Election 2008: what really happened

November 5th, 2008, by Andrew

After a quick look at the election results and exit polls (from, some thoughts:

1. The election was pretty close. Obama won by about 5% of the vote, consistent with the latest polls and consistent with his forecast vote based on forecasts based on the economy.

2. As with previous Republican candidates, McCain did better among the rich than the poor:


But the pattern has changed among the highest-income categories:


3. The gap between young and old has increased–a lot:


But there was no massive turnout among young voters. According to the exit polls, 18% of the voters this time were under 30, as compared to 17% of voters in 2004. (By comparison, 22% of voting-age Americans are under 30.)

4. By ethnicity: Barack Obama won 96% of African Americans, 68% of Latinos, 64% of Asians, and 44% of whites. In 2004, Kerry won 89% of African Americans, 55% of Latinos, 56% of Asians, and 41% of whites. So Obama gained the most among ethnic minorities.

5. The red/blue map was not redrawn; it was more of a national partisan swing. See this state-by-state scatterplot of Obama vote in 2008 vs. Kerry vote in 2004:


The standard deviation of the state swings (excluding D.C. and the unusual case of Hawaii) was 3.3%. That is, after accounting for the national swing in Obama’s favor, most of the states were within 3% of where they were, compared to their relative positions in 2004.

By comparison, here’s the 2000/2004 graph:


The standard deviation of these state swings was 2.4%. This was even less variation–2004 was basically a replay of 2000–still, the relative state swings of 3.3% in 2008 were not large by historical standards.

Again, Obama didn’t redraw the map; he shifted the map over in his favor. (Or, to put it more precisely, the economy shifted the map over in the Democrats’ favor and Obama took advantage of this.)

Here’s the map showing where Obama and McCain did better or worse than expected based on 2004:


6. Finally, how did the pre-election polls do? Unsurprisingly, they pretty much nailed the national vote. And what about the relative positions of the states? The pre-election polls did well there too, at least using Nate Silver’s aggregations. Here’s the scatterplot:


Pretty damn good. The standard deviation of the discrepancies, again excluding D.C. and Hawaii, is 2.5%, which is a big improvement on the 3.3% using Kerry04 alone.

I see some systematic patterns: Obama underperformed where the polls had him way down, and he outperformed where the polls had him up. We should go back and look at these patterns from earlier elections and see if this is consistent. If so, it suggests a way to improve forecasts for next time.

P.S. Age graph fixed from first posting; thanks to Andy Guess for pointing out the error.

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Entry Filed under: Elections


Add your own

  • 1. Sanderwagner  |  November 5th, 2008 at 5:16 am

    Tiny remark: Change the title on the last plot.
    Otherwise thx for the insights

  • 2. Andrew  |  November 5th, 2008 at 6:25 am

    Fixed; thanks.

  • 3. Robert Bell  |  November 5th, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Just out of curiosity did you use the “R” programming language for that plot?

    If so, I covet your ability to generate character labels on the data points.

  • 4. A Bit Of Analysis at futu…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 8:57 am

    [...] Some really interesting graphs here. [...]

  • 5. tom s.  |  November 5th, 2008 at 9:08 am

    How did you get all that so quickly? One more question.

    “According to the exit polls, 18% of the voters this time were under 30, as compared to 17% of voters in 2004. (By comparison, 22% of voting-age Americans are under 30.)”

    In 2004 what percentage of voting-age Americans were under 30? Perhaps a percent or two less?

  • 6. What just happened. &laqu;…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:05 am

    [...] 5, 2008 in Obama, history and current events | by eric Andrew Gelman: (1) The red-state, blue-state pattern persists but the whole country shifted toward the [...]

  • 7. Bill Ricker  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:06 am

    The Early votes not being included in early returns from Georgia ( combined weth late calls on IN VA caused me some angst based on your What Will We Know By 7 computation. It’s nice to have an explanation the morning after.

    Thanks for everything. Ditto to Nate/538 and Sam/PEC and Andy the original VoteMaster.

  • 8. ZBicyclist  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Lots of interesting information here — the most surprising to me is the youth vote information (both in terms of party shift and in terms of relative turnout).

    I hope by the time you read this you’ve had a nice long nap!

  • 9. jhu  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I can’t help but noticing that (a) Obama underperformed relative to Kerry the most in Louisiana and Arkansas, and (b) polls underpredicted Obama’s actual vote the most in (what from the graph seems to be) Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Wyoming and Alaska. So the main evidence of the so called “Bradley Effect” seems to be coming from in states which our Bayesian priors suggest hold more white racist voters.

  • 10. Fabrice Lehoucq  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:17 am

    A very nice, succinct analysis written in the wee hours of the morning. A question: What individual-level factors changed the relationship between income and the vote? Was it wealthier voters frightened by a possible presidency by Governor Palin? Is it a simple relationship between education and voting?

    Thanks, Fabrice Lehoucq
    Department of Political Science
    Greensboro, NC

  • 11. martin smith  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:39 am

    (1) It would be interesting to see fractional Obama support among whites by state.

    (2) You comment in (6) about Obama doing better where he was expected to do well and more poorly in where he was expected to do poorly. Couldn’t this reflect a kind of Bradley Effect in which pollees in relatively racist areas are reluctant to admit they won’t vote for Obama?

  • 12. William R. Barker  |  November 5th, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Thank you so much for an excellent analysis – sophisticated yet understandable and not overly technical – just the right amount of “jargon” to “layman’s language.”


  • 13. RR  |  November 5th, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    You say it’s the economy but then you point out that minorities and age were important factors. Granted that all these factors (economy, age, race) are correlated but, could you just conclude equally from what you explain that a shift in voting patterns by age and race nationwide made the change over ’04? Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t see how the data presented disproves this.
    The level of Democratic registration can be a symptom not a cause for this shift.

  • 14. Boîte noire – Not …  |  November 5th, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    [...] à jour : pour ceux qui veulent s’amuser (eux aussi) avec les exit polls, voici une première série de [...]

  • 15. Corey  |  November 5th, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Robert Bell, check “?text”.

  • 16. Andrew  |  November 5th, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Robert: In R, use the text() function.

    Tom: I got the data from the CNN website and just typed in the numbers myself. I actually used 2006 census numbers. I expect 2004 and 2008 weren’t much different.

    Bill R.: I was actually frustrated with how little information they were putting on TV. I’ll have to save that rant for another post.

    Jhu, Martin: Maybe yes on that.

    Fabrice: Good question. I wonder what the income and voting graph would’ve looked like if it had been Clinton vs. Romney.

    Bill B.: Thanks for the comment. I put in some jargon to maintain my street-cred.

    RR: Race was part of the story, to be sure. But, according to the exit polls, Obama outperformed Kerry by 3% even among whites. A 3% shift would’ve given Obama the White House. It would’ve been a narrower victory to be sure, but a win is a win.

  • 17. c.l. ball  |  November 5th, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Was turnout much lower than expected? Using the number of votes v. 2004 FEC data for Bush and Kerry, it seems that either turn-out was as high as expected or nth parties did really well (compared to 2004). My math shows Obama getting under a million votes more than Bush in 2004 but McCain getting over 3 million votes less than Kerry in 2004.

  • 18. No Revolution, No Biparti…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    [...] November 5th, 2008 by SocProf and tagged Politics, US Elections Andrew Gelman has the first great post on data analysis (the only interesting thing about this totally predictable and unsurprising [...]

  • 19. Income and voting: what i…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    [...] The first thing I did after getting back from Grant Park was to look at the exit poll results on income and voting and compare to 2000 and 2004. [...]

  • 20. ravi  |  November 5th, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Is that personal/individual or family income, in plots 1 and 2?

  • 21. Matthew Yglesias » …  |  November 5th, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    [...] from the 2004 map. But the binary red/blue coding can be misleading. Andrew Gelman’s graph shows that the basic “map” is pretty [...]

  • 22. Alon Levy  |  November 5th, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Jhu, I don’t see any Bradley effect here. Alaska and Wyoming are Western states with very few blacks, and no tradition of racially divisive politics. The Southern states you mention are outliers even in the South, and at any rate, standard Bradley effect theory predicts it will be found in the Northeast, where racism is veiled, more than in the South, where it is open.

  • 23. Vince  |  November 5th, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Does the Obama 08 residual (predicted from Kerry 04) correlate with the Kerry 04 residual (predicted from Gore 00)? If so, that suggests that the map is changing over time (in terms of the relative positions of states). Even if the changes only amount to a couple percentage points per election cycle (relative to the nationwide vote), they’ll accumulate over time.

  • 24. David Carlton  |  November 5th, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    This makes sense to me, but, following up on jhu, I’d also like to suggest one tweak, based on an observation from here in Tennessee. If one were to draw a regression line through these data points, it would lie roughly parallel to, but to the left of, the line indicating equal Democratic percentages in 2004 and 2008. The vast majority of the states lie above the equal-percentage line, but a cluster of states on the lower end lie on or below it: OK, LA, AR, TN, WV, AK, and AZ. AK and AZ are self explanatory; the others form a cohesive cluster that, along with nearby AL, MS, and KY can be called the Central South. These states were basically immune to Gelman’s Obama shift, or in the case of LA and AR actually went the other direction. Katrina probably explains LA in part, but it appears to this Nashvillian [Nashville and Memphis being blue islands in a sea of red] that this is a zone in which cultural politics retained its salience [Republicans have taken over the TN General Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction]. If those who see the Republican Party as an increasingly southernized rump are correct, one might expect Republicanism to intensify in these places even as it weakens elsewhere. The differing behavior of these states from VA, NC, and FL [and even, on this evidence, SC and GA] suggests that Obama may have in fact succeeded in fracturing the South, but mainly by revealing a difference between southern states [mainly on the East Coast] that follow national shifts and those that don’t.

  • 25. Marc S.  |  November 5th, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Re: your point 6. How did the pre-election polls do?” ”

    I was led to believe that the polls may underestimate Obama’s performance for two reasons:

    1. Most polls excluded cell-phones and thus missed cell-phone only voters who heavily favored Obama. Adjusting for this effect across relevant polls would increase Obama’s expected performance by 2-4% (though average of polls would be affected less).

    2. An excellent GOTV “ground game” is supposedly capable of improving performance over polls by 2-3%. Obama reportedly had one of the best ground games in history, and McCain’s was believed to be terrible.

    If the above two points are accurate, shouldn’t we have expected Obama to reach (conservatively), say, 56% of the popular vote? If so, what kept him at 52%?

  • 26. William Leblanc  |  November 5th, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    A few thoughts on ethnic voting…

    1. As RR said, an ethnic voting story might generate similar effects to the economic voting story (since the two are probably heavily correlated will be hard to pull them apart).

    2. Ethnic voting (Hispanics becoming solidly Democratic in particular) would explain NV and NM outliers (and I suspect is part of the story in CO as well – 73% support for Obama by Hispanics in CO according to MSNBC exit polls)

    3. If we consider the electoral college, if NV (~55%), CO (~52.6% currently), and NM (~57%) are now “safe” Democratic states because of Hispanic support, then the Democratic party could win in 2012 (278 electoral votes) losing Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina (all marginal states less <52% this year)

    4. Therefore, as a policy matter, I suspect the Obama administration will be VERY sensitive to the needs and interests of Hispanics. If they can maintain CO, NV, and NM, they will be almost bullet-proof to a bad economy in 2012. Especially CO; CO looks like the marginal state.

    So I agree that economics explains why this was a very strong year (in the electoral college) for the Democrats, but I suspect that racial politics is going to have a lingering impact on both policy and long-run presidential politics.

  • 27. mpowell  |  November 5th, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    One note: Do we really care how the models perform in the 10 bluest and 10 reddest states? You could make an argument that we should throw those out in evaluating Silver’s state level predictions. First, they aren’t polled much so you know the predictions will be bad. Second, a prediction should be evaluated on the basis of it’s utility. Getting the close states right is a lot more important, imop.

  • 28. Michael Cohen  |  November 5th, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Silvers Aggregation was no doubt well within the electoral voted standard deviations consistent with the prior polling. Absolutely no surprises. I guess thats the buggiest surprise

  • 29. Hudson  |  November 5th, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    What my frank opinion? What a bunch of hooey.

    First of all, what is the difference between a “redrawn red/blue map” and “a national partisan swing”?

    Sounds like a distinction without a difference to me.

    In any case: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina all turned blue (plus Missouri is essentially tied). Obama massively outperformed Gore and Kerry in these states.

    But the red/blue map wasn’t “redrawn.” Oh. Okay. Rrright.

    You also say “the election was pretty close” at a 5% difference.

    First of all, 5% is *not* remotely close in this country’s elections. Maybe you missed the past couple. Those were close. Perhaps the workings of the Electoral College are a mystery to you? Any national margin above 2% results in huge disparities in the EC.

    Oh, and anyway: The margin was 6%. Not 5%.

    Going to go yell at the person who recommended this site to me. Later.

  • 30. Jason Ruspini  |  November 5th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    When you compare Nate Silver and Intrade in the individual state probability markets it makes a difference whether you use absolute or squared errors. With absolute errors, he kills Intrade even after commissions are accounted for — although the error is comparable in the markets that were in the 30-70% band. With squared errors, Silver has a much smaller edge. Squaring the errors effectively removes the markets’ penalty for being less confident near extreme prices. I wasn’t sure if that was justified, but mpowell’s comment is interesting on that point.

  • 31. JRoth  |  November 5th, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I don’t quite understand the contention that the youth vote once again failed to materialize. No, one percentage point increase from ’04 to ’08 doesn’t look very big, but that’s in the context of an overall turnout boost of, what, 18%? So it looks like ~20% more under-30s voted in 2008 than in 2004 – that’s not a small increase.

    IOW, they managed to increase their participation rate (albeit slightly) even against a background of generally increasing participation. I know it’s not inspiring like them becoming 22% (or more) of the electorate would be, but it’s not nothing.

  • 32. Douglas Johnson  |  November 5th, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Re: turnout levels

    California still has an unknown number of ballots left to count, but it’s somewhere between 1.5 and 3 million ballots.

    Given the state’s 61 – 37% split, that will add between 1 million and 1.8 million votes to Obaman’s national count, plus 500,000 to 1.1 million to McCain’s count.

    Per comment #17, there’s your missing 2 million votes and then some. The remainder, plus the votes remaining to be counted in the other 49 states represent the increase in turnout over 2004.

  • 33. US 2008 Presidential Elec…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    [...] Gelman, who writes at Statistical modeling, has a quick summary of what took place over on his redbluerichpoor site.  The two take-away thoughts for [...]

  • 34. Fr.  |  November 5th, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Andrew: Where did you get comparable age breaks on CNN?

    I have noticed CNN 2008 breaks down at 45-64 and then 65+, whereas CNN 2004 was broken down 45-59 and then 60+ (yet also giving 65+).

  • 35. Three Links For The Elect…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    [...] RedBlueRichPoor comes an excellent snap analysis of the election. Nothing much to say about it except read [...]

  • 36. Spread My Wealth!…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    [...] Gelman adds finer graphical detail. 2. As with previous Republican candidates, McCain did better among the rich than the [...]

  • 37. Social vs Economic Issues…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    [...] Social vs Economic Issues: US vs NZ Elections 6 11 2008 Greg Mankiw has blogged about young voters abandoning the republican party in the recent Presidnetial election, citing this graph from Andrew Gelman [...]

  • 38. The emerging Democrat maj…  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    [...] UPDATE: Red State, Blue State has some interesting psephology. [...]

  • 39. Scott de B.  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    How else would you define “redrawing the red/blue map” other than “a nationwide partisan swing”?

    By your definition, Reagan didn’t redraw the national map, but if Mondale’s lone state in 1984 had been Alabama instead of Minnesota, he would have.

  • 40. Will Wilkinson Spreads th…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 1:39 am

    [...] minority voters in all categories, but it was the rich and the young who put him over the top. Andrew Gelman provides some graphics and Will Wilkinson provides a good explanation for the shift: This last one is the stunner. After [...]

  • 41. Etl World News | The elec…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 2:17 am

    [...] can’t not cover this topic, so here is Andrew Gelman with the bottom line.  The main result, it seems, is that the electoral gap between the young and the old increased [...]

  • 42. Matthew  |  November 6th, 2008 at 3:20 am

    very good analysis. Using two colors in your map will make it easier to read (light to dark red for Mac, light to dark blue for Obama).

    If you don’t have much gis see geoda, brewer color, and QGIS for some free software and advice.

  • 43. robert e  |  November 6th, 2008 at 3:32 am

    Well done, sir. Thanks, and…

    Going out on a limb putting the national shift on the economy, isn’t it? That requires discounting, among other things: a complete retooling of Democratic electoral strategy (50 state), a large disparity in money, the biggest and best run ground game in decades, the most disciplined campaign in decades, the most transparently sleazy, cynical and erratic campaign I can remember, and a public increasingly fed up with endless war, torture, gulags, and the cost of health care. Finally, there is the dramatic shift in youth support that you so aptly illustrated. That’s a lot to discount.

    re the shift in minority support: Obama’s share among either white or A-A voters increased by 7-8% over Kerry, while support among other races increased by double digits. It would be interesting to see racial breakdown among first-time voters.


    A one percent difference between exit polls is probably inconclusive. But the poster’s point is that youth remains underrepresented (while the “older” demographic are overrepresented), thus underwhelming. On the other hand, I would not be surprised if youth were over-representing on the ground game (canvassing, registering, getting out the vote, etc.), and had the kind of impact exit polls don’t track.

  • 44. 4 Lazy Cats’ Backya…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 5:30 am

    [...] Posted by anarinsk on Thursday, November 6, 2008, at 6:29 pm, and filed under MewMew. Follow any responses to this post with its comments RSS feed. You can post a comment or trackback from your blog. [...]

  • 45. Gotten Chillier; some pos…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 7:10 am

    [...] is true that most of the country did “shift to the left” (e. g., whereas Utah was “redder” than Massachusetts as usual, both were [...]

  • 46. derek  |  November 6th, 2008 at 7:34 am

    A couple of people here are really not clear on the concept, are they?

    “A national swing” = everybody moves a little one way, to about the same degree. This pushes some swing states over the line.

    “Redrawing the map” = some states move left, others move right. Or at the very least, some states move further or less far than others.

    What Andrew is saying is that no states changed “against the tide”, i.e. from D to R in a year when D won. Also, few states voted less for the Democrat in 2008 than did in 2004, and few voted substantially more or less than the other states. It was a small uniform movement, not a redistribution of strongholds.

  • 47. Robert Bell  |  November 6th, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Corey, Andrew: much obliged.

  • 48. Stones Cry Out - If they …  |  November 6th, 2008 at 10:18 am

    [...] Party alliance and income and more do check out the highlighted link here. [...]

  • 49. More on the shift from Re…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 10:53 am

    [...] Brad Delong observes that there is a clear regional exception to the idea of a broad shift in the vote from the Republicans to the Democrats (the original scatterplot comes from Andrew Gelman): [...]

  • 50. Another interesting thing…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    [...] was that the proportion of young voters voting Republican went down. Here’s a graph from Andrew Gelman’s blog that shows what I’m talking [...]

  • 51. SMSgt Mac  |  November 6th, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for crunching the numbers.
    I was telling a co-worker on election day there were only four kinds of reasons anyone would vote for Obama. Looks like Obama leveraged the ‘youth’ vote’s Ignorance and Irrationality and the ‘extreme rich’ segment’s Evilness. The Stupidity factor is probably spread through all the demographics a little more evenly and will be harder to winnow out of the bulk.
    Thanks Again!

  • 52. Real Time Economics : Sec…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 11:09 am

    [...] Crunching Election Numbers: Andrew Gelman of the Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State blog looks at some of the numbers from the 2008 election. “The red/blue map was not redrawn; it was more of a national partisan swing? The standard deviation of the state swings (excluding D.C. and the unusual case of Hawaii) was 3.3%. That is, after accounting for the national swing in Obama?s favor, most of the states were within 3% of where they were, compared to their relative positions in 2004? Obama didn?t redraw the map; he shifted the map over in his favor. (Or, to put it more precisely, the economy shifted the map over in the Democrats? favor and Obama took advantage of this.)” [...]

  • 53. Do the numbers « Ze…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 11:32 am

    [...] some plotting of data from the notoriously inaccurate exit polls. That aside, the data was summarized in to graphs that seem hardly ideal for the message they’re trying to get [...]

  • 54. the next battleground sta…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    [...] more clearly from this New York Times chart of where McCain did much better than Bush: and in this regression graph: ….where we can see which states fall most outside the patterns from 2004. Let’s just [...]

  • 55. » B…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    [...] don’t mean to be a buzzkill, and if you read more of Andrew Gelman’s stuff it looks like there really were some interesting demographic shifts. But Obama got on to some [...]

  • 56. phineas  |  November 6th, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Andrew Gelman sees a pattern in the accuracies of the pre-election pollsters: Obama underperformed poll-based expectations in states where the polls had him way down, and he outperformed where the polls had him up. To this it should be added that states where Obama was way down, or way up, weren’t polled as heavily as states where the contest was close. Thus, it’s nice to find the state polling average to be most accurate in the states that were most polled. I think the pollsters as a group are entitled to take a victory lap. It was not an easy election to poll. The exit poll conducted on election day is considerably less accurate than the polling averages of the days leading up to the election. It seems the exit poll is “a piece of trash” (to quote Karl Rove) because the outcome indicated by the straight-up exit poll is way off from the truth in a great many states. This in turn means that information based on the exit poll, such as Andrew Gelman’s information about youth turnout above, should be read with a lot of reserve, doubt, and circumspection.

  • 57. Blue America « Uptu…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    [...] aside the frame provided by Judis’s analogies, it’s clear that [Obama's] victory wasn’t that large of a sweep: a difference of about 7.5 million votes separated them, or about 6% of all votes cast. Besides the [...]

  • 58. phineas  |  November 6th, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Here’s Karl Rove today at “for the third election in a row the exit polls were trash. The raw numbers forecast an 18-point Obama win, news organizations who underwrote the poll arbitrarily dialed it down to a 10-point Obama edge, and the actual margin was six.”

  • 59. TE  |  November 6th, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    The rational independents and republicans made the difference for Obama. We are practical above all. When a party or candidate veers from reality, we switch. It is clear that ideological free trade, deregulation etc. are not working. Time for something new, we will see if Obama has the answer.

  • 60. SP  |  November 6th, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Is the income in #2 charts household income or individual income? Charts such as these consistently omit that information. IMHO it is important to be explicit and not leave it for assumption.

  • 61. zorak  |  November 6th, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Although a completely red state this year, Obama gained 8% in Oklahoma County (most populous of the 77 counties) over Kerry in 2004. This is fascinating to me.

    Thanks for all the graphs; data organization is cool!

  • 62. Rich States still Vote De…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    [...] posted earlier about how wealthier voters again voted disproportionally Republican. What about states? Did rich states vote Democratic, as they did in 2004? Did poor states vote [...]

  • 63. Cara Arcuni  |  November 6th, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    I disagree with your assessment that the youth vote “didn’t turn out.” You say this based on the statistic that the youth vote was a similar _percentage_ of the total vote. In a year when the participation of all groups rise, how is the percentage supposed to change? Please use the statistic of absolute numbers – this many more hundred thousand or so. I will believe you then. There was too much excitement on my college campus for me to believe that the youth vote “didn’t turn out”.

  • 64. Lucas  |  November 6th, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    I’m confused about the map at the end of point 5. Kerry lost Ohio, but Obama won it. Wouldn’t that mean that Obama did well, not McCain? Or is that grey a “light” color? Not a very well designed graph, but very interesting overall.

  • 65. More on the Youth Vote &l;…  |  November 6th, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    [...] up with my earlier post about the Obama youth movement, here’s a telling graphic from Andrew Gelman. Notice the massive drop-off in youth support for the Republican party. The Republican party has [...]

  • 66. Rick Wicks  |  November 6th, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Why no Alaska or Hawaii on the “U.S.” map? (I’m from Alaska — and voted for Obama!)

  • 67. The Fire of a New Generat…  |  November 7th, 2008 at 12:14 am

    [...] scientist Andrew Gelman displays it best in a graph on his blog that compares the voting patterns of young people in 2000, 2004, and 2008. The youth vote of today [...]

  • 68. Michael R. Head  |  November 7th, 2008 at 1:41 am

    I would like to see a state-by-state turnout comparison from 2004-2008. In other words answer the question, “which locations have marginally higher turnouts”.

    I’d like to see a national district-by-district map of the country visualizing the same data down to the finest level of resolution possible. I’d be interested both in hard numbers (% of eligible voters in a locality) and relative numbers (change in % since some previous election).

  • 69. Herunar  |  November 7th, 2008 at 4:33 am

    Andrew, quite a few states did move against the tide (LA, TN, some other states at the extreme South), and quite a few states had large swings – Indiana and North Carolina, for example. It was not as big a redrawing as, say, 1964. But there’s a trend here in which the Republican party becomes increasingly based in the South and minorities, which are rapidly growing, are becoming increasingly Democratic. This is an important trend that may make Republican the minority party for decades to come.

  • 70. Pinko Magazine » Fr…  |  November 7th, 2008 at 5:10 am

    [...] every word of this Newsweek insider series on the election, right? It’s so good. A colleague noted this piece by Andrew Gelman as his favorite to date explaining “how Obama won.” Warning, it’s not inspiring at [...]

  • 71. Fr.  |  November 7th, 2008 at 5:31 am

    Andrew, would you mind posting the R code somewhere for these graphs too please?

  • 72. Links - November 7th 2008…  |  November 7th, 2008 at 8:43 am

    [...] Blue Rich Poor has a fantastically detailed breakdown of who voted for whom in the US Presidential [...]

  • 73. Jacob Christensen ›…  |  November 7th, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    [...] Election 2008: what really happened | Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State (tags: voting statistics polling politics elections) [...]

  • 74. The Moderate Voice…  |  November 7th, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Generation Obama…

    The day after the election, I received an e-mail from my father: “Congratulations to you and your generation. The torch has been passed.”
    Obviously he didn’t mean in terms in governance. Although a torch has been passed in that sense…

  • 75. The Culture War is over. …  |  November 7th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    [...] problem with the first strategy is that demographics are against it (see also this). The Republicans’ core — the Palin supporters, the Joe the Plumbers — are white, [...]

  • 76. Fruits and Votes » …  |  November 7th, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    [...] Andrew Gelman has posted several outstanding graphics and analysis of the 2008 election at his Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State blog. In particular I want to call attention to the graphs that show the 2000-2004 and 2004-2008 swings by state (the fourth and fifth graphs in “Election 2008: what really happened“). [...]

  • 77. What does non-uniform par…  |  November 7th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    [...] wrote here here that the red/blue map was not redrawn; it was more of a national partisan swing. This raises [...]

  • 78. Left Flank…  |  November 8th, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Young Bloods and Ground Games…

  • 79. What Really Happened &laq;…  |  November 8th, 2008 at 11:12 am

    [...] Really Happened Andrew Gelman breaks down the [...]

  • 80. David Crow  |  November 8th, 2008 at 3:56 pm


    Thanks for this analysis. You base your conclusion that there was “no massive turnout among young voters” on the fact that, as a proportion of all voters, young voters’ share increased by only one percentage point (from 17% to 18%) from 2004 to 2008.

    I’m wondering, though, if this is the correct measure. Might it have been the case that there was, in fact, a massive increase in youth turnout, but also a massive increase in turnout across the board so that young people’s relative vote share remained stable? I’m willing to bet that if you took the absolute difference between the raw number of young people who voted in 2008 and the raw number who voted in 2004 and divided the difference by the number of young people who voted in 2004, you would see an increase that could reasonably be termed “massive”. If other demographic segments exhibited similarly “massive” increases, though, young people’s share of total turnout would be stable.

    Just wondering.

    David Crow
    Survey Research Center
    UC Riverside

  • 81. Jon  |  November 9th, 2008 at 12:56 am

    The correlation of age to vote is striking, in virtually every state. Even in the red states, the youngest group of voters tended to come in for Obama. Generational change, or susceptibility to respond to the issues of the time?

    Also… are the youngest voters disproportionately non-white?

  • 82. Andrew  |  November 9th, 2008 at 1:58 am

    To various commenters: Yes, approximately uniform is not the same as exactly uniform. See some later entries for examples.

    Fr: I’d post the R code but it’s just so ugly I’m embarrassed. I do have some slightly cleaner R code in a recent entry at my other blog.

    David: There’s still some debate on what the total turnout was in 2008.

    Jon: I want to get my hands on the raw exit poll and pre-election poll data to answer such questions.

  • 83. I believe the children ar…  |  November 9th, 2008 at 8:40 am

    [...] into the polling data in the wake of Obama’s victory, some interesting patterns are emerging. This, for instance, is pretty striking: Relative to 2004, the number of under 30s who voted stayed [...]

  • 84. Fr.  |  November 9th, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Andrew — I’ve read your wonderful code in the other post, that’s precisely why I want the code for these graphs too. I know too little about R and am eager to learn from these graphs!

    I’m especially interested in the code for the first graphs, so that I can build my own using the exit polls I have collected on my side (same as yours, except I did not find the same data on age groups: CNN exit polls for 2000, 2004, 2008 do not use the same intervals).

    Data here, with some French:

  • 85. The myth of poor Democrat…  |  November 10th, 2008 at 12:44 am

    [...] beat Kerry nearly everywhere, fairly uniformly with only a few exceptions–we knew that–but my point here is that Obama’s swings weren’t quite as large, on average, as [...]

  • 86. Pat  |  November 11th, 2008 at 5:50 am

    I would like it if you would look at something other than annual salary to define “rich” v. “poor”. Rather if possible look at net worth.

    Someone who is earning a high income but is maxed out on credit cards may be saving less that someone with a smaller salary but higher savings ability. As a result that “high-income” earner is disproportionately effected but changes in the income taxes. Small increases in income taxes will push these high-earners/high-spenders into negative territory. Thus, these people are very sensitive to the anti-tax argument.

  • 87. alaskagrafe  |  November 11th, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Do you have a beef with Alaska and Hawaii? No data displayed?

  • 88. alex  |  November 13th, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    THanks 4 the graphs!!! used it for a school project

  • 89. on the left side…..…  |  November 15th, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    [...] favorisierte übrigens jetzt der High-Tech-Sektor und der Finanzsektor Obama. Auch Andrew Gelman bestätigt diese herausragende Rolle der Demokraten unter den oberen Einkommensgruppen (die [...]

  • 90. Dataset of the Day: How D…  |  November 17th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    [...] by the Red State Blue State Rich State Poor State Blog shows that overall, within the $200 thousand income category, republican votes decreased in the [...]

  • 91. Predicting the election o…  |  December 2nd, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    [...] Election 2008: what really happened [...]

  • 92. Election 2008: What Reall…  |  December 30th, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    [...] I was just in Grant Park . . . it was pretty cool but I couldn’t actually hear anything.  So I went back to my hotel room and crunched some numbers. [...]

  • 93. Jim  |  December 30th, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Would Obama had still been elected if the minimum voting age was 21?

  • 94. Matthew Yglesias » …  |  January 14th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    [...] Election commentary had a tendency to get into some very fine-grained state-by-state analysis about what does and doesn’t appeal to voters in Pennsylvania or Colorado or the I-4 corridor in Florida and so forth. The evidence, however, was of a pretty boring more-or-less uniform national swing: [...]

  • 95. Get Defunct Outta My Face…  |  March 24th, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    [...] is the big lie of the Daily Kos-David Frum-Andrew Sullivan left-wing axis. While the youth vote turned out in large numbers in 2008 for the Democrats, the results in the long run may be specific to the issue of this [...]

  • 96. Yes, we can « alfan…  |  December 8th, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    [...] De hecho, se había publicado uno casi idéntico poco antes. Ya he tenido tiempo de ver algunos análisis muy interesantes, e incluso una entrevista a mi ídolo en esta campaña, Nate Silver, el creador de , que [...]

  • 97. In Mala Fide | Inter-clas…  |  December 15th, 2009 at 4:59 am

    [...] Finally, another analysis from the Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State blog (hat tip: Half Sigma) lends further credence to Frank’s observations: [...]

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