Looking at the national exit poll

I know you’re polled out, but with all the navel-gazing today about demographics and the future of the GOP, I figured people might want a link to the numbers behind last night’s disaster. Here’s CNN’s version, Fox News’s version, and WaPo’s version, which breaks the trend lines down by arrows. (Mouse over for the numbers.) Noteworthy: The sample does apparently include respondents from all 50 states. There was some question about that after news broke last month that the exit pollster would exclude voters in 19 states, but WaPo reported at the time that that was only true of individual state-level exits. The master poll at the national level would incorporate people from everywhere, so it should be a decent yardstick for comparison against 2008.

One question I’m seeing in the comments is, “Did evangelicals turn out for Romney”? Yep, looks that way. Turnout among Protestants generally dropped slightly from 2008 (54% to 53%) but Romney’s share of the vote increased from 54% to 57%. Among white evangelicals specifically, turnout was steady at 26% of the electorate from four years ago and Romney took 78% of the vote compared to just 74% for McCain. If you’d rather slice the data by how often people go to church, the number who attend at least weekly rose from 39% in 2008 to 42% this time. McCain won 55% of that group. Romney won 59%. He improved on McCain’s numbers among Jewish voters too, from 21% of the vote in 2008 to 30% this time (or maybe more), the highest take for a Republican since 1988. If there’s any religious group that underperformed for him, it’s Catholics. He did improve on McCain’s numbers — from 45% to 48% — but O still won a majority despite the abortion-rights jamboree at the convention and the contraception mandate. Catholic turnout was down two points this time, however.

The interest in the comments in evangelicals, I think, is due to people looking at Romney’s popular vote total and wondering where all the votes went. McCain won just shy of 60 million votes in 2008. As I’m writing this, Politico’s popular vote tracker has Romney at 57.6 million. Where’d all the votes go? Possible answer: Nowhere. They’re out there, they just haven’t been counted yet, says John Podhoretz:

As I write, Mitt Romney has 57.4 million votes. John McCain ended up with 59.9 million. It’s a little noticed fact that in two weeks following every presidential election, votes continue to be reported…by the millions. As I recall, Barack Obama got something like four million more votes in the weeks after election day, while John McCain got two or three million. It’s likely that by Thanksgiving, the final vote tally will show Romney very close to or even slightly exceeding McCain’s total.

Could be that Romney turned out more than McCain, just not as many as O. This was always the challenge for Mitt: Obama won in 2008 with nearly 10 million more votes than McCain did, so he could afford to have millions of apathetic liberals stay home and still win. The lingering question is why Romney couldn’t turn out millions more Republicans to close the gap. I have no answers. Maybe the GOP in its current form has effectively maxed out national turnout. Or maybe they’re losing voters faster than they can replace them. The advantage of relying heavily on senior citizens, as the GOP does, is that they turn out reliably on election day. The disadvantage is, er, that they die, just as 18-year-olds — most of whom are pro-Obama — are coming onto the rolls. In fact, Romney won with the 54% of the electorate that was aged 45 or older. But thanks to Obama’s margin with younger voters, it wasn’t enough:

Obama actually won the 45-64 age group in 2008 (50/49) and he won younger voters by a bigger margin then (66/32) than he did this time. But it didn’t matter; the most eye-popping result from the entire exit poll, I think, is the fact that turnout among voters aged 18-29 actually increased this time (18% to 19%) from the Hopenchange-y zeitgeist moment of 2008. The sickest irony of yesterday’s result is that young voters, who have the most to lose from Democratic resistance to entitlement reform, are possibly the voters most responsible for ensuring O’s second term. More from Kristen Soltis:

Another revealing data point about the young blue electorate:

Other numbers? Romney won independents nationally by five and by similar margins in key states, but thanks to Obama’s amazing turnout effort (D+6!), it wasn’t enough. As you’ve likely heard, he lost Latinos 71/27 this time after McCain lost them 67/31; Latino turnout was also up a point nationally and may very well have won Florida for Obama. (Between that and the fact that 65% of voters sampled say illegals should be given a chance to apply for legal status, a GOP cave on immigration reform is all but assured.) As you’ve likely not heard, Obama won Asians by nearly the same margin as Latinos, 73/26, an 11-point improvement on how he did in 2008. (Asian turnout as a percentage of the electorate also increased by a point.) It’s not obvious to me what Romney or the GOP did policy-wise to alienate Asians specifically, but the perception that they’re “the white party” might be enough. Hence the agony among Republican analysts about the demographics in the exits.

This election was about the economy, though, wasn’t it? How’d Mitt do with that? Answer: Not so good.

A 10-point loss on the crucial issue of unemployment. On the question of who’d be better for the economy, Romney won by just one point, possibly because a plurality was convinced that things are getting better:

Hard to win an “economy election” if not even one-third of voters think conditions are deteriorating on election day. Hard to win too if you can’t crack 40% on the incumbent in this metric:

Finally, one more surprising detail about when people decided:

Romney lost every range except … September? September was the month of the “47 percent,” when he was getting pounded daily by Team O and fell behind in the national polls by four points. It was the low point of the campaign for him. The Mile High Massacre at the first debate that brought him back to life happened on October 3. What I think you’re seeing in the data here is people misremembering when the first debate was; they know it was “a long time ago” and that they made up their mind for Romney afterward, so they’re guessing it was September. As for the true late deciders, though, I’ve been resisting the explanation that Obama’s paint-by-numbers approach to looking “presidential” during a hurricane really could have swung some votes for him but it’s hard not to think so after looking at this. In fact, if you can believe it, 42% of voters claimed that Obama’s hurricane response was “important” to their vote (they broke 68/31 for O) and 64 percent said it was a “factor” (62/36 for O). And thus did a political career charmed by unbelievable luck get the luckiest break of all. I’ll leave you with this, from an apolitical friend of mine in NYC who e-mailed me last night in utter frustration at the result: “serious, hurricane sandy is actually factoring in in this election. If f*ckin bush had been president they’d say he let NY die. Meanwhile Obama is looking ‘presidential’ in the wake of this major disaster. Meanwhile people have no homes.” Anger at media bias — it’s not just for political junkies anymore.

Update: A friend e-mails with a good point about those late deciders. Maybe Romney won September because of Benghazi. Watching terrorists overrun a barely defended U.S. consulate and murder the ambassador surely did swing a few votes against the Foreign Policy President. But if that’s true and the September data above is accurate, then it may also mean that my theory about people misremembering is wrong and that Romney’s big comeback at the first debate may have helped him less than we thought.

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