Swings in the States, 2008 vs. 2012

by John Sides on November 13, 2012 · 19 comments

in Campaigns and elections

Michael LaCour sends the following graph, which is fun to look at and puzzle over—e.g., the pro-Obama swing in Alaska.


counsellorben November 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Not much to puzzle over in the Alaska swing. It is the removal of the home state effect of VP nominee Sarah Palin in 2008.

Seth November 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

No hockey mom on the ticket.

sparejayden November 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Why is the centerpoint at -2.5 instead of at 0? Thanks.

will November 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Because that’s the overall swing of the electorate–I think the point is to measure swings relative to the country as a whole. If you’ve ever used uselectionatlas.org, this is what they label as “trend” rather than “swing”.

Brice D. L. Acree November 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm


My assumption is that these are deviations from 2008, and Obama’s national vote margin was much smaller in 2012 than in 2008.

As far as homestate goes – curious that Romney didn’t seem to get any bounce in MA.

John Sides November 13, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I’m not so sure about the Palin theory. Relative to 2000, there wasn’t much difference between the ’08 vote in Alaska and the ’08 vote in, say, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. See the last graph in Andy’s post:


counsellorben November 13, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Actually, on further review, there is an interesting trendline in Alaska over the last four Presidential elections. Taking the official numbers from the State of Alaska Division of Elections website (http://www.elections.alaska.gov/ei_return.php), the D/R two party vote share from 2000 to 2012 looks as follows: 32.1/67.9, 36.8/63.2, 38.9/61.1, 43.1/56.9.

The Democratic candidate has improved the two party vote share over the last four elections. The smallest improvement was seen from 2004 to 2008, which would be consistent with a small home state effect for Sarah Palin.

However, the results over the last four elections are more suggestive of an underlying demographic shift in Alaska.

John Sides November 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm

That is interesting. I wonder what those demographic shifts might be.

J November 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Younger people coming home because the economy stinks?

counsellorben November 13, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Looking at the census data for 2000 and the Census Bureau official population estimate for Alaska in 2011, it appears the percentage of white population went from 75.5% in 2000 down to 67.9% in 2011. The percentages of African American and native Alaskan population were almost unchanged during this period. The percentage of Asians and Pacific Islanders almost doubled from 3.6% to 6.7%, and the percentage of other races increased from 2.1% to 7.0%.

This likely explains the trend since 2000 in the two party vote share for presidential elections in Alaska.

John Sides November 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Thanks, counsellorben. Very interesting!

Nicholas Goedert November 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I find the swings in AL/MS/LA more interesting….is it increased black turnout, or anti-Mormonism in the Deep South? It’s annoying that we don’t have exit poll data for these states as far as I can tell.

Matt Jarvis November 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Utah is also interesting. That large swing might seem to just be a Romney effect, but I’ve also read that Utah set a record low (for Utah) for turnout.
Did all the Democrats in Utah get such a clear signal that Romney was going to win Utah that they stayed home? That implies better command of the Electoral College than I would have suspected…and they had a decently competitive House race in the state.

Adam November 14, 2012 at 11:51 am

The curious thing about Utah is that Romney actually won fewer votes here than Bush did.

And no, Democrats didn’t stay home, or else Matheson would have lost to Mia Love, and Ben McAdams (SLCo mayor) would have lost to Mark Crockett.

Jesse Bacon November 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Yeah I have been wondering about Deep South as well, especially post-Katrina LA!

Chris Stratton November 14, 2012 at 9:43 am

I think the difference in MS and LA, as well as NJ, NY and RI may also partly be attributed to appreciation of jobs well done by FEMA and President Obama in handling hurricane response this year. Anti-Mormonism may be a factor in the southern states, as well as some degree of acceptance of the president as legitimate, on the margins, by virtue of his having been in office for four years.

One question: President Obama’s margin, nationally, was 7.3% in 2008 and, according to current counts is 2.8% – this number has been rising in the past week as more provisional and mail-in ballots, many from the west coast, have been counted. Why, if the national 08-12 delta was something like 4% – currently 4.5% – does it show on the chart as being approximately 2.6%? Is that the *median* change as among the states? This calls into question what otherwise is an illuminate graphic display.

Nick November 14, 2012 at 11:58 am

It’s the difference between his ’12 and ’08 total vote shares, not the difference in the margin.

Chris Stratton November 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Oh, of course. Brain cramp on my part – I fixed on the margin and somehow didn’t consider that the delta was in O’s vote percentage. So it’s clocking in at 2.3% now, heading somewhere south of 2, so it seems. As a numbers junkie, I’m interested to see what the final numbers are and whether that shuffles the states a bit.

matt w November 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I’d be curious as to what the AZ swing turns out to be once they finish counting the votes.

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