With the election a mere two days away both sides are predicting a landslide victory for their candidate. Republicans by selecting polls that show Romney up and Democrats by using statistics and looking at the average and trends of polls. The omniscent nerdgod Nate Silver has all but called the election for Obama and stated that if Romney does win then the state polls have some serious bias. Conservatives meanwhile have gone to conspiracy-like lengths to insist that the polls are skewed because they use 2008 voter turnout models that over-exaggerate voter enthusiasm for Obama and the models don’t take into account previous Obama supporters that will now vote for Romney.
Indeed, a common theme of this year’s election has been the disenchantment of Obama supporters and their switch to the Romney camp. There was even a propaganda piece that specifically focused on this trend. There’s just one problem with this narrative – it happens every election; a basic understanding of demographics makes it abundantly clear. The media often likes to paint the picture, especially when an incumbent is running, that this year’s electorate is the same as 2008, simply making a second choice on the President. Any change in opinion therefore must just be people changing their minds. Did some people change their minds over the last 4 years? Of course, but polls don’t go out and ask the same people what they think every election, they go by demographics. The first-time voters this year, by definition, are not the first-time voters in 2008.
There is one truism for every election and that is that any individual voter who supported a Democrat is more likely to support a Republican this election rather than vice versa. This is simply because older people vote more conservative. If you voted in 2008 then you’re 4 years older today and therefore more likely to vote conservative than you were 4 years ago. However, in the past 4 years about 3% (10 million) of our population has died and will (hopefully) not be voting in this year’s election. Another 5% (16 million) will be able to vote for the first-time and will mostly vote Democratic. Every election the Republicans lose votes to deaths in their base and pick up votes from an aging population while Democrats lose votes as people age to Republicans and pick up first-time voters. This trend is simply a basic characteristic of the contemporary political system.
So yes there are many people who voted for Obama that are now supporting Romney but this might be nothing more than a natural effect. If anything most of the dissatisfaction with Obama has come from the left rather than the center. These voters are more likely to not vote rather than switch their vote to Romney just as they are more likely to vote against Romney rather than for Obama. Many might recall Churchill’s famous quote that anyone not a socialist at age 20 has no heart and anyone not a conservative at age 40 has no brain – this statement resonates because there is basic truth in it, as we age we will likely get more conservative. In turn, conservative values will change with the new generations coming of age. And the way our political system works the political parties are more likely to structure their issues around these already established demographic groups rather than change their demographic support externally through groups shifting their support for a static party platform.