More exit poll comparisons, 2000-2004-2008

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

Continuing on the previous post, which covered basic demographic categories of gender, race, age, income, education and party ID, here are several other side-by-side comparisons between the exit poll data on the 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.

Among which groups has Obama done better or worse, and by how much, than Kerry and Gore did? A look at first-time voters, religious groups, married versus unmarried voters, union households and gun-owning households, urban, suburban and rural voters, and voters from the different regions of the country.

When looking at these charts, keep the overall, national data in mind. Gore got 48.4% of the vote, Kerry 48.3% and Obama 52.6% – so that’s the standard. If Obama gained 5% or more in a demographic group compared to Kerry and Gore, it means he made bigger advances in this group than on average; if he gained 3% or less, it means he “underperformed” in comparison with other demographic groups.


Share of voters: 9% in 2000; 11% in 2004; 11% in 2008.

Yes, that’s one huge blue victory in 2008 – the contrast with previous cycles, in which the Democratic candidate already had the advantage, is enormous. It’s an advance that dwarfs all others in this overview.


Share of voters: 54% in 2000; 54% in 2004; 54% in 2008.

Note that the increased turnout that Obama inspired among African-Americans (and, presumably, a corresponding decreased turnout among the white evangelical vote Bush mobilised so successfully in 2004) should have helped amplify Obama’s gains among Protestants.

The fact that it didn’t (his gains were the same as the national average) suggests that white protestants were somewhat less likely to vote for him than for Kerry or Gore. Unfortunately there’s no comparative data to confirm this. This year, Obama received 34% of the vote of white Protestants and McCain 65% — but there’s no comparable numbers for religion by race for 2004 and 2000.


Share of voters: 26% in 2000; 27% in 2004; 27% in 2008.

The Catholics confirm their swing voter status. Note that here Obama’s high support among Latinos, especially compared to 2004 when Bush was making inroads among them, helps shift his numbers among Catholics upward. Among white Catholics, Obama received 47% of the vote and McCain 52% — no comparable numbers for religion by race available for 2004 and 2000.


Share of voters: 1% in 2000; 3% in 2004; 2% in 2008.

Despite the hype early in the election season that Jewish voters would be wary of voting for a black candidate, and despite all the fearmongering from conservatives about how Obama was supposedly anti-Israel, he received a larger share of the Jewish vote than Kerry did, almost on a par with what Gore got.


Share of voters: 9% in 2000; 10% in 2004; 12% in 2008.

The Bush presidency has driven non-religious voters ever further into Democratic arms. While Kerry faced a 3-point swing to Bush nationally, he held his ground among secular voters, keeping Gore’s voters and picking up most all of Nader’s. This year, Obama enjoyed a 9-point swing nationally – and a 16-point one among secular voters. And they’re a growing minority group too.


Share of voters: 65% in 2000; 63% in 2004; 66% in 2008.


Share of voters: 35% in 2000; 37% in 2004; 34% in 2008.

The marriage gap grows ever larger. In 2000, married voters went for Bush by 9 and unmarried voters for Gore by 19 – a difference of 28 points. In 2004, married voters went for Bush by 15 and unmarried voters for Kerry by 18 – a difference of 33 points. In 2008, married voters went for McCain by 5 and unmarried voters for Obama by 32 – a difference of 37 points.

Unmarried women turned out especially overwhelmingly for Obama. Figuring out by how much exactly takes some recalculation, as the exit polls only break down the vote into four more specific income groups (married /unmarried with/without children), but it turns out they went for Obama over McCain by 71% to 29%. Married women, conversely, voted much like their husbands and narrowly went for McCain by 51% to 49%.


Share of voters: 26% in 2000; 24% in 2004; 21% in 2008.

Note the decreasing share of union households in the electorate. Hopefully the Obama presidency will see some reform of the regulations that now make it hard for workers to unionise (or rather, the establishment and enforcement of some regulations to make it easier for workers to unionise), so this trend can be countered somewhat.

What’s most striking about these numbers is how stable they are. 59% of union household voters have voted for the Democratic candidate three elections in a row. Since overall, Gore got 48.4% of the vote, Kerry 48.3% and Obama 52.6%, this means that Obama somewhat underperformed in this constituency, comparatively speaking.


Share of voters: 48% in 2000; 41% in 2004; 42% in 2008.

Almost a mirror image of the vote of union households. Here, too, remarkable stability across the years, just with the proportions in reverse. The Democratic candidate got 36-37% in three consecutive elections. Since overall, Obama got 4% more than Gore and Kerry, the fact that he got just 1% more among gun owning households means that he underperformed slightly. But he still got over a third of them, despite the whole controversy about bitter Pennsylvanians clinging to their guns.


Share of voters: 29% in 2000; 30% in 2004; 30% in 2008.

Obama’s and McCain’s numbers are roughly comparable to Bush’s and Gore’s in 2000. Kerry, in comparison, clearly underperformed, probably because the success Bush had in narrowing the gap in the Northeast and specifically greater New York. (The vaunted “security moms”.)


Share of voters: 43% in 2000; 46% in 2004; 49% in 2008.

Look at that constituency grow.. and the ultimate bellwether voters they are too, these suburbanites. In each of these three elections, suburban voters voted in almost the same proportions as the national result, at most giving a candidate 2% more or less. Another way to put this is that urban and rural voters apparently basically cancel each other out.


Share of voters: 28% in 2000; 25% in 2004; 21% in 2008.

An ever decreasing slice of the electorate — and remarkably, an ever more Democratic one. Even as Bush gained 3% nationally in 2004, he lost 2 points among rural and small town voters. This year, rural area voters swung to the Democrats in the same proportions as the national average – Obama got 3% more than Kerry, McCain 4% less than Bush.


Share of voters: 23% in 2000; 22% in 2004; 21% in 2008.

Bush gained a little bit more ground here in 2004 than in the other regions, even as the Northeast still remained a blue bulwark, of course. Today, too, the Northeast remains the most Democratic-leaning region of the country, but it is also the one with the smallest swing to Obama.


Share of voters: 26% in 2000; 26% in 2004; 24% in 2008.

Big swing to Obama here. Nationally, Obama achieved a 9% swing to the Democrats compared to 2004, and a 6% swing compared to 2000; for the Midwest those swings are 13% and 11%. The biggest swings in the Midwest (compared to ’04) occurred in Indiana (22%), North Dakota (19%), Nebraska (17%) and Illinois (14%).


Share of voters: 31% in 2000; 32% in 2004; 32% in 2008.

The South leans very Republican, and has obviously been the “reddest” region of the country in all these three elections. Its shifts from one election to the next are pretty much the same as those nationwide though.


Share of voters: 21% in 2000; 20% in 2004; 23% in 2008.

The region with the biggest swing to Obama, whether compared to 2004 or 2000. Again, nationally Obama achieved a 9% swing from 2004 and a 6% swing from 2000; for the West those swings are 16% and 15%. The biggest swings in the West (compared to ’04) occurred in Montana (18%), Utah (17%), New Mexico (15%) and Nevada (15%), though it’s the 14% swing in California that probably brought in the motherlode of extra votes.



  1. Vaibhav  •  May 11, 2009 @12:52 am

    can u do a graph on families with children

  2. Dnegri  •  May 17, 2009 @8:49 pm

    I’d sure like to know which unions were prominent in the 39% voting for McCain/Palin.

  3. Jeff  •  Apr 26, 2010 @6:18 pm

    I believe it “dwarfs” all others, not “dwarves” all others.

  4. nimh  •  Apr 27, 2010 @6:32 am

    Thanks, I’ve corrected it

  5. Richard Charnin  •  Apr 16, 2012 @9:38 pm

    Unfortunately, most people are unaware that ALL final exit polls are forced to match the recorded vote and implicitly assume ZERO fraud.

    In the 1988-2008 elections, the Democrats led the average of unadjusted state exit polls by 52-42%. They also led the average of the unadjusted national exit polls by 52-43%. They won the average recorded vote by just 48-46%.

    The exit poll data is on the Roper site. All FINAL national exit poll demographic crosstabs are adjusted to match the recorded vote. The unadjusted NATIONAL exit poll numbers differ substantially from the published results – EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE BASED ON THE SAME NUMBER OF EXIT POLL RESPONDENTS.

    For example:
    In 2004, 13660 respondents: Kerry 51%- Bush 47.6% (unadjusted)
    The numbers were adjusted to match the recorded vote: Bush 50.7-48.3%.

    In 2008, for 17836 respondents: Obama 61%- McCain 37.2%% (unadjusted)
    The numbers were adjusted to match the recorded vote: Obama 52.9-45.6%

    This matching policy conceals the true voting demographics.

  6. Richard Charnin  •  Nov 20, 2013 @6:39 pm


    The 1968-2012 National True Vote Model (TVM) has been updated to include the 2012 election. Anyone can run the model and calculate the True Vote for every presidential election since 1968. Only two inputs are required: the election year and the calculation method (1-5). These deceptively simple inputs produce a wealth of information and insight.

    In the 1968-2012 elections, the Republicans led the average recorded vote 48.7-45.8%. The Democrats led the True Vote by 49.6-45.1%, a 7.4% margin discrepancy.

    The calculation methods are straightforward. Method 1 reproduces the Final National Exit Poll which is always adjusted to match the official recorded vote. It is a mathematical matrix of deceit.

    Consider the impossible turnout of previous election Republican voters required to match the recorded vote in 1972 (113%), 1988 (103%), 1992 (119%), 2004 (110%) and 2008 (103%). This recurring anomaly is a major smoking gun of massive election fraud.

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