Today we continue our election review with the Midwest region.
From a national perspective, the elections of 1996 and 2008 turned out to have a lot in common. Bill Clinton won 54.7% of the two-party vote in 1996. This cycle, Barack Obama won 53.7% of the two-party vote. Accordingly, 1996 serves as a good baseline to analyze the 2008 electorate - and we have seen some interesting trends by using it. For starters, we found that, although nationwide the two Democrats pulled about the same vote, Obama did worse in the South Central division than Clinton, a bit better in the South Atlantic, and better still in the Pacific West. We also found that Obama typically did worse among rural and small town voters, but better among larger city voters. This is how we have been able to identify the uniqueness of Obama's majority voting coalition - by looking at another Democrat with roughly the same nationwide vote, we can use regional and sectional differences between the two to specify Obama's coalition.
When we turn to the Midwest, the differences appear to be less pronounced. In 1996 Bill Clinton won 100 electoral votes in the Midwest. This cycle, Obama won 97. They won the same states - except Obama swapped Missouri for Indiana. And, as far as share of the two-party vote goes, there were very few differences. Let's start with the East North Central.
We find very little change between 1996 and 2008. Overall, Obama improved upon Clinton by about 1.4%. Once again, he did a bit worse in the rural and small town areas - and a bit better in the larger urban areas. In fact, much of Obama's improvement upon Clinton is thanks to a 5-point increase in his share of the vote in the "mega city" category, i.e. metropolitan Chicago.
The story is basically the same when we examine the constituent states of this division: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Obama improved a point or two upon Clinton, typically doing better in the urban centers and worse in the rural regions.
Even Indiana, which impressively flipped to Obama, was still pretty similar to 1996. For starters, Dole won the state, but Clinton was able to pull 46.9% of the two-party vote. Obama won a narrow, 50.5% victory there, thanks to improvement in the larger urban centers of the state: South Bend, Indianapolis, and the counties in the northwest that are part of greater Chicago. This improvement in Indiana was countered by a slight drop-off relative to Clinton in Ohio - where Obama was weaker than the 42nd President in the rural areas, small towns, and large towns.
The exit polls tell the same tale.
While George W. Bush won a 10-point victory among whites in 2004, Clinton and Obama split them with their Republican opponents.
If Obama did a few points better than Clinton in the East North central, he did a few points worse in the West North Central, as this graph makes clear.
Again, we see Obama improving in the larger urban areas while doing worse in the rural areas. Of course, in the East and West North Central divisions, Obama typically improved upon Kerry - which cannot be said about the East and West South Central divisions.
Once again, there are few differences when we toggle from state to state in the West North Central: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. Again and again, Obama ticks up a few points among voters in larger urban centers, and down a few points in rural and small town areas. [This is how he was able to flip the electoral vote allocated to Nebraska's second congressional district - he did about seven points better than Clinton in metro Omaha.] The only exceptions are Minnesota, where Obama consistently underperformed Clinton by 4-5 points across regions, and Missouri, where Obama only matched Clinton's strength in the larger urban areas of St. Louis and Kansas City.
The exit polls for the division generally confirm what the votes indicate.
Clinton was able to win the white vote in the West North Central, but Obama was not. This was due to the fact that he didn't improve upon Clinton in any state in this division, but did worse in Missouri and Minnesota. But notice there was improvement upon Kerry. George W. Bush seems to have been able to win lower income whites in 2004, but Obama seems to have flipped them back.
Looking at a straightforward map of countywide votes in the Midwest is not particularly illuminating. The counties won by both Obama and Clinton are largely identical. We can get a better sense of the changes in the Obama and Clinton coalitions by looking at the change of vote share in the counties from 1996 to 2008. This is what the map below shows. The darkest red counties shifted 10 points or more toward McCain from Dole (we are, again, talking about share of the two-party vote), while the bluest counties shifted ten points or more toward Obama. Every gradation of color is worth a 1% shift.