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Voter Demographics -- Real Data

Here is a truly fine example of real analysis.

Doug MacDonald, Libertarian candidate for State Representative in Michigan, wrote many years ago:

For those interested in campaigns and who understand the difficulties of campaigning with the hindrance of the L party label, I though that I'd post this message from me to someone else in a conversation about literature for our candidates for Congress and the Legislature here in Michigan. Read and consider ... would appreciate any constructive comments ... [and will ignore any bickering ...]

In response to a proposal to "remember our primary target market ages: 18 to 21, 22 to 24, 25 to 29, 30 to 34, 35 to 39. If our candidates do partial mailings, we will be recommending that they focus on these age groups, for the purpose of party building."

The response was made " These are, of course, the worst voter demos --you're just starting to get into voters when you hit 40+ with the real "mother lode" at 60+. I assume you realize that but feel these are our best prospect demos and, thus, our best hope for the future (even though appeals to these groups are not likely to produce much success in the current election.) Is this correct?"

I think I hear you saying, "Everyone knows that!" Well, no, everyone doesn't, and I am one who doesn't ... appearances are deceiving and conventional wisdom isn't always wise ... but as to your second point, long term growth, yes, that is accurate.

Long term growth: Underlying assumption: That once a person has voted several times, they form a habit and adopt, at least in part, an identity as either conservative and/or Republican, or liberal and/or Democrat. While such people may reconsider their allegiance at some times in their life, they are for the most part on political-auto-pilot ... or ... I guess that would be political-auto-crash-and-burn. The most easily persuadable time for them is before they develop the auto-pilot or blind party allegiance. The blind allegiance segment of the likely voter population is about 60%. The Independent portion is about 40%. But of this 40%, a large share have a stronger allegiance to one of the two major parties. The older a person gets, the more likely he/she is to avoid new things. So, even addressing the independents provides us less and less return as age increases.

I don't have time to analyze everywhere, but I did review the data from the Berkley MI voter history. This history has 1994 data but does not have all of the 1992 data (needed to identify first-time voters), due to the method of storing and unloading used by the Berkley City Clerk. So, all I really have to identify first time voters are the locals of 95 and 97 and the 1996 Presidential election. Most pertinent to the 1998 election would be the historical results of 1996. Berkley 1996 Presidential Election Data:

...................................................New

..............................................%.of....New....New....% of

...........Reg.....Voted................Total...Voter...%.of....Total

Age.....Count...Count....T/O.%...Votes...Count...Reg.....New

18-39....6691...3103.....46.4%...42.2%...1097....16.4%...82.9%

40-59....3712...2498.....67.3%...33.9%....169.....4.6%...12.8%

60&up...2296...1760.....76.7%...23.9%.....57.....2.5%....4.3%

Total.....12699...7361....58.0%................1323...10.4%

Take a look at this second table. Percentages are what the experts use, so, in terms of likely to vote per person, yes, but this is based on a 'profitability' or 'return on investment' or 'cost effectiveness' or in political terms: dollars expended per likely vote returned. Cost effectiveness for the majors (or nonpartisans) is less in the younger age brackets ... given the right message ... hence, conventional wisdom for conventional politics. Given consistent costs (no economies of scale), the younger market will cost 2.914 times as much to target and accounts for only 1.763 times the votes, therefore, the cost per likely D/R voter is more, but our likelihood of obtaining votes differs depending on age group. The 18-39 age group must be 1.653 or more times as likely to vote for us to make it a more profitable segment of the voter list for us. I am guessing here, but I do believe that is true. I also believe that 18-39 is more than 1.451 times more likely to vote for us than 40-59 (1.803 count for cost / 1.242 more votes).

And, then, there still remains the fact that if we could capture 80% of the likely voters in the 18-39 age bracket, the Ds and Rs could split the rest and they would still lose to us. Of course, to win, we need to penetrate all markets, but the "mother lode" IS the 18-39 age group, 40-59 is second place, and 60 and up is irrelevent, at 1 vote of every 4, which is 1 in 8 for both major parties, if we make a sufficient pentration in the other two age groups. Conventional wisdom does not address the "mother lode", it refers to cost effectiveness ... Remember, politics is a business to them ...

Note: Nonpartisan races are a totally different story. Without the hindrance of party labels, a Libertarian may approach the election based on issues, not blind allegiances. And with the right issues and the right message, conventional wisdom on cost effectiveness would be the prudent choice. A fact proven by Barb Goushaw in the Fred Collins race of 1997 in Berkley MI with the 'scare the little old lady' letter (the very city whose statistics are shown in the table above -- different election year though). Fred won the absentee vote and the senior citizen precinct.

You should feel embarrassed for having cited the anonymous experts instead of listening to me. Next time you want to know something about election statistics, don't ask the experts, ask me, someone who knows (or if not yet known, at least I can cut through the crap of facts to get to the truth ...). Of course, this is all hinged on a guess ... a guess that 18-39 are at least 1.653 times more likely to persuade ... I don't have any facts or data to back that one up ... Just gut instinct ... Maybe someone else has some info on that ... Doug MacDonald Libertarian Candidate for Michigan State Representative, District 20