Sunday, February 05, 2012

Election tribalism

Mormons voted overwhelmingly in favor of Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon, in yesterday's Nevada caucuses:
One in 4 voters Saturday was Mormon, Romney’s religion, and 9 in 10 of them backed him. They provided him with more than 4 in 10 of his votes on Saturday. Each of his rivals received 1 in 10 or less of their votes from Mormons.
This is particularly interesting because Mormons are traditionally one of the most conservative demographics in the country (McCain, despite being handily defeated in the 2008 election, beat Obama by a 28 point margin in heavily Mormon Utah), and yet they nonetheless preferred what is arguably the least conservative GOP candidate. There are really only two possible explanations here: that 90 percent of Mormons voting for Romney was simply coincidence, or Romney's shared religion was a big factor that swayed Mormons to his camp.The smart money is on the latter. 

Of course, choosing a candidate based on some shared heritage isn't exactly a new dynamic in American politics. Let's recall that Barack Obama won 96 percent of the black vote in 2008 and, as of last October, enjoyed an 85 percent approval rating among blacks -- by far his highest among any demographic -- despite black unemployment of around 16 percent at the time. Now, it must be noted that blacks are the Democratic party's most reliable constituency and Democratic presidential candidates typically receive 85-90 percent of the black vote, but there can be little doubt that shared racial identity also plays a significant role in Obama's overperformance among this demographic.

None of this is meant to poke fun or disparage either Mormons or blacks, but merely to note the factors that determine voting behavior and the absurdities of government. Why should we subject ourselves to the vagaries of such a bizarre system any more than is absolutely necessary? 

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