March 30, 2010
In a new take on the 2008 presidential election, a Michigan professor says that Barack Obama did not need a surge of millions of first-time voters such as young people to seize the presidency – just a swing of votes away from the Republican column between 2004 and 2008.
“In the 2008 election, Barack Obama’s campaign brought many new voters to
the polls. Were these new voters necessary for Obama’s victory? In this study, I find that
they were not,” writes Arthur Lupia, a political scientist at University of Michigan.
“The basis of this finding is an examination of decisions made by people who
voted for George W. Bush in 2004. …Bush voters’ decisions not to vote or to
support Obama were a sufficient condition for Obama’s victory.”
While Obama won 69 million votes, 10 million more than fellow Democrat John Kerry won in 2004, Lupia says Obama didn’t need them to win the election over Republican John McCain.
“Suppose that the Obama campaign lured no new voters to the polls in November 2008. In this scenario, McCain would have won the popular vote by over 850,000 votes, but Obama would still be the forty-fourth president,” Lupia writes.
Obama, he says, would still win all the state Kerry won, plus three that Kerry lhad lost by narrow margins: Iowa, New Mexico, and Ohio.
“Bush won by very small margins in several states,” Lupia writes. “Therefore, if slightly more than four out of every hundred people who voted for Bush in the state of Ohio in 2004 either voted for Obama or stayed home on Election Day in 2008 … and if all other voters across the country voted for a candidate of the same party in 2008 as they
did in 2004, Obama would still have been elected the nation’s forty-fourth president.”
Nearly one out four respondents who said they voted for Bush in 2004 reported that they did not vote for McCain in 2008, including 15 percent who voted for Obama and 7 percent who did not vote at all in 2008.
“When considering whether or not to support John McCain in 2008,” Lupia says, “a number of Bush voters decided, `No We Can’t.’”