Monday, August 27, 2012

The Evolution of the Republican Party Voter

From Michael Barone, at the Wall Street Journal:
The core of the Republican Party throughout its history has been voters who are generally seen by themselves and by others as typical Americans—but who by themselves don't constitute a majority of what has always been an economically, culturally and religiously diverse nation. But, as the electoral data cited above suggest, the nature of that core group has changed over time.

In the 19th century, the Republican core consisted of northern Protestants (and any blacks who were allowed to vote). It was founded as a North-only party, and its first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont in 1856, received no votes in slave states.

So enduring was the trauma of the Civil War that for nearly a century afterward the Republican Party had much the same base, while the Democratic Party's base, sometimes united but sometimes deeply divided, consisted of white Southerners and big-city Catholics. In 1944, Republican presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey carried the popular vote outside the five boroughs of New York City, Chicago's Cook County and the South (defined as the 11 formerly Confederate states plus West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma). Dewey got only 10% of his popular votes and no electoral votes in the South.

Over the next four decades the biggest partisan shift was among white Southerners, while blacks since 1964 have voted about 90% Democratic. By 1984 and 1988, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were getting about one-third of their popular and electoral votes in the South. In the presidential elections since 1988, Republican nominees have gotten 34% to 39% of their popular votes and 60% to 69% of their electoral votes in the South.

A party that attracts new support from a segment of the electorate tends to repel part of its old coalition. As the 1990s began, political pundits were opining that Republicans had a lock on the Electoral College—just before Bill Clinton, with assistance from Ross Perot, picked the lock and ripped open the door. Democrats won the popular vote in four of the five next presidential elections.

Republicans similarly embarrassed the pundits who said two decades ago that Democrats had a lock on the House of Representatives. Republicans won the most popular votes and most seats in seven of the nine congressional elections beginning in 1994.

As a result, the Republican core going into the 2012 election is no longer northern Protestants but white, married Christians...