Monday, May 18, 2015

Last Call For Dying Dinosaurs

Daniel McGraw does some math for Politico and comes up with the figures that show a lot more Republican voters than Democratic voters will have died off between 2012 and 2016, enough so that the GOP will have even more of a hurdle in capturing 270 electoral votes next year.

Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters. Unless the party is able to make inroads with new voters, or discover a fountain of youth, the GOP’s slow demographic slide will continue election to election. Actuarial tables make that part clear, but just how much of a problem for the GOP is this?

Since it appears that no political data geek keeps track of voters who die between elections, I took it upon myself to do some basic math. And that quick back-of-the-napkin math shows that the trend could have a real effect in certain states, and make a battleground states like Florida and Ohio even harder for the Republican Party to capture.

By combining presidential election exit polls with mortality rates per age group from the U.S. Census Bureau, I calculated that, of the 61 million who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, about 2.75 million will be dead by the 2016 election. President Barack Obama’s voters, of course, will have died too—about 2.3 million of the 66 million who voted for the president won’t make it to 2016 either. That leaves a big gap in between, a difference of roughly 453,000 in favor of the Democrats.

Here is the methodology, using one age group as an example: According to exit polls, 5,488,091 voters aged 60 to 64 years old supported Romney in 2012. The mortality rate for that age group is 1,047.3 deaths per 100,000, which means that 57,475 of those voters died by the end of 2013. Multiply that number by four, and you get 229,900 Romney voters aged 60-to-64 who will be deceased by Election Day 2016. Doing the same calculation across the range of demographic slices pulled from exit polls and census numbers allows one to calculate the total voter deaths. It’s a rough calculation, to be sure, and there are perhaps ways to move the numbers a few thousand this way or that, but by and large, this methodology at least establishes the rough scale of the problem for the Republicans—a problem measured in the mid-hundreds of thousands of lost voters by November 2016. To the best of my knowledge, no one has calculated or published better voter death data before.

So again, with all things being equal, the ruthless calculus of mortality provides yet another problem for the GOP heading forward.  Whether or not it will be enough of a difference to help the Democrats remains, but it's certainly not helping the Republicans at this point. They have enough problems, and this only adds to them.

Ed Kilgore however has serious doubts about the whole thing.

Even if you buy McGraw’s math, the GOP’s “death deficit” amounts to about one-third of one percent of the electorate. I do think there’s something to be said for taking a good look at the generational change within the over-65 vote, in which less pro-GOP baby boomers are replacing a profoundly conservative Silent Generation.

But for those who are convinced Republicans are in some sort of demographic death spiral, the temptation will be strong to take it a bit too literally and believe that even in a four-year interval the GOP has bought itself a ticket to the boneyard. Don’t count on it.

Again, the difference is marginal at best, and it's not much of a headwind considering 125 million people plus voted in 2012.  At most, it's icing on a cake that will definitely be decided by far more meaningful factors, the largest of which is if anyone running for the Dems in 2016 will be able to turn out the Obama voter coalition.

My gut answer is no, but will they be able to build enough of a new coalition to win?

We'll see.