Friday, October 15, 2010

Dems doing well in early voting

As of today, over 700,000 Americans have already voted in the 2010 congressional midterm elections. Michael McDonald is once again reporting on early voting statistics as they come in.  Interestingly, some states provide the party affiliation of early voters, which allows us to make a halfway decent guess as to how they actually voted.  It turns out that the Democrats are doing reasonably well so far.  In Iowa, for example, the breakdown of early voters is 42% Democrats, 29% Republicans, and 29% independents.

Doesn't this violate everything we've heard so far about the likely makeup of the 2010 electorate and the enthusiasm gap?  Well, to the extent this trend holds up, it suggests an interesting divergence in party strategies.  Republicans seem to be focusing on winning the air war, while Democrats are apparently pushing mobilization.  I say this extremely tentatively, but this may just be one of those situations where everyone thinks the Obama folks are losing because they're not winning the daily skirmishes, but they're actually husbanding their resources for when it actually counts.

The growth in early voting is really an interesting and under-developed area for campaign scholars.  Researchers have noted, for example, that when someone of the president's stature comes to down town for a rally, it can give him or some other candidate a short-term boost in the polls.  That boost will soon disappear, so it doesn't matter too much.  But if the visit gets thousands of people to walk over to an early polling station and vote, it can matter quite a bit.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

The Iowa Democratic Party has been heavily pushing early voting over the past several cycles. I worked for them in the summer of 2008, and our job was primarily to contact registered Democrats and other people they had identified as likely Dem supporters and get them to sign up for absentee ballots. I also recall reading a political science paper that credited this push for helping Iowa Dems minimize their losses in 2002 ("The 2002 Iowa House and Senate Elections: The More Things Change" by David Redlawsk and Arthur Sanders)