In politics, demographics are not destiny

Many political analysts have a “near-obsessive” focus on demographics as a determiner of national election outcomes, Nate Silver says at FiveThirtyEight. Remember “soccer moms” in 1996, or “NASCAR dads” in 2004?

But with one exception, demographic characteristics are poor predictors of voting behavior, Silver says, because individual voters fit into a number of categories with conflicting leanings. “I am a non-unionized white male who makes an above-average income, all things that predict Republican voting–but I’m also college-educated, relatively young, and live in the urban Northeast, all things that predict Democratic voting,” he writes.

The one exception: African-American voters. Based on an extensive demographic database of 2008 voters, Silver says there was at least an 80 percent likelihood that a black voter would vote for Barack Obama regardless of other factors including income, education, geography or religious conviction. Some of that was because Obama is black, he says, but historically African-Americans have overwhelmingly supported Democratic presidential candidates.