Data visualization helps decide 2012 presidential elections

The chatter has stepped up a notch. Speculation has begun in earnest. Fresh battle lines are being drawn. And, political pundits have billed it as one of the most tightly contested races to run. So, can Barack Obama emerge from turmoil to capture an historic second term? Or, will he follow George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford and become just the fourth one term US President since World War II?

Whilst history is on his side, it appears that much of the US populace is not. Obama’s presidency has been hamstrung by continuing economic woes, unrelentingly and unpopular international conflicts, and accusations of socialism over attempts to overhaul an ailing health system.

Many feel that amidst the turmoil, Obama has failed to deliver on his election platform of ‘hope’ and ‘change’.

And, recent pronouncements requiring Catholic-run schools and hospitals to provide free contraception to workers have earned the wrath of the vast, and politically influential, Catholic community. The Republicans have accused Obama of being “hostile to people of faith”.

So, has Obama done enough, or far too much, to win 2012’s race to the White House? Well, to quote my Dad: “Past performance is the best indicator of future performance.” On that basis, let’s analyze where Obama won and lost voter support at the ballot box in 2008 to help determine this year’s outcome.

Today’s data visualization and data analysis is brought to you by: Yellowfin; now making Business Intelligence even easier.

Data provider
Roper Center (Data based on survey by Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (ABC News, Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, NBC News). Sample of 18,018 voters consisted of 15,640 voters as they left the voting booths on Election Day November 4, 2008 and a telephone absentee/early voters survey of 2,378 respondents conducted October 24-November 2, 2008.)

NOTE: Percentages do not add up to 100. We attribute this to marginal errors in the voting and / or data collation processes, or where marginal independent candidates received votes.

Spread of votes (as a percentage) by gender at the 2008 presidential election

Perhaps his smooth charismatic tones and innate charms should have given it away – with 2008’s male populace essentially undecided (49% Obama, 48% McCain), it was the female vote that secured a Democratic victory last election (56% Obama, 43% McCain).

The President’s position on female health and contraception will probably see him carry that advantage into the next election.

Spread of votes (as a percentage) by age at the 2008 presidential election

In relative terms, Obama is a young President. His ability to connect with and invigorate the traditionally politically apathetic youth of America bought him 66 percent of the 18 – 29 year old vote. However, poor job prospects for College graduates and mounting causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan may change that result in 2012.

Analyzing voter breakdown by age is fascinating. One trend becomes immediately clear – older voters are more conservative. In 2008, McCain and the Republicans won an increasing proportion of the vote with the increase of each age bracket. In a show of polar opposites, Obama’s pulling power systematically declined, with the Democratic candidate winning smaller and smaller percentages the older surveyed voters were. This may spell trouble for the Obama camp in 2012. Historically, the older the voter, the more entrenched their views. And, to maintain his appeal among younger constituents, he’ll need to prove that he’s willing to fight for reform in the face of conservative opposition.

Spread of votes (as a percentage) by race at the 2008 presidential election

Obama won the majority vote from America’s Black, Hispanic, Asian and ‘Other’ minority racial groups in the 2008 presidential election. McCain’s Republican’s comfortably secured the ‘White’ vote (55 – 43%) – crucial as it represented 74 percent of 2008’s total voter population.

It seems, as mainstream US political commentary will attest, that minority groups will be more inclined to place their support behind America’s first Black President, sensing that their unique concerns and desires are more likely to be heard. This view is further bolstered, with 70 percent of the gay/lesbian/bisexual community voting for Obama at the last election.

Obama’s fate in 2012 will depend to a large extent on his ability to win support from America’s White majority on broader socio-economic issues.

Spread of votes (as a percentage) by income at the 2008 presidential election

His apparent willingness for, or at least readiness to entertain the idea of, serious social reform won him a clear majority of the lower-income vote.

However, middle and upper America may be unwilling to stomach the realities of expanded social services (higher taxes). It seems likely that the Obama campaign will lose votes among income earners of relative security – $50,000 and above.

Spread of votes (as a percentage) by political philosophy at the 2008 presidential election

Obama’s real vulnerability in 2012 lies in his questionable ability to reconquer the swinging, or moderate, voter.

It seems fairly clear those of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ political persuasions are entrenched Democrat and Republican supporters respectively. His message and promise of ushering in a new partisan era in American politics secured him 60 percent of ‘moderate’ America at the ballot box in ‘08. Many believe, fairly or unfairly, that his political promises have outweighed significant policy inaction. It’s hard to image him inspiring the politically impartial with the same degree of success this time around.

Spread of votes (as a percentage) by region at the 2008 presidential election

Once again, with the South deeply entrenched in ‘Red Country’, Obama has the most to lose in a regional breakdown of votership.

In 2008, he won a clear majority in all regions except the South. The same geographic domination in 2012 seems unlikely.

The outcome?

Flip a coin?

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