Web author Michael Collins has published a new piece based on an examination of the 2004 polls conducted by the National Election Pool, which reveals that broad assumptions about voter turnout in urban areas appears to be incorrect, and that George Walker Bush's miraculous victory in 2004 is doubly miraculous considering the erosion in his rural base.
The "surge" in Bush supporters supposedly came from WASP-ish instant voters that spontaneously generated themselves in large urban centers and pulled the "W" lever. It certainly didn't come from the traditional Democratic base, and what's more, these phantom voters were mute apparitions that wafted into polling stations, and did not share their inspiration with pollsters.
We're told that "security moms" and energized evangelicals brought it home for Bush, but maybe, just maybe, the energy didn't come from the base. Below find a few paragraphs from Collins' piece.
June 13, 2007
The night of November 2, 2004, was exhilarating or devastating, depending on how you voted and where you were. If you were a rural conservative who voted based on your religious affinity to Bush, you were elated. You were also relieved, because your peers had not turned out with the same enthusiasm that they had shown in 2000. If you were in the suburbs and had campaigned hard for Kerry, you were probably devastated. After all that work in your first campaign ever, the big crowds and the optimistic polls, your man lost. But if you were white, living in a large city, and probably a returning voter after missing several elections, you were positively exuberant. You and your like-minded peers continued George W. Bush’s reign as the 43rd President of the United States. It was a miracle.
This election was a sight to see. Few in the country had the vantage point of network news commentators. Throughout the day these experts received a stream of information from the exit polls of the National Election Pool (NEP). Sponsored by a media consortium consisting of the four major television networks plus CNN and the Associated Press, the NEP provided the most sophisticated polling data ever.
The pundits had the national Exit Poll of 13,660 respondents and parallel State Exit Polls of over 77,000 respondents. The NEP was the only source on "who voted for each candidate; why the voters in each area made critical choices; and where geographical differences on candidates and issues were a factor."
If you paid attention and knew your craft, you were on fire. Election 2004 was the best thing to happen since Truman beat Dewey and you probably weren’t around for that. It was a unique moment. Just a day or two after the election, experienced analyst Charles Cook practically gushed after he studied the exit polls saying the Bush effort was "...unquestionably ...the best planned, best executed presidential campaign ever."
Based on what he knew at the time, this made sense. Cook reflected that, "Perhaps the most interesting, and maybe puzzling, exit poll finding is that (compared to 2000) Kerry lost 11 points among the 13 percent of Americans who live in cities with populations over 500,000, while President Bush jumped up 13 points (since 2000)." He concluded that the surprising urban performance, required for a Bush win, was a result of defections from the Kerry camp by black, Latinos, and Jewish voters. This is the stuff of legends.
Cook’s analysis pinpointed the actual location the Bush victory: urban voters. His mistake was to think that the normal Democratic constituencies in the cities did anything different from what they had always done. Cook himself was one of a few who actually saw and understood the critical role large cities played in providing the Bush victory margin.
The Conventional Wisdom
On election eve, a different story prevailed. While they had access to the same exit polls that Cook had, the news people did not notice the same trends and numbers that Cook noticed. Network anchors and others talked about the red-versus-blue battle. There were the very red rural evangelicals, almost all white. The media rolled out the newly minted "security moms" in the purple suburbs plus the true blue Democrats in our largest cities, a predictable group if there ever was one. Unlike Cook, who studied the exit polls, the popular news casters assumed that the Rove strategy had materialized.
It was all about country versus city, red versus blue and sotto voce white versus non white. They were right about an election; but that election had taken place four years earlier. The public received a regurgitation of election 2000 analysis for 2004. The follow up consensus was formed from this inaccurate analysis. The remarkable Rove had done it again with those energized evangelicals. And, he’d grabbed enough van driving suburban moms to make the difference.
USA Today echoed much of the analysis when they concluded their election wrap up with this insight:
In the end, the states broke for Bush much as they did in 2000. Bush lost one state that he won in 2000: New Hampshire. Late Wednesday, the Associated Press reported New Mexico went to Bush. Iowa was still undecided. Both states backed Gore in 2000.
During the week or so after Election Day, there were additional flourishes added to the portrait of Bush’s remarkable victory. He had captured the values voters, a new demographic. These voters cast aside their normal allegiances and turned red in a full embrace of the values of the administration. According to the National Exit Poll, Bush supposedly achieved another remarkable feat. He moved the Latino vote from a Democratic mainstay to a competitive playing field. Unlike the typical 60-40% margins Democrats counted on, in 2004 Latino votes were divided 54% - 46%, a 12 point swing. These two additional "findings" hinted at but did not address directly the Bush urban wave.
There was no broad public debate on the legitimacy of the outcome. Intensive debate on the Internet was stimulated by accidental release of preliminary exit poll data throughout Election Day which showed Kerry winning 51% to 48%. Totaling over 11,000 respondents, these polls were marked "Not for on air use." This fueled charges of election fraud due to the winning margin for Kerry in all exit polls but the final released on the day after the election. In addition, the debate focused on what was called the red shift, Bush victory in a number of key states, all of which were said to be outside the margin of error for the poll. Aside from these interesting but largely ignored exchanges, Americans settled in for four more years of George Bush...