LOS ANGELES, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- The Republican Party triumphed in the 2002 midterm elections in part because the GOP's kind of voters -- married, middle-aged, affluent, and white -- showed up at the polls in relatively large numbers. In contrast, in the 2004 elections, the normal demographic cycle is likely to be running in the Democrats' direction.
The reason is because more people cast ballots in presidential election years than in the less glamorous off-years, and these intermittent voters tend to come from more Democratic-leaning demographic groups.
For example, last year Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives won 55 percent of single voters but only 41 percent of married voters. Yet, this staunch support from unmarried voters didn't help Democrats as much as it would have during a presidential election year because single voters made up only 30 percent of the electorate, down from 35 percent during the more exciting Bush-Gore election of 2000. (This is according to United Press International's analysis of recently released data from the Voter News Service national exit poll of 17,872 voters in last year's election.)
Election analyst Ruy Teixeira, co-author of "The Emerging Democratic Majority," told UPI the he suspects married couples tend to remind each other to go to the polls when it's Election Day. In contrast, those who live alone could be more likely to forget to vote. Fortunately for the Democrats next year, the hoopla surrounding presidential elections is harder to tune out.
Similarly, the percentage of voters age 18-29 fell from 16 percent in 2000 to only 11 percent. The young were the only age cohort among whom the Democrats managed to tie the Republicans in last year's voting. The under-30 crowd is likely to vote in greater numbers next year because the presidential race works to personalize politics. That makes voting more competitive for mindspace and time with all the other activities going on in young peoples' lives.
Non-whites gave 77 percent of their votes to Democratic candidates, up from 75 percent in 2000, but the minority share of the electorate declined from 19 percent in the last presidential year to 18 percent, even though the non-white share of the population is growing steadily. In the long run, the racial population trend toward a less white America is expected to benefit Democrats.
Those making over $75,000 annually grew from 28 percent of voters in the boom year of 2000 to 32 percent in the bust year of 2002, and the Democrats earned only three-eighths of their support. In presidential elections years, a higher proportion of poor and moderate income citizens are likely to come to the polls.
One of the most striking differences between 2000 and 2002 was the sharp drop in percentage of the electorate made up of women who work full time -- from 31 percent to 18 percent.
Working women were a strong Democratic constituency in the past, but this segment collapsed both in numbers and liberalism in 2002, voting Democratic by only a 50-48 split, compared to 57-41 in 2000. These unexpected changes contributed to one of the major reasons the Democrats lost House seats in 2002: the Democrats' share of total female votes dropped from 53 percent to 48 percent, giving the GOP House candidates victory among women for the first time in decades.
Due to the gender gap that makes men more likely to come from Planet Elephant while women are from Planet Donkey, the Democrats can't possibly win in 2004 unless they recapture the female vote, and by a substantial margin. One clear need would be to excite more working women to turn out.
Of course, much will depend on how well the parties execute their get-out-the-vote drives. The Republicans felt that the Democrats had beaten them in the "ground game" in 1998 and 2000, so they put together a formidable effort in 2002 called the "72-Hour Plan." The Democrats have vowed to elevate their game in 2004.