An In-Depth Look At The Generic Ballot

Last week, I posted a couple of entries looking at the tightening of the generic ballot (in comparison to 2005-2008) despite the challenges that remain for the GOP.  This post looks at key subgroups — other than GOPers, Independents, and Dems (they were covered last week) — on the generic ballot.

The most striking finding is the huge gender gap — men vote GOP by a 48%-33% margin, while women break 31% GOP/50% Dem.  That’s a staggering 34 point gender gap.   The fact that there is a gender gap is not news — it’s been around since at least the 1980s.  However, a gap of more than 25 points is unusual, and 30+ points is staggering.

Looking just at white voters, the gender gap is 29 points, with white men voting strongly GOP (53%-28%), while white women are close (37%-41%).

The gender gap cross generational lines.  It is 39 points with 18-34 year olds, 34 points with 35-54 year olds, and 33 points with 55+ers.   Of further concern to GOPers is that we are losing younger women by 40 points, but also trailing 41%-42% among younger men.  Much has been written about our challenges with younger voters – it is a problem that applies to both women AND men.

Another way to look at the gender gap is to look at education.   Men with college degrees are voting 53%-27% for the GOPer.  Women with college degrees break 35% GOP/47% Dem — a 38 point gap.  Men without college degrees stay with the GOP by a 44%-39% margin, while women without college degress are strongly anti-Republican — 28% GOP/53% Dem. 

By income, Republicans do their best with women over $80k, while Dems actually lead among men with less than $40k. 

Regionally, the GOP is seeing some improvement in the Midwest, but still has major problems in the Northeast.  The Northeast goes Democratic on the generic ballo by 15 points, while the Midwest is tied.  The South remains good (43% GOP/38% Dem), while the West breaks 41% GOP/46% Dem — an improvement from 2008.

Ideologically, conservatives break 65% GOP/21% Dem, while liberals are united (6% GOP/78% Dem).  Moderates provide the Dems with a huge boost, breaking 27% GOP/48% Dem.  Before anyone concludes from the greater unity among liberals that conservatives aren’t unified, it’s important to recognize that liberals are only 16% of the electorate, compared to 42% being conservative.  Thus, the 78% Dems get from libs isn’t anywhere close to the 65% that GOPers get from conservative voters.

Church attendance continues to be a solid predictor of vote.  Among those who attend weekly or more often, the GOPer wins 47%-35%.  Among voters who occasionally attend church, it breaks 35% GOP/42% Dem.  Those who may go a couple times each year (or never), the margin is a wide 32% GOP/51% Dem.

It’s hard to argue about the data — but it’s easy to argue about what the data means.  A couple of conclusions for Republican campaigns going into 2009/10 elections:

  • Women are a key target group.  We can’t expect to win them, but we do need to improve significantly with women.   Keeping the Dem margin down among women often means a GOP win.
  • Younger voters are so anti-GOP that individual candidates need to work extra hard to win them over.  The approach (at this point) shouldn’t be to get them to vote GOP, but to get them to vote for individual Republicans.

GOP campaigns shouldn’t expect to win either group (women or younger voters), but we also can’t expect to get blown out among those two groups and win.  Targeting and messaging to both groups should be a key priority.