidential, with the under 30 vote at 16%.
- The ideological composition of the electorate mirrored the midterms, not the presidential election.
- In the recall, liberals composed 21% of the electorate, moderates 44%, and conservatives 36%. That is virtually identical to the 21%-43%-36% composition in the 2010 midterms. But in the 2008 electorate, liberals composed 23% and moderates 47% of voters, while conservatives were 31%.
- In the recall, moderates broke for Barrett 54-46. But former Senator Russ Feingold also won them in 2010, 58% to 42%, while still losing his race. In 2008, President Obama won moderates 63% to 36%. Democrats need to win more moderates while increasing the moderate and liberal share of the electorate vis-à-vis conservatives to win in Wisconsin in November.
- Turnout among women and non-whites—2 groups that broke for Barrett—was slightly closer to the midterms than the presidential election. Women made up 51% of the 2008 electorate, but only 50% of the recall and 2010 electorates. White voters made up 91% of the recall electorate and 89% of the presidential.
Recalls Akin to Impeachment?
Furthermore, six in ten Wisconsin voters said that recalls should only be used for official misconduct, and Walker won 68% of them. Another 10% of voters thought it was never acceptable to use the recall procedure. Most voters saw the recall as similar to impeachment and thus set the bar higher for what constituted a recallable offense. Only 27% of voters believed recalls should be used for any purpose, and they broke overwhelmingly for Barrett.