2006 Electorate Looked Red, But Voted Blue
Washington, DC – The 2006 electorate that turned Congress over to the Democrats was wealthier, whiter, and more religious, married, and rural than in 2004 – all constituencies that would have been expected to have helped congressional Republicans, according to a report released today by Third Way. The study, entitled Looking Red, Voting Blue, obtained newly released raw exit poll data to find that Democrats won not by turning out their traditional base of low-income, minority, and unmarried voters, but by winning millions of new voters from normally Republican constituencies. For example, every new Democratic voter had a household income of at least $75,000.
“The conventional wisdom that economically dissatisfied, working class people – those we used to call ‘Reagan Democrats’ – returned to the fold is wrong,” said Jim Kessler, VP for Policy at Third Way, who co-authored the report with Middle Class Director Anne Kim. “Two-thirds of new Democratic voters in 2006 earned more than $100,000.This should make Republicans tremble.”
Third Way used a standard technique to “normalize” the electorate so that the overall turnout was the same in 2006 and 2004 (a technique similar to computing earned run average for pitchers).Third Way found that Democrats gained 4.7 million new votes over 2004, in what the report describes as “a huge surge.” These new voters had relatively high incomes and felt good about the economy and their own personal finances, but they strongly disapproved of the war, were sickened by Washington scandals, and had soured on President George W. Bush.
Among the key findings:
- The average voter was 13.4% wealthier than in 2004 – from $54,300 to $61,700 in household income.
- Every new Democratic voter rated the economy excellent or good.
- Every new Democratic voter disapproved of the War in Iraq.
- Every new Democratic voter disapproved of the performance of President Bush.
- Five of six new Democratic voters were White.
- Three of five new Democratic voters were regular church attendees.
- Democrats captured more votes from rural America than from those who live in cities with more than 500,000 people.
The report also found that turnout among Democratic base voters actually declined in 2006 – Democrats’ share of African-Americans and Hispanics fell by 1.9 points and 0.3 points respectively. “Democratic margins among their base of voters actually increased, but these better margins couldn’t make up for the decline in turnout,” said Anne Kim. “Republicans appeared to turn out their base, but once inside the voting booth many of these voters abandoned them.”
Because turnout among low income voters had declined so much, Democrats actually experienced a net loss of 1.8 million votes from those with less than $30,000 in income. They more than made up for it by picking up 5.2 million new votes from those with at least $75,000 in income.
The report stopped short of calling the 2006 election a long-term realignment. “At some point, Iraq could become the Democrats’ problem. President Bush is remarkably unpopular, but his presence in the Oval Office is time-limited. And the belief by some Democrats that a new strain of economic neopopulism is galvanizing the electorate may be illusory.”
Contact: Matt Bennett (202) 775-3768 x212