Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In Search of the Massachusetts Independent Part II

(Part I)

Chris Bowers over at MyDD pointed out today a Gallup survey on US party affiliation. Chris has some concerns about the results, but the sample size was huge; Gallup performed interviews of more than 42,000 Americans, asking each their party preference. Repondents who claimed to be independent voters were asked a second time which party they lean towards. Since the survey was so huge, we have enough data from Massachusetts, 976 responses, that the margin of error is roughly +/- 3%. The findings for Massachusetts are as follows:

Democrats + leaners:56.7%
Unenrolled (no lean): 9.2%
Republicans + leaners:34.1%

Here are the full state-level results. These numbers, while not surprising, may give us some insight into the makeup of unenrolled voters. First of all, with leaners included, we see that Democrats have a huge numerical advantage in this state, larger even than just unenrolled voters taken as a whole. Now, I realize that it's dangerous to combine a poll like this with actual voter registration numbers, but if we subtract out the known Democrats (37.3%) and Republican (13.0%), we get a profile of the unenrolled voting population.

Unenrolled Democratic leaners:19.4%
Unenrolled Republican leaners:21.1%
Unenrolled (no lean):9.2%

Taking into account the margin of error, it looks like a Massachusetts unenrolled voter is statistically just as likely to lean Democratic as Republican. This confirms something I've been thinking for a while now. If unenrolleds break for Republicans and Democrats pretty much equally, then the surest way for a Democrat to take back the corner office is to make sure that Democrats are united in November. While it is necessary to appeal to independent minded voters, if half of them are already in-tune with Democratic positions, then it seems to me that this will naturally happen in the course of shoring up Democratic support. Put another way, if you can manage to unify the Democrats (no small feat, even -- maybe especially -- in Massachusetts) then enough unenrolled voters will be swept up in the current to put you over the 50% needed to win an election.