Last Monday afternoon, Professor Ken Goldstein hosted an on-campus Politics Forum titled “The View from DC.” Goldstein is a professor in the USF politics program and a member of the ABC News Election Night Decision Team. He is also the program director for the USF in DC program, which brings students to the nation’s capital every year to intern with members of Congress all while taking classes for credit at school. During his forum, Goldstein touched on many topics, ranging from electorate demographics and independent voter turnout to party identification and SHARE, a measure of voter loyalty to their party. In short, the focus of the lecture was on numerical observations and voter data analysis and how it affects the upcoming elections.
Towards the beginning of the forum, Goldstein spoke about the “changing face of the American electorate,” noting that the white voting population has declined, while the black voting population has stayed the same, and votes of Latino and other races have gone up. Whites made up 77 percent of the electorate in 2004, 74 percent in 2008, and 72 percent in 2012. On the other hand, black and Hispanic voters have both seen a two percent rise from 2004 to 2012, from 11 percent to 13 percent and eight percent to ten percent, respectively. This fairly quick change in numbers has caused misleading results for some organizations. The 2012 Romney campaign observed numerous polls and believed they were going to win the election. However, when analyzing their subsequent defeat, they realized that over 80 percent of the pollsters were white, thus severely throwing off results.
Aside from electorate percentages, actual voter turnout plays a big part in elections as well; registered and eligible voters are not the same as likely ones. An article by CNN’s Dan Merica stated that for the first time in 44 years, African American voter turnout was greater than white turnout in the Obama-Romney election. It reasons that “more than 66 percent of eligible blacks voted in the presidential contest, [while only] 64 percent of whites turned out to vote.” In this election, the GOP won the white population, but it was not enough to offset the minority vote.
This point brought Goldstein to the idea of party identification and SHARE. He stated that “Democrats vote for Democrats, Republicans vote for Republicans, and independents vote for the winner,” to which the crowd laughed and applauded. The idea of SHARE, Goldstein thinks, is that voters “most loyal” to their party will see their candidate come out on top. By the same logic, the candidate that is able to mobilize his base and keep as much of it from voting for the other party has the best chance of winning. This idea is similar to many economic theories that place as much importance on minimizing loss as maximizing gain.
The SHARE theory is backed up by real numbers from past presidential elections. In his slides, Goldstein showed data from the past four presidential elections as well as the past two midterms, where almost every time, the candidate with the edge on SHARE was the winner. In the 2004 Presidential Election, 93 percent of Republicans voted for President Bush, whereas only 89 percent of Democrats voted for Senator Kerry. In elections where SHARE was even, such as the 2010 House vote, raw turnout decided the balance of power, this time going to the Republicans.
Goldstein also gave a brief analysis of the current election year. He stated that environmental factors are “not syncing up,” with Obama carrying an approval rating over 50 percent, even though over 68 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. On the other hand, Goldstein ended with numerous points about increased minority turnout and a strong Democratic ground game, indicating that the incumbent party is likely to continue to hold the White House.
Currently, there are two more forum-type events scheduled at USF to continue discussing the nature of the upcoming elections. On Oct. 6, Kevin Kumashiro, dean of the USF School of Education, will host a discussion in Fromm Hall titled “Education and the November Election.” The following week, on Oct. 11, USF will co-sponsor a political forum with The San Francisco Chronicle at the spacious McLaren Complex. RSVP is required for the event titled “What’s At Stake on November 8?” The Chronicle’s editorial page editor, John Diaz, will moderate the discussion with two former legislative leaders who now chair their respective state parties: Democrat John Burton and Republican Jim Brulte.
Goldstein will be returning to campus soon to of co-host Presidential Debate watch parties in the UC first floor in September and October, and is looking forward to talking to anyone interested in this year’s race or politics in general.